Angelina Jolie lets Taylor Sheridan drag her through hell

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NEW YORK (AP) — Taylor Sheridan, initially brought on to rewrite the mountain thriller “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” gradually got more invested in the movie. When another filmmaker dropped out, he called the studio with an offer.

“I said if I can get Angie to do this with me, I’ll direct it for you,” Sheridan says. “They said, ‘Great. You’ll never get Angie.’”

The skepticism on the part of Warner Bros. executives was warranted. Angelina Jolie, whose priorities have centered on filmmaking, international work and family, hasn’t starred in a live-action film in six years. Over the last decade, her only leading performances have been two “Maleficent” movies and “By the Sea,” which she directed and starred in alongside then-husband Brad Pitt.

But Sheridan’s timing was right. Jolie, going through a painful and protracted divorce, was more interested in a quicker, simpler role on set. And the part of a Montanan smoke jumper haunted by trauma and guilt, was potentially cathartic.

“We all have times in our lives where we are broken. And we grieve and we’re not sure we have anything left in us,” Jolie said in an interview by Zoom from Los Angeles. “I identified more with a part of her that didn’t feel she could do a lot, and hadn’t done this in a long time. To be in this situation and have a director that is both sensitive and aware of the human experience, to go there and to feel it, but also to push you to find your strength and move forward.”

“It was really what I needed at that time,” says Jolie.

“Those Who Wish Me Dead,” which will on May 14 open in theaters and on HBO Max, is an anomaly for other reasons, too. It’s a star-led genre film not based on well-known intellectual property made by a major studio. (The film is based on Michael Koryta’s 2014 book.) Like Sheridan’s previous films —“To Hell or High Water,” “Sicario” (both of which he wrote) and “Wind River” (which Sheridan wrote and directed), it’s a tale of blood and justice across a vast and violent American landscape.

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