Angelina Jolie loved the idea of a movie about Maleficent - who appeared in the 1959 animated feature Sleeping Beauty, and is her favourite Disney character - but she couldn't see how one could a make film about a fairy that puts a curse on an innocent baby.
Well, well. Not only did director Robert Stromberg and writer Linda Woolverton figured how to make this iconic villain the protagonist, they wrote a script that moved Jolie. In a transcript provided by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (Malaysia), Jolie said of the script: "It was like uncovering a great mystery. We all know the story of Sleeping Beauty and we all know Maleficent and what happened at the christening because we've all grown up with that. But what we've never known is, what happened before?"
The live-action Maleficent shows how a young Maleficent forms a bond with future King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) that the two become best friends. However, as they grow older, each is influenced by different things in their lives and their views of the world are no longer similar. They grow apart, until they end up as enemies. At her lowest, Maleficent's only friend is Diaval (Sam Riley), a bird she turns into a man, or a wolf, or a horse... whatever animal she needs him to be at the moment.
But the most prevalent theme in the film is the many facets of love - which can either harden and twist a person or redeem one's life. Maleficent experiences this polar opposites of love. When she's betrayed, she's driven by revenge to place an irrevocable curse upon the newborn infant Aurora only to learn that the same cursed child may very well hold the key to peace.
Jolie stars opposite her daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt in Maleficent. Jolie, who turns 39 on June 4, admitted that playing the role had been a much more emotional experience than she expected. "Maleficent is certainly one of the most difficult characters I've ever played because she represents all sides of what it is to be human, even though she is not," she said.
"She was a very innocent youth with those kinds of qualities that you see in a lot of young people today where they're very passionate about environmental causes or the world or politics. Then she gets beaten down by betrayal and becomes quite dark and loses her humanity completely and then has to find it again.
"There's a part of me that plays big fun roles, but never this big. She's slightly crazy, extremely vibrant, a little wicked and has a big sense of humour, so she's quite full on. It's one of those characters that, for me, you couldn't do halfway."
It was important to Jolie that this character doesn't lose her sense of wicked fun, and remains - at the same time - a person who is relatable. Her hope is that the audience will see that there is always two sides to a story. Jolie recalled telling her daughters the story of Maleficent after reading the script.
"The next day, my little boy got into a fight with one of my daughters because he was saying, 'Maleficent's evil. She's scary and she's evil.' And my daughter was saying, 'You don't understand. You don't know everything.' I thought that was very interesting. Don't we all wish we could say, 'But you don't know everything. You don't know me completely; you don't see the full picture.' "
Interestingly enough, one of her daughters is featured in the film. While Elle Fanning portrays Aurora, the younger version of Aurora is played by Jolie's daughter with Brad Pitt, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt.
"The way I look as Maleficent just scares babies, so this little, teeny, sweet baby is traumatised by me every time she sees me. She gives this very furrowed brow and then within a matter of minutes she's crying. When crew members brought their young kids almost always they would cry and run away from me, so we realised that the only four-year-old that would probably not run away from me was my own daughter. We had to put Vivienne in the movie because no other little kid would allow me to pick them up because I look so scary."
Despite how Maleficent appears physically, Jolie wants the audience to care about all the characters. "... whether they love them or hate them at moments, that somehow they know they're good characters."
"Maleficent" opens in cinemas today.