[Interview] Angelina Jolie’s dual role on ‘THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN’

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Courtney Howard // Film Critic

Actress Angelina Jolie uses her voice in more ways than one to help bring THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN to life. Not only does she lend hers to Stella, the wise, old elephant best friend of the titular character who inspires a drastic change, she also utilized her creative voice and skills as a producer on the irrepressibly sweet and genuinely moving feature.

When we asked Jolie during the film’s recent virtual press conference about what made her take on a secondary role, she answered that Katherine Applegate’s book connected with her on a personal level.

“One of my children read the book and said that they loved it. I read it and we kind of talked about why it was special and why it meant so much to them. I started to pursue, ‘Where is it? Is it being made? What’s happening?’ And started to get involved.

Since the story about a silverback gorilla (voiced by Sam Rockwell) remembering repressed memories and rectifying them tackles complex and challenging aspects of these captive animals’ realities, Jolie had been worried the adaptation wouldn’t embrace the darker aspects as well as the lighter overtones. She stated,

“In the early drafts, I had seen it start to go down a road where it really started to become a light, fun kid’s [cartoon] – a simpler story. It was easy [for] somebody to come in and just try to pick a few threads and make it quite simple and add some action here and to really make it what it is intended to be. Disney and Mike [White] and everybody involved really [understood] that it’s hard. It’s not a light film. It deals with heavy issues, but it is charming and fun and full of life. It’s deceptive in the packaging.”

It was the film’s stirring sentiments about freedom, captivity and doing what’s right even though it’s hard, that made her want to not solely lend her voice to a character, but also use her voice as a producer.

“I wanted to get involved. I like the messages in it.”

She’s also hoping the film will speak positively towards the ethical treatment of animals and will inspire the next generation of activists.

“I think all of us older people will appreciate it for many reasons. But I know this young generation is really very aware of what is happening in the world to our natural habitats, to these animals, what’s happening in the Congo and losing ground with the gorillas and the elephants. And they’re angry. They want to really be clear about what kind of treatment is appropriate, what kind of captivity is appropriate, being against poaching, being [for the] preservation of natural habitats. I think this will represent them. I think that’s strong for them to see that their actions can make change.”

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN premieres exclusively on Disney+ August 21.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, 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.