July 29, 2010 / 10:06 AM / 9 years ago

A Minute With: Director Phillip Noyce on "Salt"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Australian director Phillip Noyce returned to directing Angelina Jolie in the new Russian spy action thriller “Salt,” more than ten years after he worked with her in “The Bone Collector.”

Actors Angelina Jolie (L), Chiwetel Ejiofor (C) and executive producer Phillip Noyce pose during the launch of their movie "Salt" in Cancun June 30, 2010. Reuters/Gerardo Garcia

The newest film, which was released in the United States last week and Russia this week, evokes old Cold war suspicions between the two countries. “Salt” received some good luck on the publicity front when just before its release 10 Russian spies based in the United States were arrested and swapped for four Russians suspected of working for the West.

Noyce spoke to Reuters about why Hollywood is returning to the Cold War as a topic for movie entertainment and why Jolie was the perfect fit for the role of a secretive agent.

Q. The Russian spy arrests earned huge media attention. What is it about U.S.-Russia relations that still captures America’s public imagination so long after the end of the Cold War?

A. “Because it was such a monumental contest on every level from the sports field to outer space, because we won. And when you win you want to keep returning to the story and replaying it.”

“The struggle between the two belief systems was so monumental and fought over so many decades, and we won so we keep returning to the story. The story is still going on as we have seen with the arrest of the ‘New York Eleven’. Why will it keep going on? Because those 11 are the tip of the iceberg.”

Q. But the Cold War is over? Why return?

A. “Because the human being is the ultimate weapon — the penetration of the sleeper spy.”

Q. Why haven’t we seen a lead female in an action spy movie like this much before, where are the female James Bonds?

A. “Because it took an Angelina to evolve to that point as an actress, as a personality. And it took a female head of a studio to say, you know what guys? This guy should be a woman. That is what it took.”

Q. Amy Pascal, head of Sony Pictures offered the part to Jolie after Tom Cruise was first offered. How did that happen?

“Amy had approached Angie over the years and asked her ‘Why don’t you play one of the Bond girls,?’ and Ang had always said to her, ‘Well, I want to play Bond. Find me a Bond character and I will play that.”

Q. So is she better than Tom Cruise?

A. “There is no better because who knows what Tom would have been? Tom is a wonderful actor and great performer and also has his own special brand of athleticism. I think it’s a more enjoyable movie with a female heroine and a female lead. And Angelina is at that moment in her evolution where she is absolutely perfect to bring this character to an audience.”

Q. What was the initial reaction from everyone?

A. “The insanity of the proposal was so obviously sane when we thought about it because what was at the time a sort of predictable story, where you could see the ending about halfway through, suddenly became an entirely different animal and entirely different journey with a woman playing the part.”

Q. How is she able to carry this out as compared to other actresses?

A. “She brings a seemingly impossible combination of athleticism, acting ability, intelligence, warmth and wit. That seems too much. Oh, I forgot beauty. Which does seem too much for one human being to have, but she’s got it all.”

Q. Could we see the character developed more, like what happened with Bond, in a sequel?

A. “Absolutely, she has the ability in all areas to keep reinventing the story and the character.”

Q. How much would this movie have to make to get a sequel?

A. “I have been out of Hollywood for 10 years, so I have lost track with the economics of it all. Your first aim it to first get the studio back it’s money.”

Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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