You’re a producer on the film too – what was the nature of the reshoots that were done, where The Blind Side‘s John Lee Hancock was brought in to rewrite some of the opening?
I wasn’t a part of the reshoots. I was off preparing for Unbroken. Basically, they wanted to go back and make sure that they clarified certain things with certain characters. But it wasn’t anything to do with [adult] Maleficent because I just couldn’t be there. But my story was quite clear — there were just a lot of other characters in the world itself we have to explain.
Are you ever surprised when you go back and see how the footage came together, featuring all the visual effects?
I’ve had to go in now and look at the magic — it’s a funny thing because my performance is half in the magic, and it’s not something I make. It’s something somebody else makes in an office. So it was a little frustrating. I had to go in for that to talk through it because some of it I wouldn’t understand. ‘Why have you decided that that looks like pixie dust?’ ‘When does the green [mist] appear?’ Or, ‘I intended this, so it should come out of me this way.’ When does [the sorcery] start, you know? Because for me, it doesn’t’ start just when I’m screaming — the magic may be simmering before I start screaming.
I wondered what this movie says about the vilification of women. You know, the double standard – ‘If a guy does it he’s tough; if a woman does it, she’s a bitch?’ Is that part of Maleficent’s story? Is that something you connect to?
I didn’t think about it that way, but I do think that people can read into certain things and I do think that there’s something in me, that … I’d like to be as soft as I am at home with my children, the first thing in the morning, my whole day. I’d like to not be challenged where I have to become hard and strong and fight. I’d like to not be put in situations where I have to get ugly and mean. My mother [Marcheline Bertrand, who died in 2007] was very soft and female and I was always very aware when things would happen and there would be fights with my father [actor Jon Voight]. She kept thinking she needed to get harder to deal with life and I kept saying I didn’t want her to do that — I would rather get hard and I’d rather fight. But it was really important that she stay kind and soft and open and sweet because it’s a horrible thing to have that. Have the world harden you.
It sounds like it hardened you for a while. You said earlier that when you were young, you were darker, more introverted …
Yeah, I got hard when I was — I was hard.
What do you think changed you?
When I got older?
Um … well, when I started to travel and see what other people — I got out of myself and saw how other people struggle in the world.
In your speech at the Academy’s Governors Awards, when you received the Jean Hersholt honorary Oscar for humanitarian work, you mentioned all this. Being changed by your travels to much more desperate places around the globe.
That — and having children. The moment you have a child, in an instant, your life is not for you and your life is completely, 100 percent dedicated to another human being and they will always come first. It changes you forever. It changes your perspective and it gives you a nice purpose and focus. I am disheartened by many things but I wake up, like I woke up this morning, to kids and we talk and we laugh and we play and I’m light again, and I’m a kid again, and I’m loving and soft again because they’ve brought that back in my life.
So you don’t anymore, but does your Maleficent like being evil and dark?
I think you get to a point where you think, please don’t make me angry — please let me be, leave me alone. And then you go through a period of, which we all have as people, you know, feeling hurt and feeling judged and feeling attacked and then there is that moment of: Well, if you’re gonna call me evil, then I’m gonna be evil — and watch how evil.
Sure, like if you decided that’s who I am, then I’ll embrace it and throw it back in your face because that’s the only thing I know how to do. And that’s what happens at the christening — she just completely, fully embraces what she’s become.
As actors, you get to be the target of a lot of criticism. For the choices you make, the relationships you have, the way you look on a red carpet. There’s kind of a hater-culture out there. The public makes people into sweethearts, and then tears them down. Could you relate to that? Is that part of Maleficent, too?
You know, I’ve been in this business for such a long time and I like entertainer people and I love my job but I’m also very, very happy to be home with my kids and I wish everybody well so I don’t really pay attention to — I never know about that stuff, I never read about it, so I don’t really you know, I just — I think if you mean well, you get through everything. If every choice you make comes from an honest place, you’re solid and nothing anybody can say about you can rock you or change your opinion. It doesn’t shake me because I know why I do the things I do and I know I come from a good place and so people can judge me however they wish. But I know I’ll continue to do the best I can and be the best I can.
I think there’s a part of humanity, a part of our society that just likes to hate. There’s a hater culture. We like to make villains. The minute you see somebody successful — whether it’s a famous actor or your best friend who gets a promotion and you don’t. There’s a bitterness out there. We like to make Maleficents, to push people to the outside, because it means we’re not outside.
It feels like memories of how people would behave in high school. Once we grow up and realize how human we all are and how similar we all are and how individually flawed we all are, there’s no time for that, you know? There’s real hate in the world — there’s real violence and there’s real inhumanity. I leave for Lebanon tomorrow, tomorrow morning for the Syrian border, when you see that kind of suffering, when that exists, the more people would just meditate on that, the less time there is for certain kind of petty judgmental hate because there just simply is enough cruelty and ugliness in the world. We really need to try to protect and be better to each other.