Correction to This Article
A May 23 Style article incorrectly said that actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are married.
Letter From Cannes

Angelina Jolie, Baring Her Soul On Behalf of 'A Mighty Heart'

At Cannes to promote
At Cannes to promote "A Mighty Heart," about the slaying of Daniel Pearl, are from left, Angelina Jolie; Brad Pitt; Pearl's son, Adam; and his widow, Mariane. (By Andrew Medichini -- Associated Press)
By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 23, 2007

CANNES, France, May 22 We're invited to what the publicists describe as "an intimate press conference" with Angelina Jolie. They don't have to ask twice. Jolie walks into the seaside bungalow at the Hotel du Cap looking very movie star, very glamorous, very "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," thin as a razor, a pair of golden aviator sunglasses perched on her head and bronze Christian Louboutin heels. Dressed to Cannes.

One of the dozen reporters begins by asking who she is wearing, then jokes that they never ask the guys that.

"Except for Brad," Jolie says, laughing, flashing the big teeth, and thereby signaling that she is not unhappy to be here. That this could be okay. That we are not here with the icy distant planet Jolie, that actress who recently has appeared through the lens to be inscrutable, so wrapped in wrapping that she is unwrappable, just physically recoiling from the media's need to feed on any bit of exposed flesh, the relationship with Brad Pitt, the serial international adoptions, the baby-birthing in Africa, the globe-trotting Hollywood do-gooderisms, etc., etc.

Jolie is at the Cannes Film Festival to promote "A Mighty Heart," a small-budget project produced by Pitt (also here, for "Ocean's Thirteen") about the life and death of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter. The movie (a love story, a thriller, a police procedural) is told from the harrowing perspective of his wife, Mariane Pearl, whom Jolie portrays in the weeks between his disappearance in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2002 and his terrible end by beheading, which was captured on video. The film has been warmly received by the critics at Cannes, and they have praised Jolie and British director Michael Winterbottom for their restraint, for not turning the movie into a movie about Angelina Jolie. (Nor is the beheading shown; it is witnessed through the reactions of actors seeing the tape. Nor is Jolie's French accent a distraction.)

And her celebrity, it helps? "I would love to think it's a help, but sometimes it can be a distraction. With a subject matter and a character like Mariane, it has to be handled so carefully," Jolie says. "Because sometimes I'm so public in so many other ways, it could have hurt. I'm very conscious of that, more than feeling confident it would help. But now the film is made and we're very proud of it. I'm glad to do everything I can to bring attention to it."

Jolie recalls her three visits to Pakistan on humanitarian and refugee missions for the United Nations. The film depicts a complex Pakistan, beset by layers of intrigue, by anti-American jihadists, terrorists and their sympathizers, by corrupt officials, by double-dealers, but also people truly trying to help, including a Pakistani anti-terrorism captain who first appears to be a bad guy, then a good guy, who also tortures suspects to find Pearl.

"We'll see if I get my next visa to Pakistan," says Jolie, who continues: "It's a very balanced film," and "I have a love for that part of the world and I'm very sad how much every day it is breaking apart."

The film contains scenes of the actor playing Daniel Pearl, Dan Futterman (who was nominated for an Oscar for his "Capote" screenplay), that were shot in Karachi, portrayed as a chaotic megacity of great poverty and brutality, yet with moments of humanity and grace. Jolie did not work in Pakistan for the film (it was too dangerous, Winterbottom says), but shot her scenes in India, which serves as a stand-in for the site of the house-headquarters where Mariane Pearl and her colleagues gathered to await news of the reporter's fate. Pitt joined Jolie in India. "He's a really good producer," she says, "and he also spent most of the time at the hotel with our three kids, being an even better father."

What does Jolie hope for the film? "I think there is a bigger message. I think we're at a time in our lives where there is so much fear and there is so much anger and it's hard for people to calm down enough to have a dialogue about finding solutions, and I think she, Mariane, is a great example of that because she, under the most extraordinary circumstances, remained very focused on having sympathy for the other side, even after what they did to her husband." Jolie continues, "She said a few days after her husband was killed that she loved Pakistan."

Jolie met with Mariane Pearl many times and says they have become friends.

"This story and this time is something everybody remembers, even studio heads; they actually care about it. They care about Danny Pearl and they care about Mariane," Jolie says. "And even when we came to publicity, nobody asked for anything silly and nobody pushed."

And that is the atmosphere here at the Hotel du Cap for the minutes we spend with Jolie. Nobody asks about Brangelina. We ask if the Pakistani captain who ferreted out Pearl's killers had seen the film? "He saw it last night," Winterbottom says, "and said it was like reliving it." Jolie wonders whether we should put that in the newspaper and Winterbottom says it is fine. We like that Jolie is concerned about his safety.

She says she will finish up a film now shooting in Prague (the thriller "Wanted," with Morgan Freeman and James McAvoy), and that soon she and Pitt plan to take a year off. She will keep flying planes. She just got instrument-rated and Pitt now has a pilot's license. She says she takes precautions in her travels but will continue to see and experience the world. She might even learn how to cook. "I'll say to Brad I'd like to make us some eggs," Jolie says, "and he says don't."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company