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Career Watch: Has 'Maleficent' Restored Angelina Jolie's Box Office Mojo?

Photo of Susan Wloszczyna By Susan Wloszczyna | Thompson on Hollywood June 2, 2014 at 6:30AM

Reviews were mixed. But for moviegoers, the $70 million opening for "Maleficent" -- an Angelina Jolie record -- for a rare female summer action adventure suggests that they were transfixed by the sight of the right actress in a perfect-fit role.
Jolie on the set of "In The Land of Blood and Honey"
Jolie on the set of "In The Land of Blood and Honey"

Awards attention:  Won a supporting Emmy and Golden Globe for “Wallace.” Won the trifecta – lead Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG – for “Gia.” And pulled off another three-way – supporting Oscar, Globe, SAG  -- with wins for “Girl, Interrupted.” Nominated for a Globe and SAG as lead in “A Mighty Heart” and earned lead Oscar, Globe and SAG nods for “Changeling.” Nominated for a Globe as a lead in 2010’s “The Tourist.” Honored with the Academy's coveted Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award last year.

Honorary Oscar Winners Jolie, Lansbury, Martin
Honorary Oscar Winners Jolie, Lansbury, Martin

Latest misfire: Despite earning three laughable Globe nominations in categories for musicals or comedies – it was neither -- the nearly universally panned "The Tourist" failed to capitalize on what should have been an exceedingly combustible first-time pairing of two superstars, Jolie and Johnny Depp. Considering what they probably earned for taking part in the $100 million romantic thriller, $68 million in domestic ticket sales seems pretty paltry indeed.   

Biggest problems: Jolie is so larger-than-life, it makes it difficult for audiences to accept her in roles as an everyday person. As her “Changeling” director Clint Eastwood, who has nothing but praise for her acting abilities, has noted: “She’s somewhat hampered sometimes by having this gorgeous face, the most gorgeous face on the planet. She’s on covers and all that stuff.” Besides, most screenplays pale when compared to her own well-documented existence as a global vagabond do-gooder with a large brood of adorable kids and equally stunning companion. That might be one reason that it has been four years since she was last seen on a movie screen (she was only heard in “Kung Fu Panda 2”). The other is her pursuit of a directing career. 

Jolie directing 'Unbroken'
Jolie directing 'Unbroken'

Career advice: Jolie made another wise move when she took refuge behind the camera as a writer, director and producer of the 2011 Bosnian War film “In the Land of Milk and Honey.” Despite mixed reviews, it proved she was seriously committed to her craft – not always easy to do as a celebrated sex symbol.  That she is continuing down that path is probably a good thing for the most part. Her second directing effort, “Unbroken,” the true story of  an Olympic athlete who survived being a  World War II POW,  opens this Christmas.

Still, fans might be disappointed if Jolie decides to call it a day as a performer. As she told USA TODAY recently, "I became an actress because my mom wanted me to become an actress. It took me until my mid-30s to realize I actually didn't. I actually wanted to write and direct and be more involved in politics and humanitarian issues. I'll do a few more films and enjoy it and if I'm blessed to have a good career, but I've never loved it like I love other things.”

It would be a shame if Jolie fails to use her current box-office muscle to portray more fabulous female characters.  But given that she has a sizable list of upcoming acting projects, a retirement from the screen is not exactly imminent.

Next step: So far she has resisted many possible sequels, but we'll see if she goes along with plans for “Salt 2,” “Wanted 2” and “Kung Fu Panda 3.” And Disney will surely pursue another go-round for hit “Maleficent.” Also tempting is the news that Jolie has written a script – one that she describes as “a little independent experiment” -- that might finally reunite her and Pitt as co-stars. But the only production news that will be more exciting than when her long-awaited take on “Cleopatra” gets off the ground is when the pair finally announce a wedding date.

This article is related to: Angelina Jolie, Angelina Jolie, Angelina Jolie, Angelina Jolie, Maleficent, Salt, Kung Fu Panda 3, Kung Fu Panda 2, Unbroken, In The Land of Blood and Honey, Brad Pitt, Brad Pitt, Box Office, Box Office, Career Watch

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.