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Equity Magazine April 2018

COVER STORY Having done

COVER STORY Having done three animated movies including the tigress in Kung Fu Panda, what made you pursue Maleficent? I hadn’t done anything like Maleficent and even though I’m trained in a little bit of theater, I’ve never been confident about being on stage. I’m very much a film actor, I think, where it’s more internal. I’m always in awe when I go to the theater. I love watching the actors and when I knew I was going to do this role, I thought I must train. I’m not good enough. I’m not actually ready for this. What made you cross paths and become a movie director? I am one of those actors that was always aware of it simply because I believe strongly that it’s about how we contribute to the whole movie process. We have a responsibility and however small or big our role is or if we’re supposed to be the antagonist or whatever it is that we are, we’re feeding what everybody else needs, so I tried to stay very aware of that. I like working with crews and care about what everybody’s job is. I never thought I could make a movie or that I could write. It never was my plan. What changed? Well, it was kind of an accident. This sounds so strange. Every time I say this, I know it sounds strange. I wanted to learn to become a director. I wanted to learn more about the war in Yugoslavia because when I was a teenager I felt I didn’t understand enough. It was a war I really couldn’t get my head around. I wasn’t planning on making a movie at all. I was sick for a few days. I was away from my kids and I thought I’ll try to write a screenplay for fun, for me. Nobody will ever see it and I’m going to just start with two people that love each other deeply and I’m going to end with one of them killing the other and somehow figuring out how they get from here to there in the study of it, and what I’m going to have to discover about what happened. I’m going to learn something that’s going to help me to come to terms with it. It can help me with my work. I’m going to explore this. I would travel and meet amazing people, learn from them, talk. I’ve met many women who were victims of sexual assaults, and so the (first) film (as a director) grew from there. I gave myself an excuse, a homework to study something. Somebody who saw the script said it wasn’t that bad, and then suddenly very quickly, it turned into I could make it. That was ‘In the Land of Blood and Honey’, my first film as a director. 30 EQUITY

COVER STORY Are you now more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it? Yes. I love watching other people act. I love performance, emotion, stories. I think I have a whole different relationship to film from dealing with it behind the camera, and I like to champion other people. That’s the nice thing about being a director. You get to find other people’s greatness and highlight it and push it and it’s such a pleasure to do that. What do you expect as a director after releasing a new movie about the genocide in Cambodia with First They Killed My Father? We screened it there first and it was amazing because we were all quite nervous and it was really bringing the film back, and people who would see it would be survivors. It would be people who were participating in the next Khmer Rouge. The government, Royal Family, it was going to be everybody and we weren’t sure of the reaction because it’s not often spoken of. We prepared the next day to meet with people and have town halls so we could debate and discuss, but it was really such a moving experience and we premiered it across the country in many places such as the Olympic stadium, also where so much horror happened. The country itself deserves this film and needs this dialogue, and when I heard people driving home at night talking about it and grandparents for the first time telling their grandkids about it because they hadn’t spoken, I realised why. Your older son Maddox who was born in Cambodia. Did he have anything to do with this movie? I also made it for Maddox. I really wanted him to work on it, to see it, to live with it. He goes back to Cambodia often, but this was different. He was going to immerse himself in what his birth parents most likely went through and learn about himself as a Cambodian in a very different way. Do you feel the need to be a role model for your children and so many young women who admire you? I take it very seriously. I have a lot to learn and certainly I need role models like myself to keep me grounded, but I take it very seriously if I am in any way a role model and I try to be that for my children. If I am that in any way, I do want to take make sure that I’m able to communicate to young people around the world and help if I can. I wish I had more guidance when I was younger, so I’m very happy to be a part of that community discussion. 31 EQUITY

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