Exclusive Interview With Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Director Joachim Rønning and Co-Star Sam Riley
Our favorite villainess is back. Angelina Jolie, who played the SLEEPING BEAUTY baddie in 2014’s smash MALEFICENT, returns for MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL – a sequel that improves on the original by making everything bigger, badder and much scarier. Following a period of happiness and quiet, Maleficent’s dark side resurfaces after Aurora (Elle Fanning) is set to marry Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson).
The issue isn't the marriage; it's Phillip's mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), who might not have the best intentions for the magical creatures of Maleficent's homeland. Their conflict tees up serious drama and culminates in a truly epic battle sequence. With all the magic in the air, this is an excellent family Halloween movie.
We sat down with director Joachim Rønning, who last tackled PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES, and actor Sam Riley, who plays Maleficent’s faithful, feathered sidekick Diaval. (Riley handily steals one scene after another.) We spoke about the process of crafting a hotly anticipated sequel, the experience of working with Angelina Jolie, and whether or not they’d be game for a third installment.
Maleficent: The Return
Rønning (seen just above) said that MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL reminded him of the movies he "grew up with – the family adventure movies of the 80s," and that recollection led him to say yes to the job. "In a way, they were the movies that inspired me to become a filmmaker. [This] gives me great characters set against a unique backdrop. That makes for images for the big screen. That’s what I like,” Rønning explained.
As for what he wanted to emphasize in this installment, the director said that the first film "gripped [him] emotionally" and he wanted to play that up here. "As a parent myself, I was curious to further explore the Maleficent/Aurora relationship, the mother/daughter relationship that they have. We wanted to make it feel like Aurora was no longer a girl, she's a woman, and she's moving out. As a parent, you dread the day when you are no longer the most important person in your child’s life," Rønning said. "That’s what Maleficent has to deal with and what makes her relatable."
Riley, meanwhile, was never really sure he would be called back to the Moors, given the amount of time between movies. Luckily he was wrong. "It was a surprise. My dad was convinced they would do another one. He said, ‘No, no, no – no sequel has ever made half of the original.’ He found a website and became an expert on all things [related to box office]," Riley said. "Whatever year we made it, he said, 'I think it’s going to be this year. Call your agent and find out.' And he was right. He knew it was happening. I was thrilled."
An Audience with the Queen
Rønning has a background working with mega-stars – after all, he wrangled Johnny Depp for PIRATES. Even so, he sounded struck by awe when talking about the experience of partnering with Angelina Jolie. "She’s a genius. It’s relentless hard work, that’s what she puts into it. We sat for months writing the script. She’s very hands-on. She’s also a producer on the movie," Rønning said.
No detail was too small, especially when it came to the look of Maleficent. "We spent hours and hours discussing the color of her lips. It is really hardcore. And I think that’s why she’s so successful. She’s so hardworking. She makes everyone else around her work hard. And what’s amazing about that is you really feel that you made it the best you could be."
As excited as Riley was to return, he was even more pumped when he realized how many scenes he would share with Jolie. "What was thrilling was, I had every scene with Angelina, and when I saw that we were going to have the same moments together and we got to develop [the relationship] more," Riley said. "We tried to find ways to bring something like... we had this bickering, old married couple vibe with one another. Because they become the mother and father of Aurora. This is all fun stuff to play." In the final edit of MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL, that relationship (and the obvious chemistry between the actors) is one of the most fun aspects of this installment, as it takes the characters into new territory.
MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL opens on October 18!
All images courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.