Adapting the story of Daniel and Mariane Pearl for the film “A Mighty Heart” in a truthful and respectful manner was difficult enough, and Angelina Jolie soon discovered that director Michael Winterbottom’s style would make it particularly challenging.
“The way Michael shoots, I had no rehearsal,” says Jolie, who shot the Pearls’ wedding her first day on set. “I was in my room getting ready and they said, ‘OK, come down the stairs.’ So that was it.
“I walked into the wedding and we said our vows. I had looked at Danny and Mariane’s wedding footage just before, and it made me terribly sad. They loved each other so much, and you can see it in the wedding. It was hard not to cry.”
The melancholy was inescapable. Daniel Pearl was executed in 2002 by Islamic terrorists while investigating a story in Karachi, Pakistan, about shoe bomber Richard Reid. It happened while Mariane was pregnant with their son.
Jolie and husband Brad Pitt, with the film produced under his Plan B Entertainment shingle, had to focus on the story of Mariane’s determination to find the killers, while also dealing with a potentially ominous climate during the pic’s shooting in Pakistan and India.
“We talked about the risks before we started filming,” Jolie says, “the security concerns and what it would mean politically if we got it wrong. We could anger more people and make it worse. But, if by some small chance we get it right, maybe we can do a little something toward bringing people back together, or at least looking at each other in another light.”
True to Winterbottom’s style of filming, with little rehearsal and much improvisation in striving for realism, many of the roles were filled with people not from central casting but from that region.
“It was a very connected group,” Jolie says. “I didn’t even know who was a non-actor because it all just felt right.”
Of all the many roles Jolie has done in her career, this one carried a special burden.
“Mariane has suffered the ugliest side of all that is going on in the world today and came out of it believing we can’t just be angry and blinded by hate, but must continue to have a dialogue,” Jolie says. “If I don’t represent her right, and people don’t see what a beautiful, strong, open-minded, loving woman she is, then I’ve done a disservice and hurt a really great woman.”
Next: Jolie will be seen in “Wanted,” an action film based on Mark Miller’s graphic novel series. She also does voiceover in the animated pic “Kung Fu Panda” and stars in the Clint Eastwood period drama “The Changeling.”