- Jordan Pix / Stringer
Angelina Jolie’s September cover story for Vanity Fair includes a passage where the reporter describes Jolie’s intense method of casting children for her latest film, “First They Killed My Father.”
That passage sparked internet outrage immediately after publication, and got a firm rebuke from Jolie’s camp. But Vanity Fair is sticking by it.
The piece says Jolie traveled to Cambodia to find children she thought would be great for the lead role of young Loung Ung.
Jolie reportedly sought out impoverished children to play the part of Ung, specifically those she deemed had experienced hardship. Then Jolie, along with her casting director, played games with them that have come across as cruel and unnecessary to many.
Here’s the relevant paragraph from the Vanity Fair piece:
“To cast the children in the film, Jolie looked at orphanages, circuses, and slum schools, specifically seeking children who had experienced hardship. In order to find their lead, to play young Loung Ung, the casting directors set up a game, rather disturbing in its realism: they put money on the table and asked the child to think of something she needed the money for, and then to snatch it away. The director would pretend to catch the child, and the child would have to come up with a lie. ‘Srey Moch [the girl ultimately chosen for the part] was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time,’ Jolie says. ‘When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion. All these different things came flooding back.’ Jolie then tears up. ‘When she was asked later what the money was for, she said her grandfather had died, and they didn’t have enough money for a nice funeral.'”
The article goes on to explain Jolie’s methods as a way of garnering raw emotion from the children, but to many the method comes off as excessive and mean-spirited.
After backlash from the story emerged, Jolie disputed the notion that the casting of children for “First They Killed My Father” was anything like what Vanity Fair contributing editor Evgenia Peretz described.
Jolie said, in a statement released to Entertainment Weekly, “Every measure was taken to ensure the safety, comfort, and well-being of the children on the film starting from the auditions through production to the present.”
Jolie also continued to say that additional measures were taken to keep the casting from feeling exploitative:
“Parents, guardians, partner NGOs whose job it is to care for children, and medical doctors were always on hand everyday, to ensure everyone had all they needed. And above all to make sure that no one was in any way hurt by participating in the recreation of such a painful part of their country’s history.”
Friday morning, Vanity Fair responded to Jolie’s comments, and announced that it stand by the story it published.
Vanity Fair explained that Jolie’s attorney asked that it release a public statement apologizing for misunderstanding Jolie and the casting process, in addition to republishing the cover story with the paragraph referring to the cruel casting practices removed.
Vanity Fair, upon careful review of the audio from Peretz and Jolie’s interview, chose not to publicly apologize or revise the original story. Vanity Fair instead published the pertinent portion of the transcript that the controversial casting paragraph is based on. You can read that over at Vanity Fair.
No further comments have been made by Jolie at this time.