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Angelina Jolie Chooses Wisely: Salt Sequel Moves Forward

by Anne Thompson and Sophia Savage
June 7, 2011 5:30 AM
13 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood


Angelina Jolie may have said no to a Wanted sequel (for another film that eventually lost her, Gravity), but that doesn't mean she doesn't know a good franchise when she sees one. Salt went from a Tom Cruise vehicle to an Angelina Jolie action classic, and it's getting a sequel. We've said it before and we'll say it again: Angelina Jolie is the first actress to transcend gender. And it’s hard to argue that any other actress can do what she can.

So why did she choose Salt over Wanted, which Universal desperately wanted her to do? Worldwide tallies put Salt at $293.5 million (62% Tomatometer) while Wanted earned $341.4 million (71% Tomatometer). Trailers for both are below.

But her decision makes sense (pending her approval of Kurt Wimmer's script) if you look at Jolie as a piece of the Wanted puzzle, but the main event in Salt (sorry, James McAvoy). Salt offers many possibilities as an action-spy franchise, as well as the added frisson of putting a woman through her action paces. Under Phil Noyce's sure direction, Jolie delivered in Salt, even though the plot was less inspired than Wanted.

Of playing Evelyn Salt, a character intended to be a man, Jolie told Vogue: “I felt it was a weird thing that every time you ask for a strong female role, it’s written in this strange way where it uses sexuality far too much. Or it’s all about being a woman and beating a man. So it wasn’t a surprise to me that the only way to do a strong female role properly was to not have it originally written for a woman.”

There is no question that Jolie adds edge and sex appeal to whatever side-kick role she's had. She stole the show in Gone in 60 Seconds, Girl, Interrupted and Wanted. She makes cars and guns very sexy. Tomb Raider and Wanted were using her sexuality to sell movie tickets, and while one could argue Salt does the same, it doesn't get her naked to do so. She's one of a kind and she knows it. She doesn't have to pander to anyone's fantasy.

There will always be naysayers and tabloids tugging at her to come down from the pedestal. But she's there for a reason. Jolie's Tourist director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, told Vogue that the actress "gets every single script that has a female role aged between eighteen and 40—every script. And she just follows her feeling, holds her own counsel. She’s probably the only global megastar that doesn’t even have an agent—she doesn’t even have a publicist."

She's not Angelina Jolie, Movie Star, by accident. She trusts her instincts and is in a position to re-write the rules. So why not?

Sony's Columbia has Salt writer Wimmer writing #2, and Lorenzo di Bonaventura is returning to produce. There is no word yet on who will helm #2. Jolie will request a rewrite or pass should the story not be to her liking. She has that power. And that's what makes her so sexy.

There's more in our July 15, 2010 story on Jolie transcending gender.

13 Comments

  • Alex | October 19, 2011 12:09 PMReply

    Reese Witherspoon is not a good actor. I'm at a loss as to how she is in possession of an Academy Award.

  • mary | June 7, 2011 12:17 PMReply

    Sorry.... Reese Witherspoon took $2 million upfront fee to star in “Water for Elephants”. (not $2)

  • mary | June 7, 2011 12:16 PMReply

    Stacy:

    It is not a surprise that "The Tourist" did much better at overseas box office. Many Hollywood actors/actresses have bigger box office draw in overseas than in US. Anne said that there are fewer and fewer 'movie stars' today. I think if we count on the worldwide box office draws of actots and actresses to define who is 'movie star', there are still many 'movie stars' alive; if we only count on the US box office draws of actots and actresses to do so, then there are indeed very few 'movie stars' alive. (BTW, Anne wrote that Will Smith and Angelina Jolie are the movie stars; I would like to add Denzel Washington on the list, since he is one of the few actros who can open adult dramas.)

    I don't only blame Angelina Jolie for the US box office failure of "The Tourist" ; I would think that the major reason why the film flopped is the film itself. But it is unfair to use "Rango" to reflect Johnny Depp's box Depp, because Johnny Depp is only the voice actor of "Rango" (and Depp was only paid $7.5 million upfront fee to work on that film).

    Thank you for Angelina Jolie's salary infos about "A Mighty Heart" and "Changeling". But those films and "The Tourist" didn't do well in wide releases in US, and I think she would need to take pay cut more often to star in more kinds of non-action films. Even Reese Witherspoon had to take only $2 upfront fee to star in "Water for Elephants", which is enjoying US box office success.

  • Stacy | June 7, 2011 11:07 AMReply

    Oops...sorry...that was Sony, not Universal, who had the bomb with How Do You Know.

  • Stacy | June 7, 2011 11:05 AMReply

    One more comment to "Mary" - Jolie never takes large up-fronts for her non-action films. She was only paid $1 million for A Mighty Heart and $10 million for Changeling. Her salary demands are not unreasonable. Especially when you consider that Universal recently paid Reese Witherspoon $15 million for How Do You Know, which cost $120 million to make and has so far grossed less than $50 million WORLDWIDE. No there's a "bomb" and some salary perspective for you.

  • Stacy | June 7, 2011 10:59 AMReply

    mary on June 7, 2011 at 11:50am PDT -

    You need to get with the times. The profitibility of a movie is no longer depending on domestic box office and hasn't been for years. Jolie's (and Depp's) $20 million upfront for The Tourist was completely justified when you look at the WORLDWIDE success of the movie. Recently The Hollywood Reporter wrote a mea culpa for calling the movie a bomb too soon. (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/box-office-shocker-tourist-has-194383) The movie ended up making over $210 million in foreign revenue for a box office total of $278,305,287, which completely recouped GK Films' entire $100 million budget and earned a tidy profit BEFORE it went to DVD. Worldwide dvd/blu-ray and tv rights will end up making a buttload of money for GK Films.

    Jolie's fee is 100% accurate and reflects her prowess at the WORLDWIDE box office. People want to lay what they see as the failure of The Tourist at the box office at Jolie's feet and seem to forget that Johnny Depp was in that movie, too. Isn't he supposed to be a much bigger box office draw than Jolie? So why isn't he to blame instead of her? If you look at Depp's follow up film - the animated feature Rango - it only made $119 million foreign compared to $120 million domestic. It's comparing apples and oranges, but still, Rango cost $135 million and won't reach the break-even point in box office sales, yet The Tourist made a good profit. So take a few minutes and rethink your definition of a box office success. It's not all about the good old U. S. of A. anymore and hasn't been for about 10 years.

  • Stacy | June 7, 2011 10:43 AMReply

    Jolie didn't turn down the Wanted remake for Gravity. She turned down the Wanted remake because her character died in the original and say said that to her, "Dead is dead." Mark Millar, who wrote the graphic novel Wanted's based on, said Jolie didn't like any of the ideas they came up with for bringing the character back from the dead and she felt like her character died for principles and it undermined the character to resurrect her. She walked away from a huge $20 million plus back end payday - and not many actors would do that just because their character died in the original movie. Millar says that Universal still wants to do the sequel but they're having trouble casting an actress who can fill Jolie's shoes. Good luck with that.

    Also, Jolie never accepted the role in Gravity. They tried 3 separate times to get her to take the role, offered her a several huge salary + back end deals and she turned it down every time because she thought the role was underwritten and there wasn't enough of an arc to the story.

    If Salt 2 comes together it'll be because Wimmer gave her a killer script and Sony secured a great action director (Noyce has already bowed out). Otherwise I doubt she'll do the movie. It's been over 1 1/2 years since she's been in front of the camera, so someone is going to have to come up with a really script to get Jolie motivated to act again. At this point it's looking like she'd rather expand on her writing and directing than take on another acting job. Whether it's Cleopatra, the Scarpetta movie, Graham King's Unforgiven project, a Salt sequel or something else entirely it's going to need to really fire Jolie up or it's going to be even longer before she has a new movie at the box office.

  • Sergio | June 7, 2011 8:24 AMReply

    I thought Wanted was way better then Salt but is she still going to weigh 69 pounds like she did in those films? Still can't buy an anorexic, gaunt person the weight of a napkin beating 6 foot tall 200 pound guys to a pulp. talk about science fiction!

  • basicmagic | June 7, 2011 7:38 AMReply

    "We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Angelina Jolie is the first actress to transcend gender."

    maybe so... but Chaplin was the first actor to transcend both age and nationality. And Keaton... perhaps time itself.

    vincent, in buffalo
    http://louisebrooks.com

  • Brian | June 7, 2011 6:58 AMReply

    I'd love to see SALT 2. I tuned out on WANTED because it was James McAvoy's show, not Jolie's. In SALT, it was Jolie's show all the way, just the way I wanted it.

    All I'd suggest is: tone down the unbelievable stunts (jumping from moving truck to moving truck on a highway; leaping off a speeding subway train and not getting killed, etc.) and make it more like a Bourne film (BOURNE 1 & 2, that is), and I'll be happy.

  • mary | June 7, 2011 6:50 AMReply

    I totally agree with you that Angelina Jolie made smart decision to choose "Salt" over "Wanted". Well written, Anne.

    Angelina Jolie has huge box office draw when she do action films. However, the US box office failure of "The Tourist" may have some negative effect on her, especially she took $19 million upfront fee to star in the film.
    http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/features/2011/03/hollywood-top-earners-201103?printable=true

    In the future, Angelina Jolie may have to take pay cut more often to star in more non-action films. I think it would not be a bad thing to do.
    Brad Pitt always take pay cut to star in adult-driven films and indies (ie. "Snatch", "Babel", "Burn After Reading", "The Tree of Life", etc....) and it benefits his career a lot; maybe Angelina Jolie can follow Brad Pitt's footstep.

  • Kit | June 7, 2011 6:14 AMReply

    Agree. I much prefer she do this than Wanted 2 although I would like to see McAvoy get his own franchise. I thought she was trying to make Salt grittier and more dramatic with her portrayal of the conflicted spy but the film opted for a more popcorn route. I don't have much confidence in Wimmer but they can always do a rewrite. Given the directors she wants to work with - Fincher, Aronofsky, (even von Donnersmarck) I expect she'll want an edgier director for the sequel. Suggestions?

  • ag | June 7, 2011 6:05 AMReply

    gotta say, good news. good move. salt 2 will do well.

    wanted was a good story, yes, but wanted 2 would not have succeeded. no analysis here, just a feeling. would have cost more, made way less. frankly, i think audiences could have cared less for w2. the novelty would have been over. could have tanked. would have been bad for jolie's track record.

    i wanted a wanted sequel, but looking back she made the right decision. looking forward to salt 2

    ps -- bet tc is kicking himself

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