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September/October 2019

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DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 16 POST SEPT/OCT 2019 fter Disney's 2014 dark fantasy Maleficent, starring Angelina, Jolie became a global smash, raking in some $760 million, it was only a mat- ter of time before a sequel would be made. And to helm the new follow-up, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, the studio enlisted Norwegian film director Joachim Ronning, whose credits include co-di- recting Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (which sailed away with close to $800 million at the box office) and the Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki. Jolie once again steps into the title role as Maleficent, and the film begins peacefully enough for her and her god- daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning). Their relationship, born of heartbreak, revenge and ultimately love, has flourished. Yet the hatred between man and the fairies still exists. Aurora's impending marriage to Prince Phillip is cause for celebration, but an unexpected encounter introduces a powerful new alliance, and Maleficent and Aurora are pulled apart to opposing sides in a Great War, testing their loyal- ties and whether they can truly be family. In an exclusive interview with Post, Ronning, who was still deep in post, talks about making Maleficent, the challenges involved and his love of post. Successful sequels to big hits are notoriously difficult to make. How nervous were you taking this on? "On a scale from one to 10, it was pretty high, but I think making any movie is difficult, and there are pros and cons to something this big and complex. On the plus side, a lot of the groundwork for this had already been laid with the first film, so you're not having to completely invent the universe and all the characters from the start. So we could take and build on all the things that worked, and a lot of the things did work — especially the characters. I also think that a lot of the success of the first film was that big surprise element. The audience wasn't expecting a tweak like that to such a famous, well-known story. So the big challenge I had taking this on was trying to catch that magic and catch lightning in a bottle again, and continue to surprise the audience." What did Angelina bring to the mix? "That iconic character that is very much her creation, and just like when I worked with Johnny Depp and his Captain Sparrow, you don't want to get in their way too much. My job is to fine-tune, especially with the comedy, and let her do her thing." What sort of film did you set out to make? "What I'm always looking for in any movie I make is an emotional core, an emotional connection, and the first film managed to do that in a very big way. And it's really the most important thing for me, whether I'm dealing with pirates or fairies or whatever. But to be honest, creating effective emotion is also the most difficult thing to do, along with comedy, and then part of this whole universe is comedy, so I had to deal with a lot of challenging elements as well as a mix of genres." What were the main technical challenges in pulling it all together? "These types of films are so VFX-heavy, so that also means you're always going to have a lot of changes going on all the time, from the script to the production design to all the VFX and so on through all the departments. I come from a very small country where we make small films where I'd know well in advance of prin- cipal photography exactly what I'd be shooting, but here it's so different. That window is so much smaller as there's so many people involved, and then you have the studio, and then you have the huge technical challenges of creating over 1,000 VFX shots with wings on people. And as that's all part of the acting, they were also always getting in the virtual way when you're shooting a scene. Even the most simple over-the-shoulder shot becomes tricky as the wings are there and you have to deal with them." Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales must have been great preparation for this? (Laughs) "Yes, it was the perfect training for this, especially as we had to deal with about the same total number of VFX — over 2,000 shots, and it also involved the same kind of complex logistics and huge scale. But I'd say that this is even more challenging as it has many fully-CG characters that are carrying the movie along with the actors, and I didn't have that in Pirates. I also never dealt with that before, that full-blown animation of char- acters that are also full of emotions and JOACHIM RONNING ON MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL BY IAIN BLAIR A MORE THAN 70 DAYS OF SHOOTING & 1,000 VFX BRING THIS DISNEY SEQUEL TO LIFE Ronning and Fanning on-set.

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