Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie lends her voice to brand-new animation movie ‘The One and Only Ivan’, currently streaming on Disney+. The film is based on the best-selling book by Katherine Applegate, directed by Thea Sharrock and screenwriter Mike White. ‘The One and Only Ivan’ also stars Sam Rockwell, Danny DeVito, Bryan Cranston, Dame Helen Mirren, Chaka Khan, Brooklynn Prince, and Ariana Greenblatt.
Angelina took part in a recent Zoom chat to talk about her latest movie outing, which tells the story of an artistically talented gorilla named Ivan [Sam Rockwell], who tries to piece together his past with the help of an elephant named Stella [Angelina Jolie] as they hatch a plan to escape from captivity.
Here, Angelina talks about what drew her to this project, how she channels her own creativity through her kids and more…
Beverly Hills Magazine: Angelina, what was it about this project that made you not just lend your voice to a character but also take on a producer role?
Angelina Jolie: Well, one of my children read the book and said that they loved it and I read it, and we kind of talked about why it was special and why it meant so much to them. And so I started to pursue, ‘Where is it? Is it being made? What’s happening?’ And started to get involved. And even the early drafts, it was very interesting, one of the things Mike [White] did that I think was very special is I’d seen it start to go down a road where it really started to become a light, fun, kids like action… a simpler story.
It was easy for somebody to come in to just pick a few threads and make it quite simple and add some action here and to really make it what it is intended to be. And Disney and Mike and everybody involved really to understand that it has its heart. It’s not a light film, it deals with heavy issues.
But it is charming and fun and full of life, but it is deceptive in kind of the packaging. So, I thought it was very, very important and wanted to get involved. I liked the messages in it. And I’m excited about this young generation as well, I think all of us older people will appreciate it for many reasons. But I know this young generation is really very aware of what is happening in the world to our natural habitats, to these animals, what’s happening in the Congo and losing ground, what’s happening with the gorillas, the elephants.
And they’re angry and they want to really be clear about what kind of treatment is appropriate and what kind of captivity is appropriate, being against poaching, preservation of natural habitat. So I think this represents them, Ariana’s character (Greenblatt – who plays Julia, the young daughter of one of the mall employees) represents them and that’s strong for them today to see that their actions can make a change.
Beverly Hills Magazine: The character Bob in this film says “We’re all a little artsy” — How would you say you are a little bit artsy outside of your film work?
Angelina Jolie: Oh god, I feel like I’m really boring. I spend a lot of time studying foreign policy. But I think my creativity is my kids, being with them and making up stories before bed or just being silly with them.
It’s really nothing I’m doing, just watching each of them become uniquely who they are and being around it and going into each of theirs; whether it be their rooms and talking to them or helping them develop. It’s not as much me but it’s… my mom was always like that, she loved seeing other people’s creativity. It’s about the conversations you have or the parts of their minds that you develop or the parts of their humanity.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Is it true that you and Brooklynn Prince[who voiced the young elephant Ruby] wore elephant onesies when you were recording your parts together?
Angelina Jolie: It’s safe to say that we became like the elephant family in the [movie]. We got really into our characters us too.
Beverly Hills Magazine: You are one of the incredible cast of characters in this — can you talk about your co-stars?
Angelina Jolie: Ivan [the gorilla] was played by the brilliant Sam Rockwell. Danny DeVito played Bob [a dog] – there were so many people. And also Chaka Khan [who voiced Henrietta the chicken]. So the greatest casting ever!
Beverly Hills Magazine: Can you talk about the true story of Ivan?
Angelina Jolie: The real Ivan was raised as a baby with a human owner and he then became… he actually did paint. And it was in the painting that then brought more of the attention of the news and the world. But that also brought attention to his environment and then they realized that it was really not the right way to treat this beautiful creature. And so he was put into a sanctuary.
Beverly Hills Magazine: We see Gorillas in a different watching this, and through the way he sees the world?
Angelina Jolie: Because he’s a silverback people expect him to be angry– and that’s not what he is. He feels he’s got the heart and soul of an artist. And I was so moved by that. I think it’s very touching and I think children often feel that way as we discover ourselves what we’re supposed to be or what somebody expects of us. You say, ‘Well this must be this and this must be that’ and they say, ‘I don’t know but I feel…’ You find this unique self and you want to express it and you want to be allowed to be what you are and what your soul is called to.
And so Ivan is an artist and also the way Ivan sees people, there’s a lot of life lessons in it and there’s a lot of understanding of Mack [mall owner played by Bryan Cranston] and people around him and their frailties and flaws but it’s seen through the eyes of Ivan. So it’s quite innocent.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Can you talk about working with director Thea Sharrock?
Angelina Jolie: Thea is really special. She is a theatre director and what she does both with the actual people but also she doesn’t do any less when she’s working with a fully CG-animated creature, the performance she wants from everybody, from our characters and the nuance and the relationships. And so she understands it emotionally but she also brings to it real craft.
Beverly Hills Magazine: It’s a powerful story!
Angelina Jolie: It is such a charming beautiful story and it’s one of those that every once in a while you know that it’s special and as a mother but as an artist, it was one of those that you just feel – this is the kind of movie that we need. It’s one of those classics, dare I say, like ‘Charlotte’s Web’, where you say, ‘This has all these interesting layers, many interesting messages, it’s unique, it has a voice and there’s something about spending time in this world with these people where it elevates the way you see and think about these things. And so I think all of us that have come on, we know it’s special.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What do you think the audience talk away from watching the movie?
Angelina Jolie: I hope it’s one of those films which, I know it is, for young and old, and is one of those films that is charming and funny and relatable and lovely for children but is also one that is smart and very nuanced and will also speak to adults and we may get other layers that the kids don’t but it really will speak to everybody.
Beverly Hills Magazine: And what did you take away from it personally?
Angelina Jolie: It’s really nice to be a part of something that you feel has something really good to say.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Finally, what would you say is the message of the film?
Angelina Jolie: I think this is one of those that says something to all of us about trying to make it through your life, trying to find ways to help each other, overcoming, meaning well and things falling apart and life can go through all these horrible turns but you hold onto each other, you fight forward, you find ways through and you can find that friendship and that freedom and that love.
Beverly Hills Magazine: We love that. We couldn’t agree more. We are looking forward to what’s next in store for you. God bless you!
(Credits: Regina Wagner/Geisler-Fotopress/picture-alliance/The Interview People)