Angelina Jolie on ‘Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil’ and why ‘diversity makes us stronger’

Ahead of the movie's release, the cast reflects on the most profound messages in ‘Mistress Of Evil’

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Angelina Jolie attends the World Premiere Of Disney's Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil" - Red Carpet at El Capitan Theatre on September 30, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.   Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP
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This might seem hyperbolic, but Maleficent is one of the most important movies in recent Disney history.

While audiences lapped up Johnny Depp's star-turn in Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland four years earlier, it was Angelina Jolie's magnificently compelling performance as the titular evil fairy in 2014's Maleficent, and the $758.5 million (Dh2.8 billion) it went on to gross, that really proved to the studio that it was time for live-action versions of their classic animated cannon.

In the years since, the likes of Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King have all been mega box office hits, while new versions of Lady And The Tramp, Mulan, Cruella, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan and pretty much every animated film that Disney has ever released are in various stages of production and development, too.So it is hardly a surprise then that Disney have looked to follow-up the success of the original with Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil, this time bringing in Michelle Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith who spectacularly goes toe-to-toe with Angeline Jolie's titular character, after her son Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) becomes engaged to Elle Fanning's Princess Aurora, Maleficent's de facto stepdaughter.

Cast members Elle Fanning (L), Angelina Jolie (C) and Michelle Pfeiffer pose for a portrait while promoting the film "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., September 29, 2019. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Pfeiffer really wanted to work with Jolie and Fanning

During Monday's star studded press conference for Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil in Beverly Hills, Michelle Pfeiffer opened up about joining the cast for the sequel. Not only was she "delighted and surprised" by Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue's script, but she was really attracted and excited at the mere "notion of working with both" Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning.

It also helped that Pfeiffer is clearly a fan of the original Maleficent, especially the way in which it plays with the "concept of good vs evil" and suggests that "we all must have a little bit of both in us." With Mistress Of Evil, though, Jolie, who this time around is also a producer on fantasy adventure, wanted to add even more thematic depth to the story.

Jolie teases important messages in 'Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil'

Jolie admits that while the film is about "family," "acceptance" and how the "love of a child" can transform people, Mistress Of Evil also examines very timely issues surrounding family and diversity. Not only does Maleficent repeatedly question whether or not she is good enough to be Aurora's mother, but "throughout the film they are told that because they're not the same, they're not family," says Jolie, who has adopted three children. "Because you're not exactly like her, you're not her mother. And that is why this movie strikes a chord with me."

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 30: (L-R) Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, Vivienne Marcheline Jolie-Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Zahara Marley Jolie-Pitt, and Knox Leon Jolie-Pitt attends the World Premiere Of Disney's Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil" - Red Carpet at El Capitan Theatre on September 30, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.   Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP

In the middle of the movie, both Aurora and Maleficent explore their extremely different origins and backgrounds. However, rather than focusing on these differences, Jolie teases that there is then a “real push to say that this is not how it should be. This is not how to live and that diversity makes us stronger. There must be a better forward and that we have to come together, unite, and say this is the world we choose to live in.”

Of course, Jolie acknowledges that Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil's job first and foremost is to entertain and enchant the children that watch it, however she is also quick to add, "I always think these movies need messages for young people."

Fanning on mixing strength with femininity

But while Pfeiffer and Jolie might have the more outlandish and eye-catching roles, it is Fanning's Aurora, and her impending nuptials, that actually means they cross paths. Far from just sitting back and allowing the pair to clash, Fanning was insistent that Mistress Of Evil showed how tough Aurora is while also staying true to the character.

Fanning notes that in the sequel, Aurora is “stronger,” has “much more conviction” and has used “kindness” to gain “her own independence” and “take control of her life.”  As a young girl who was “very feminine” and “fantasised about getting married,” Fanning didn’t want Aurora “to be covered in armour and have a sword” and fight as it wasn’t in her “true nature.” Instead, we see her strength manifest in various other ways, with Pfeiffer even admitting “that in many ways [Aurora] is the strongest and wisest of all the characters.”

Both Aurora and Maleficent thrive in Mistress Of Evil because they defiantly present their true selves to the world, something that Jolie believes everyone needs to do. "I see Aurora exactly as she is and wouldn't want her to be any different. And she sees me as I am and accepts me as I am," Jolie explains. "[The films says] be yourself. Be your true self. We don't live forever. No matter what people say to you, or what they tell you to be, be yourself. Because if you're not your true nature you will suffocate."

Cast members Harris Dickinson, Sam Riley, Jenn Murray, Michelle Pfeiffer, Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein and director Joachim Ronning pose during the premiere of "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 30, 2019.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Clearly Jolie, who during the press conference also cited Pfeiffer's Catwoman from 1992's Batman Returns as her favourite movie villain, sees the character of Maleficent and the two films as the perfect vehicles to explore such prescient topics. Which makes it all the more amusing that she was originally a little insulted when people told her, "We thought you were the only person that could play Maleficent. It was so obvious." Fortunately, Jolie has since grown to "fully embrace" and "love" Sleeping Beauty's villain, adding so much heart and empathy to Maleficent that she is now much more friend than foe.

'Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil' will hit UAE cinemas on Thursday, October 17