Hollywood actor-filmmaker Angelina Jolie has defended the casting process for her new movie First They Killed My Father, insisting that the welfare of the children involved was her highest priority.
The star was criticized after a recent Vanity Fair profile described how casting directors looked through Cambodian orphanages, circuses, and slum schools to find a child actor to play their lead, Loung Ung. During the auditions, they also set up a game where money was put on a table and children were encouraged to think of what they needed it for before the cash was snatched away.
“Srey Moch (the girl ultimately chosen for the part) was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time. When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion. “When she was asked later what the money was for, she said her grandfather had died, and they didn’t have enough money for a nice funeral,” Jolie had explained to the magazine.
However, Jolie, 42, who adopted her oldest son Maddox, 15, from Cambodia, has now clarified the casting process and revealed that the game was a “pretend exercise in an improvisation, from an actual scene in the film”.
In a statement to Variety, she said, “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. “Parents, guardians, partner NGOs whose job it is to care for children, and medical doctors were always on hand every day, to ensure everyone had all they needed. 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. “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,” she added.
First They Killed My Father is Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut for streaming giant Netflix. It is based on a true-life account of a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide and is told through the eyes of a child. Jolie said the point of the film is to bring attention to the horrors children face in war and to help fight to protect them. Her controversial account of casting drew outrage among many, with social media users calling it “emotionally abusive and cruel”.