The Tourist - Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp
Frank (Johnny Depp) and Elise (Angelina Jolie) © 2010 CTMG

Admired as an actress and humanitarian, Angelina Jolie credits have included Salt, Changeling, A Mighty Heart, Mr & Mrs Smith (with her significant other, Brad Pitt) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

She was the first recipient of the Citizen of the World Award from the United Nations Correspondents Association. She is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In her new thriller, writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Tourist, Jolie stars as Elise Clifton Ward, a mysterious woman involved in a romantic relationship with the wanted thief, Alexander Pearce, but keeps her motivations close to the vest. When she encounters an American tourist, Frank Tupelo, played by Johnny Depp, on a train from Paris to Venice, she quickly draws him into a deadly game of cat and mouse.

What attracted you to this character that made you want to play her?

The Tourist - Angelina Jolie
Elise (Angelina Jolie) ©2010 CTMG Inc

My character in this film is different than any other (I’ve played on) film. Florian gave me very specific direction. My natural modern rhythm is quicker and hard. At the beginning of the shoot, Florian’s note to me was to slow down, as Elise lives in a world of quiet luxury and elegance.

Why did you choose for her to be British in this movie?

Frank needs to be the foreigner so Elise needs to be the local. I’d done a version of an English accent in Tomb Raider, so this is just a very different English accent. Also, Johnny has a specific English accent when he does Pirates of the Caribbean. You can go a hundred different ways with an English accent. I just wanted her to have a nice sound!

Had you met Johnny before working with him on this movie?

The Tourist - Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp
Elise (Angelina Jolie) and Frank (Johnny Depp) © 2010 GK LLC

I’d never met Johnny but I’ve liked his films and I think you can tell in watching his films that he’s a very likable person. You kind of assume he’s a good guy and a nice guy, and he is, so it was just a pleasure.

Brad had known him a little bit and said, ‘He’s a great guy.’ So we met in his office one day and talked mostly about kids and France. It was just very easy to talk to him and I knew that we’d have fun together; we’d have a good time. We seemed to have a laugh very quickly.

Were there any surprises working with him?

I didn’t know how funny he was, he’s very funny so I laughed a lot.

Did you improvise in any of the scenes?

The Tourist - Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp
Elise (Angelina Jolie) and Frank (Johnny Depp) © 2010 CTMG

Sometimes, yeah, we did. Most of it was not usable, but we did!

Did you see Anthony Zimmer, the original movie that this was based on?

We all made a decision not to watch it. We knew that the original script was based loosely on it, but then Florian wrote the final draft and it took (many) steps away from it, and then started to get tailored to each personality that was attached to it. I think there were a few big things that were adjusted, it’s not a remake.

But I thought I should look at it, because I heard this was based on something and I was curious. I watched the first minute and then I decided not to watch it just because I didn’t want to repeat something that had already been done nicely and I wanted to try to find our own language.

What was it like shooting in Venice?

The Tourist - Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie
Frank (Johnny Depp) and Elise (Angelina Jolie) © 2010 GK LLC

Oh, Venice is just heaven to work in. For any of us to be stuck for two months, Venice is pretty much the top of the list. It was beautiful for my children and funny in some ways, because you’d go to work and you don’t know whether you’re stepping up into a boat or down into a boat, depending on the tides. It was just odd logistically to be on boats all the time, but loads of fun.

When you’d have dinners, halfway through your dinner you’d have to get Wellington boots on because by the time you got out, the water had risen, so everybody walks home in their Wellingtons.

Johnny said that you are a very grounded person.

The Tourist - Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie on the set in Paris, France © 2010 GK LLC

I do think I’m grounded. You become more and more grounded when you have children, and the older you get. So I’m probably the most grounded I’ve ever been in my life. At the same time, I think in some funny way being grounded allows you to be even freer; there’s a funny misconception about what it is to be grounded.

When you’re younger and you’re wild you actually don’t have as much control of your own life and you don’t have the ability to do things with as much bravery, because you don’t understand it. But when you get older you can tackle bigger things, so I’m grounded but there’s chaos around me in a way that there has never been.

How do you manage to find time to make movies when you have your children and all the charitable work that you do?

Brad and I never work at the same time. One good thing about being an actor is you work pretty solid when you work, but you usually work five days a week and only for a few months and then you’re home for months.

So as a mother I’m very lucky the amount of time I get to spend with my children. When I was filming Brad was home every day, so he’d take them to school or he’d bring them to the set. He’s an extremely hands-on, wonderfully committed father. It’s sometimes nice to just have extra daddy time, so it benefits them in a different way.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.