Angelina Jolie Talks 'Unbroken' & Directing/Acting with Brad Pitt in 'By The Sea'

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Angelina Jolie (In the LAND of BLOOD and HONEY) returns to the director’s chair with UNBROKEN. Based on the book of the same name by Laura Hillenbrand, the film –written by the Coen Brothers - tells the unbelievable true story of Louie Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), an Olympic track star who joined the Army Air Corps during World War II as a bombardier at the height of his athletic career.

During his time defending the country, he would survive a plane crash with two of his military comrades, Phil (Domnall Gleeson) and Mac (Finn Wittrock), 47 days on a raft, and being held as a prisoner of war in a POW camp by the Japanese navy.

The film also stars Garrett Hedlund (Fitzgerald) and Japanese rocker Miyavi (Watanabe), who is making his American movie debut. This month, a press conference was held in New York where Jolie spoke about working with the Cohen brothers, how she decided what scenes to cut from the film and the challenges of editing it, along with Miyavi who discusses how he felt about making the film and getting into his character.

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Q: Angelina, The film is rated PG-13. How important was it for you to get that rating?


AJ: It was very important, I thought often about my children in making this film, and my sons; I wanted them to be age appropriate to see it. You know it’s a movie for everybody, but I think it’s one where you think about this great generation, and the values they had, and how they were as men, and I think it’s one where we want to raise our children and remind them of this sense of family…and I want them to know about men like Louie so when they feel bad about themselves and they think all is lost they know they have something inside of them. That’s what the story speaks to, what’s in all of us. You don’t have to be a perfect person, or a saint, or a hero. You know Louie was very flawed, very human, but made great choices, and in the end [he was] a great man.   


Q: What was it specifically about this book that made you feel passionate about it…the one specific thing that when you were reading it made you say this is it, this is my next movie, and the movie that you just filmed with Brad “By the Sea” sort of an anecdote to this epic that you had to spend years on?


AJ: “By the Sea” was emotionally difficult acting wise, but it was logistically a walk in the park. It was a nice break.


I think what it was is I like everybody, we wake up and we read the news, we see the events around the world, and within our communities, and we’re disheartened by so much, and we feel overwhelmed, and we don’t know what’s possible. We want something to hold on to, something to believe in, and I was half way through his book, and I found myself inspired, and on fire, and feeling better. It reminded me of the strength of the human spirit and the strength of having a brother like Pete, and what that is, and this reminds us to be that for each other, and how important that is to have that in your life, and so many things.


I realized that if it had this effect on me, and knew it had this effect on so many other people, then it’s what we needed to put fourth into the world at this time, and I believe it is. I’m very happy it’s coming out during the holidays. I believe that’s a very important time. It’s the right time.

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Q: Angelina, with so much interesting story content, how did you decide what would be compelling enough to use in the length of the film from what could be abandoned?


AJ: I think that was the hardest thing. I think that’s what took since 1957; that’s when Universal first got the rights to do it. What we did was we looked at the themes of his life. The Coen Brothers said something to me that helped me. They said “When you put the book down you have a certain feeling - a certain understanding – that’s what [people] need to feel when they walk out of the theatre. That’s your job. To literally put this book on film you won’t make a good movie, and you’ll do no service to anyone. So know the themes.”
So we would go back through the film, and for example, faith, faith is so important to [Louie], and instead of putting it in one chapter or trying to fit in all the experiences of throughout his life faith was represented from the beginning, from the little boy and represented all through the film, in other characters, but also in the sunrise, and the darkness, and the light, and the struggles…and him coming into the light. It wasn’t literally, technically as it was in the book, but the themes are the same, so that’s what we tried to do, and I think a lot of our favorite stories aren’t in the film. You could make a whole story on the life of Fitzgerald, of all of these men…Imagine when he stole the Nazi flag, but I just can’t recreate Berlin.   

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Q: (to Miyavi) What did your loved ones think of the film when they saw you up on the screen?


M: [My wife] got scared. I felt responsible a lot, then you know, and [my children] I think it’s still too early to let them watch the film, you know, their father keeps hitting people, torturing and killing.
The message of this film, it’s really meaningful to everyone. My family, my children, they will receive Louie’s strength and his attitude, and [that] of everyone who suffered in the film.


Q: How long your first cut of the film, and what was was the most challenging part of editing it?    


AJ: I don’t know, three and a half hours. The dangerous thing about it was that I liked it. You know as a director you go through the film and you’re like “cut that out, cut that out,” but there’s only like four or five scenes that didn’t make it, everything was trimmed – and there are more DVD scenes – I was scared for a long time to trim it down without losing anything that I loved, and there are a few things we did cut out that I’m sad aren’t there, but you have to listen to the audience you know, and what they’re feeling. So even if they’re like I like that scene but it just felt too long you’ve got to listen to them. You’re making this for an audience…this film is for an audience and we adjusted it to what we felt was the most appropriate.

 

Q: Miyavi, how did you get into your character?


M: As a Japanese it is a very controversial story, and I didn’t want to represent any negative of Japan, the country where I was born and raised. [Angelina] said she wanted to make something meaningful that could be a bridge between American and my country…and not cause conflict. I’m not used to killing people, I’m always beating on strings not people. It was not perfect, but the more evil I become the more traumatic the story is and then I want to deliver the message about our mission, and tried to imagine they killed my family, my daughters; I would do anything to protect my family. It’s insane but that’s the situation.

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Q:  Angelina, I’m curious about your collaboration with the Coen Brothers. Can you talk about what they brought to the project and how long you worked with them on it?


AJ: I don’t remember how long, it wasn’t extremely long, maybe a couple of months at the start, and then it carried on, but as I said before about them helping with the structure, one of the great things about the Coen Brothers - and I think it’s important for this film – this film could have easily gone sentimental, it could be too earnest, it’s so beautiful, and the epic adventure of it all, but would we understand that we had to keep it sharp, and open, and entertaining for an audience?

 

They are so witty; they have such an interesting way of communicating with an audience. They have just a few lines, a gesture from a character that may say [a lot]. So they were really helpful with the personalities and the structure because it is very back and forth…when do we stop giving flashbacks? So they were just wonderful, especially the last hour of the film, they just helped it all come together.  


The movie opens nationwide on December 25th, 2014. For more information about the film visit the official website at: http://www.unbrokenfilm.com/.

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