Academy Award-winner Angelina Jolie stars in Warner Bros.’ new fantasy adventure “Beowulf” – director Robert Zemeckis’ re-imagining of the oldest epic tale with the most modern technology of performance-capture and digitally enhanced live-action. In the film, after destroying the overpowering demon Grendel, mighty warrior Beowulf incurs the undying wrath of the beast’s ruthlessly seductive mother, who will use any means possible to ensure revenge. The ensuing epic battle resonates throughout the ages, immortalizing the name of Beowulf.
Jolie plays Grendel’s mother – a dangerous, seductive creature who plays on men’s flaws and weaknesses to her own devilish advantage. “Grendel’s mother is a demon and a seductress to the nth degree and nobody can do that kind of sultry character as well as Angelina Jolie,” says Zemeckis. “When she stepped on the set and became that character, it was a powerful thing to watch. She was just magnetic and she hypnotized everyone on the set.”
A bemused Jolie notes that “when you mention Grendel’s mother, you find that everyone has an opinion about her. I think she’s lovely and everybody else thinks she’s a bit off.”
The character’s actions, Jolie points out, are beyond good and evil, driven by a profound maternal instinct. “Yes, she’s a monster, but she’s also a mom and that’s the essence behind everything she does. Grendel is like a full-grown man but there’s something vulnerable and childlike about him. I thought about her as a mother. If someone hurts your son, you would go to the ends of the earth to avenge him. So, I approached it that way.”
Although Jolie had seen sketches of what her character would ultimately look like – she describes her as a “sexy lizard” who could assume a quasi-human form – personifying the beguiling woman-reptile, without benefit of costumes, prosthetics, props or make-up was a unique experience. Jolie had to piece together her role based partly on Zemeckis’ direction. “At one point, Bob told me to feel free to lisp. So, I thought, hmm, possibly here I have a lizard tongue. Or, I’d be doing something as the woman and Bob would say something like, ‘Pick that up,’ and I’d say, ‘But I have my hands on the sword.’ Then Bob would say, ‘Well, pick it up with your tail.’ So then I realized I had a tail. At some point, he asked me to pose my foot as if it were in a high heel and I thought, oh, that’s nice, he wants me to feel sexier. But, Bob said, ‘No, no, your hand is like a foot, your foot is like a hand…’ So, then I was totally confused. He showed me a picture of a really sexy woman made of all this gold and then you look to her feet and they’re just a little bit funky. So I have a tail and hands for feet and they’re slightly high heeled! I’m very curious to see the movie, to find out how I ended up!”
She ended up as a fantastically alluring, wily, dangerous female creature of iridescent gold with high-heeled cloven feet and an appendage-like braid of hair. Zemeckis elaborates: “We had this idea that she would have a long braid of hair that is sort of like a tail. So we could get the right feel and movement of her tail/braid, I actually had her do a take where she moved her hand in the same way her tail would, to get the right feel. And the rhythm was perfect. That’s what I love about this art form – you get the actors’ interpretation of everything, including what a magical tail might move like,” he concludes.
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