[Interview] Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer & Elle Fanning play powerful women at the center of ‘MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL’

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Courtney Howard // Film Critic

There’s a lot of “girl power” fueling MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL. Director Joachim Rønning’s sequel to 2014’s blockbuster MALEFICENT places a trio of incredibly strong female characters (and actresses) in the power position within the fantastical story. In this chapter, we see Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) torn between her godmother Maleficent’s (Angelina Jolie) wants and those of her soon-to-be mother-in-law Queen Ingrith’s (Michelle Pfeiffer). As Aurora is realigning her sense of self, the two matriarchs struggle over their own personal crisis.

These three fortitude-filled women occupy different points of power in their relationships with each other. Speaking with journalists at the film’s recent Los Angeles press conference, Pfeiffer said she found that facet to be one of the draws to play this character.

“It’s a fairy tale, but at the same time, it’s a very unusual fairy tale. What I loved was that it plays in this gray area and talked about good versus evil in that all of us have a little bit of everything in us. In terms of strength and how it manifests in self, it’s different for everyone. My character is really brilliant and diabolical. But I wouldn’t figure her terribly wise. She’s damaged, without getting too cerebral about the whole thing. In some ways, what she resorts to is out of very deep fear.”

She felt that the youngest member of that trio is actually the one who offers the most authority.

“One of the things we loved about Aurora is that in many ways, she’s ultimately the strongest and the wisest of all of us.”

For Fanning, she adored diving back into Aurora’s world and further exploring what colors her ideas of fortitude.

“Aurora symbolizes the good, the kindness and acceptance in the world. She lives in between both worlds: she’s human and she’s also queen of the Moors. She’s definitely a young woman now. She’s grown up. She’s stronger. She has much more conviction in herself and is learning how to gain her independence. Aurora is taking charge of her own life, but with kindness which is the most powerful of all.”

Elle Fanning, Angelina Jolie and Sam Riley in MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL. Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

While there were things the filmmakers wanted to carry over from the first film, a live-action re-imagining of the Disney animated classic SLEEPING BEAUTY, there were also elements they weren’t interested in showing – particularly when it came to Aurora. Fanning explains,

“We didn’t want Aurora to be… in a lot of films, they put her in armor and with a sword and she’s fighting and that makes her strong. That’s not Aurora’s true nature and it’s not necessarily true. I was that girl. I was always soft and wanted to be a mom and get married and very feminine. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We get to show the strength in accepting her femininity. And she does it in a pink dress. Very badass.”

Jolie found that deepening the rich layers that spoke about motherhood and family provided the film’s powerful sentiments.

“We are different – we’re different creatures. There are metaphors in the film and always a good film for young people are the ones with messages. We get pulled apart because people tell us that because we’re not the same, we’re not family. Because you’re not exactly like her, you’re not the mother. That certainly strikes a chord with me. Maleficent questions whether she’s good enough to be a mother. There’s a real push to say, ‘This is not how it should be. This isn’t how to live. Diversity makes us stronger. And there’s a better way forward.’ We fight against that separation.”

Jolie found that the best message this follow-up to the worldwide box office juggernaut, offered was that we live our most authentic lives.

“Be your true self. This is who we are. We are the pink, beautiful, soft princess and we are the slightly manic creature that has a bad temper. Yet I see her exactly as she is and I don’t want her to be any different than she is. And she accepts me as I am. Be your true nature, whatever that may be.”

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL opens on October 18.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.