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NEWSWEEK: Angelina Jolie on 'A Mighty Heart': 'People Advised Me That This Movie was Politically Dangerous'

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2007-06-18 10:14:26     
Newsweek

While shooting a scene for "A Mighty Heart" in Mumbai, India, two of Angelina Jolie's bodyguards were arrested after a scuffle at a Muslim school, and Newsweek was there, alongside Jolie, as the events unfolded.

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20070616/CLSA011 )

Last November, while Jolie was shooting a scene at a Muslim school in Mumbai, India, actors for the movie, dressed in Pakistani police uniforms and holding AK-47s, stood in the courtyard while children were in class. That afternoon, when parents showed up to pick up their kids, the gates were closed to keep paparazzi out. When parents became anxious, the school opened the gates, and the paparazzi flooded in with them. A scuffle ensued when the film's security guards tried to hold back the crowd. Although no one was injured, the following morning, two of Jolie's bodyguards were arrested for intimidation. Unnamed sources in local newspapers claimed that the white, British guards had shoved parents and kids and called them "bloody Indians" and "bloody Muslims." The event escalated into an international incident, and Jolie had gone from being the most famous star in India to its most famous racist.

The following day Jolie told Senior Writer Sean Smith, who was in India with her at the time, "People advised me that this movie was politically dangerous. I thought maybe I shouldn't touch this. Maybe it would do more harm than good."

Deeply frustrated by the situation and the accusation, Jolie tells Smith in the June 25 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, June 18), "We've become so eager to accuse people of being racist, but I would rather they make up almost any other story -- about me sleeping with someone, anything -- but that," she says. "It's not only a crazy accusation, but it's the most insulting thing you could say about me, that I would employ someone who would be disrespectful to someone's race or would harm a child. They take care of my kids."

In the film, Jolie plays Mariane Pearl, the widow of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped by Al Qaeda members on January 23, 2002 and beheaded on a videotape that was leaked to the media and broadcast to the world. During a car ride from the film set to the hotel where she, Brad Pitt, and their children were staying, Jolie tells Smith that this was "probably the most difficult character I've ever played. The emotion is so raw and so constant. Mariane was calm, focused, organized, but I would have been hysterical, driving the streets of Karachi like a crazy person."

Pearl and Jolie became friends through Pitt, whose production company, Plan B, bought the rights to the movie in 2003. Pitt tells Smith that "being in the room with those two women is great fun. It's like sitting down with Roosevelt and Churchill. Only much better-looking."

When Jolie was first cast in the lead role for "Heart," some black actors, including British actress Thandie Newton ("Crash"), were shocked that Jolie would play Pearl, a woman of Afro-Cuban and Dutch descent. Some blogs went so far as to call it "the new blackface." Jolie tells Newsweek, "I know that people are frustrated at the lack of great roles [for people of color], but I think they've picked the wrong example here." Pearl, who also spoke with Smith, was more pointed: "This is not about skin color. I wanted her to play me because I trust her. Aren't we past this?"

For the last six years Jolie has been a good-will ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, visiting populations in crisis all over the world, and donating one third of her salary to charity. Still, she is suspected by being a dilettante, a "celebrity tourist" to global crisis. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell defends her, telling Newsweek, "She's absolutely serious, absolutely informed. Her work with refugees is not something to decorate herself. She studies the issues." Powell has spoken with Jolie several times over the years, and they've been honored together at benefits for refugee causes. There is, he says, no sanctimony about her. "For her, it's not about saving the world, it's about saving kids," Powell says. "She doesn't need this. This needed her."

Speaking of kids, Jolie tells Smith that she and Pitt plan to adopt again. "We want to have as big a family as we can," Jolie says. "Our only restriction is making sure we have time for everybody, and we're finding that we have the ability to do that." Later, Pitt laughs when the topic comes up. "Yeaaahhh, we do things in extremes," he says. "But I've always embraced big changes, and this feels very natural. It's just the most fun I've ever had."

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