Angelina Jolie, Vanity Fair’s September cover star, has become part of a high-profile fight with the magazine. Jolie participated in a profile in which she promoted her Netflix film, First They Killed My Father, about the Cambodian genocide. The cover story provided a description of the film’s casting process that was rapidly criticized, which led to Jolie pushing back against the story, and according to the magazine, demanding a retraction.
The issue comes down to whether the children Jolie and her partners auditioned for the film were aware of the stakes of a “game” they played, in which, according to VF’s description, casting directors “put money on the table and asked the child to think of something she needed the money for, and then to snatch it away.” When the director caught the child, the kid would have to come up with a lie to explain why they needed it.
In a statement to The Huffington Post following Vanity Fair’s story, Jolie said “the suggestion that real money was taken from a child during an audition is false and upsetting” and insisted that “every measure was taken to ensure the safety, comfort, and well-being of the children” throughout the casting and filming process. According to VF, Jolie’s lawyer then reached out to the magazine saying that the profile’s author, Evgenia Peretz, had misreported the incident. The filmmaker’s team then asked the magazine to remove the original paragraph from the online version of the story, and to run a statement of apology in print and online that read, in part, “the children were not tricked as some has suggested.”
Despite the legal pressure, Vanity Fair has announced today that it will stand by its story, and has posted the transcript of a portion of Peretz’s interview with Jolie as support for the description of First They Killed My Father’s casting process. Crucially, in that transcript, Jolie discusses how the children were not fully aware that they were playing a game:
But it was very hard to find a little Loung. And so it was what they call a slum school. I don’t think that’s a very nice word for it, but a school for kids in very poor areas.
And I think, I mean they didn’t know. We just went in and — you just go in and do some auditions with the kids. And it’s not really an audition with children. We had this game where it would be — and I wasn’t there and they didn’t know what they were really doing. They kind of said, “Oh, a camera’s coming up and we want to play a game with you.” And the game for that character was “We’re going to put some money on the table. Think of something that you need that money for.” Sometimes it was money, sometimes it was a cookie. [Laughter] “And then take it.” And then we would catch them. “We’re going to catch you, and we’d like you to try to lie that you didn’t have it.”
Pick up a copy of Vanity Fair’s September issue as a keepsake, since it’ll probably be the last time Angelina Jolie is ever on the cover.