Vanity Fair Responds to Angelina Jolie’s Comments Related to Its September Cover Story – Vanity Fair
Our September cover story, “A Life in Bold,” a portrait of actress Angelina Jolie by contributing editor Evgenia Peretz, has been the subject of some controversy, specifically the paragraph that follows, which describes the casting of Cambodian children in Jolie’s upcoming film, First They Killed My Father:
“To cast the children in the film, Jolie looked at orphanages,
circuses, and slum schools, specifically seeking children who had
experienced hardship. In order to find their lead, to play young Loung
Ung, the casting directors set up a game, rather disturbing in its
realism: they put money on the table and asked the child to think of
something she needed the money for, and then to snatch it away. The
director would pretend to catch the child, and the child would have to
come up with a lie. ‘Srey Moch [the girl ultimately chosen for the
part] was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very
long time,’ Jolie says. ‘When she was forced to give it back, she
became overwhelmed with emotion. All these different things came
flooding back.’ Jolie then tears up. ‘When she was asked later what
the money was for, she said her grandfather had died, and they didn’t
have enough money for a nice funeral.’”
Some reporters and readers raised concerns about the casting process. Jolie responded in a statement, saying the audition had been taken out of context, and added she was upset that “a pretend exercise in an improvisation . . . had been written about as if it was a real scenario.” She also stated “the suggestion that real money was taken from a child during an audition is false and upsetting. I would be outraged myself if this had happened.”
On August 1, Jolie’s lawyer contacted V.F., saying Peretz had “mistakenly” reported the incident, and asked us to run a statement, excerpts of which follow: “The casting crew showed the children the camera and sound recording material, explaining to them that they were going to be asked to act out a part. . . . The children were not tricked as some have suggested. . . . All of the children auditioning were made aware of the fictional aspect of the exercise and were tended to at all times by relatives or guardians from NGOs. . . . We apologize for any misunderstanding.”
Jolie’s lawyer also asked us to remove the original paragraph from the online version of Peretz’s story and to publish the above statement prominently, with the title “Angelina Jolie Correction” in the October edition of V.F. and also on VF.com.
In response to these requests, V.F. reviewed the transcript and audiotape of Peretz’s interview with Jolie for the story. Peretz had recorded it on two devices. A transcript of the relevant section is reproduced below.
AJ: But it was very hard to find a little Loung. And so it was what
they call a slum school. I don’t think that’s a very nice word for it,
but a school for kids in very poor areas.
And I think, I mean they didn’t know. We just went in and—you just go
in and do some auditions with the kids. And it’s not really an
audition with children. We had this game where it would be—and I
wasn’t there and they didn’t know what they were really doing. They
kind of said, “Oh, a camera’s coming up and we want to play a game
with you.” And the game for that character was “We’re going to put
some money on the table. Think of something that you need that money
for.” Sometimes it was money, sometimes it was a cookie. [Laughter]
“And then take it.” And then we would catch them. “We’re going to
catch you, and we’d like you to try to lie that you didn’t have it.”
So it was very interesting seeing the kids and how they would—some
were very conscious of the camera. They were actually—there are so
many talented kids in this country. But Srey Moch was the only child
that stared at that money for a very, very long time before she picked
it up, and then bravely, brazenly lying, like was trying to hide, but
then she also kind of—
EP: Wait. This is the girl, Loung.
AJ: This is the girl. And then when she was forced to give it back
became very kind of like strong, emotional, she became overwhelmed
with emotion that she was—and she just—all of these different things
flooded out. And I don’t think she or her family would mind me saying
when she was later asked what that money was for, she said her
grandfather died and they didn’t have enough money for a nice funeral.
After reviewing the audiotape, V.F. stands by Peretz’s story as published.