Brad Pitt just won an Oscar for producing 12 Years a Slave, but his other-half Angelina Jolie is the one positioned to enjoy a rewarding year career-wise, hereon out. Jolie's prestigious sophomore directorial feature Unbroken (a film based on the true-story of ex-Olympian/WWII vet Louis Zamperini) will arrive during the next awards season, while several months earlier, the Oscar-winner will return to the spotlight on-camera, in Disney's Maleficent.
Maleficent fleshes out the backstory of its namesake - generally regarded as one of the best (if not the best) villains in a Disney animated fairy tale film. The fundamental setup resembles that for the hit book-turned stage musical Wicked - a story that examines the Wicked Witch of the West's character and events leading up to those depicted in The Wizard of Oz film.
Linda Woolverton's script (with revisions by Saving Mr. Banks director John Lee Hancock) likewise paints Maleficent in a more sympathetic light, while also putting her curse against Princess Aurora (Ellen Fanning) in a different context - one that makes the seemingly unkind decision to doom a princess to eternal sleep seem... well, not quite so black-and-white as it sounds, apparently.
Jolie discusses various topics (personal and professional in nature) in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, including her thoughts on how much support there was for her to play Maleficent in a live-action movie ("It is really funny when people say you’d be obvious for a great villain."). She also confirmed that the Sleepy Beauty re-imagining has a similar philosophical outlook as Wicked, as illustrated nicely by the following quote:
“The exercise wasn’t how can we have fun with a villain? It was: What turns people evil and vile and aggressive and cruel? What could have possibly happened to her?”
Check out EW's Maleficent cover and a new image featuring Jolie in character opposite the young Aurora (played by Jolie's daughter, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt), below:
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The Maleficent trailer footage released so far has been quite beautiful on the whole (with the rare clunky element - see Imelda Staunton's CGI fairy likeness), which is to be expected when your movie is directed by seasoned visual effects designer and producer designer Robert Stromberg - a fellow who picked up Oscars for his art direction on Avatar and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, no less. Of course, no one is doubting this film's looks, be it the digital matte paintings or its leading lady.
Woolverton's script work on Burton's Alice in Wonderland has its flaws, for sure, but the narrative/thematic core - a young woman's coming of adult age - is mostly solid. It remains to be seen if her take on Maleficent makes for a villain deconstruction case study that is equal parts fascinating and emotionally-meaningful - failing that, we'll hope that Maleficent gets a better treatment than the Wicked Witch of the West got in Disney's own Wizard of Oz prequel, Oz the Great and Powerful.
Maleficent opens in U.S. theaters on May 30th, 2014.