Angelina Jolie released a statement Saturday in response to the outrage caused by a Vanity Fairprofile that described a game used to cast children in her upcoming Netflix film, First They Killed My Father, which is based on Loung Ung's memoir about Cambodia's Khmer Rouge genocide in the 1970s. According to Jolie, who directed the film, the audition process was taken out of context.
“Every measure was taken to ensure the safety, comfort and well-being of the children on the film starting from the auditions through production to the present,” she told HuffPost in a statement. Jolie emphasized that parents, guardians, non-governmental organization partners and doctors were present throughout the filmmaking process, and no one was hurt by the exercises.
According to the Vanity Fair story, Jolie specifically sought out children who had experienced hardship for auditions. Evgenia Peretz, the author of the profile, wrote that the casting directors set up a game “rather disturbing in its realism” to find the child who'd play the lead. “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,” Peretz wrote. “The director would pretend to catch the child, and the child would have to come up with a lie.”
This 'casting game' Angelina Jolie subjected impoverish children to is monstrous and should not go unnoticed. pic.twitter.com/k5F2T6Ukkk
— Nathaliekdy (@Nathaliekdy) July 27, 2017
Jolie explained in her statement that the “game” was an improvisation exercise that didn't use real money. A source also told HuffPost that casting directors repeatedly reminded children that it was just a "pretend game."
“I am upset that a pretend exercise in an improvisation, from an actual scene in the film, has been written about as if it was a real scenario,” she said in her statement. “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.”
The project is extremely personal for Jolie. Ung, who wrote the memoir the film is based on, is Jolie's longtime friend and the first person Jolie ever told about wanting to adopt a Cambodian orphan. Ung was supportive, and Jolie soon adopted her first son, Maddox. Jolie explained at a press conference for the film in February that Ung's memoir "helped to open my eyes to what was going on the world. I wanted to tell the story through the eyes of the child’s point of view, the love of a family, to show the beauty of the country and understand what Maddox’s parents may have gone through.”