How did you ultimately find the right voice?
I was giving my kids a bath, and I started making up other stories about Maleficent — and they weren’t really paying attention to me, as children often do. You can bore them to death, until I started to mess around with this playful [sing-songy] voice.
Sounds a little Mary Poppins-like.
A little. It gets very, very dark. But it had these colors. My kids started laughing. And that’s how I would rehearse my scenes. I would do it until my kids were somehow smiling or thought that was funny, because you have to do that and go there with her. Then it was really fun; it was actually quite freeing as an artist to do something so completely nuts.
In the animated film, Maleficent curses Princess Aurora by saying she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel “and DIE!” But in your version, she says she will prick her finger “and fall into a sleep-like death.” Why the change?
It’s actually more evil. It’s hard to explain. But before, it was a [good] fairy who said she can be woken up by true love’s kiss, now it is me. They gave me that line because she finds [love] the most preposterous, ridiculous bulls–t that doesn’t exist. So, when she says it, it’s a curse on top of a curse. She’s very angry, she’s got a very black heart when it comes to true love in that scene.
Elle Fanning plays grown-up Aurora, and she has a similar exotic appearance to you – only she seems ethereal and light, and you project this intimidating fierceness.
I take that as a high compliment. I think she is magic. You can’t take your eyes off her on screen. I’d like to think that I’m a calm and sweet person. I tend to be very playful at home with my children, but in life … we have to fight our battles. Our work battles, our political battles, our personal battles, and we’re focused. So I tend to be someone who can be very private and in my space, not in any way trying to be rude, that’s just how I walk my way though life. When I’m outside my home, I can be somewhat serious. Elle, the first time we met each other, she ran across the hallway and hugged me and jumped on me and we joked later like it was like being attacked by a thousand cute gorgeous bunnies.
And how did you react?
I was just frozen. I never had someone see me like that. When she sees me, I’m like a mom, a friend, a girl, and she just wants to be another girl. She’s just full of love and happiness and cuteness and belief and sweetness and when I was her age, I was the complete polar opposite — quite dark at that age. So, it’s kind of a perfect match. It’s a part of the film that’s interesting, the struggle to deal with this light and love that she is, because Aurora is so strong in her light that it’s a difficult thing to fight. I adore her.
Your daughter, Vivienne, played the toddler version of Aurora. How did that come about?
We think it’s fun for our kids to have cameos and join us on set, but not to be actors. That’s not our goal for Brad and me at all. I think we would both prefer that they didn’t become actors. But she was 4 at the time and other 3- and 4-year-old [actors] really wouldn’t come near me. Big kids thought I was cool! But little kids really didn’t like me. So, in order to have a child that wants to play with [Maleficent] but I don’t want to play with her — to have that scene– it had to be a child that really liked me and wasn’t afraid of my horns and my eyes and my claws. [Shrugs.] So it had to be Viv.
What was it like freaking out those other kids? Honestly — kinda fun?
I had a friend come with their children, and when I met the kids, the kid froze and screamed so much that I had to go wait in my trailer. When [my son] Pax saw me for the first time, he ran away and got upset — and I thought he was kidding, so I was pretending to chase him until I actually found him crying. I had to take off pieces [of the make-up] in front of him to show him it was all fake and not freak out so much.
What part bothered the kids the most?
It’s the [yellow] eyes that are the most frightening, and the horns. And I do have pointy teeth in the back that you’ll see close up. There’s just something with the horns and the heels, so she’s very big.