Angelina Jolie needs no introduction. The Hollywood screen goddess is as famous for her humanitarian work and feminist views as she is for her award-winning career both as an actress and producer.
But in her latest role, starring for a second time as the enigmatic Maleficent in Disney's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (in cinemas October 17), she is larger than life, a force of nature, other worldly - as her cast mates describe her. And the film is too.
"There is no one in the world that could play Maleficent except for Angelina Jolie," says Ellen Fanning, who plays Maleficent's god daughter, Princess Aurora. "Seeing her for the first time back in the black cloak and horns, it's very exciting... She's so iconic."
"She's just other worldly, it takes your breath away," adds Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays Maleficent's adversary, Queen Ingrith.
Angelina, who is also a producer on the film, says simply, "I like Maleficent. She's like my alter ego."
What's fascinating about this film is that its main character is so complex.
"We pose the question, 'are we all good, are we all bad?'" Angelina explains.
Director Joachim Rønning says, "Angelina Jolie created something truly unique with the first movie and with this character. It was a bold move by Disney at the time, creating a sort of antihero who you weren't sure was good or bad."
The relationship between Aurora and her dark fairy godmother is also fascinating, and has resonated with audiences.
Angelina says she had always wanted to return as the character "because I loved doing the first one. I loved what it said about people and how they're not always what you think they are and not always what you assume."
But her return had to be for the right reasons.
"We wanted to make sure we had the right story and knew what we wanted to say about this unique relationship," she explains.
For this story, Angelina went back to screenwriter Linda Woolverton, who had created the backstory of the horned fairy for Maleficent 1. Linda also collaborated with co-screenwriters Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue.
Disney's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil picks up several years after the events of the first film and continues to explore the complex relationship between Maleficent and Aurora.
But in this story Aurora is effectively moving out - something that all parents dread - to marry her partner, Prince Philip.
Aurora is now a woman taking on adult responsibilities and embarking on a journey to find herself amid two feuding worlds.
A whole new set of dynamics come into play as the audience is introduced to Prince Philip's parents, King John and Queen Ingrith, who appears 'good' but is rotten to the core. Maleficent also discovers that she is not the only creature of her kind.
Oscar® and three-time Golden Globe® winner Jolie liked the fact that the new story would address some big and still relevant issues.
"What makes a family, and what is it that brings them together? Is Aurora better suited to a life spent running around barefoot in the Moors with fairies, where all creatures are treated as equals, or is she meant to be living in a castle in the human world with human problems and concerns?"
"This movie is very much about human emotions," adds Elle Fanning, who was 14 when she first played Aurora and 20 when she filmed the sequel.
"We are in this fantastical universe, but it really boils down to the relationship between Maleficent and Aurora."
Jolie finds beauty in the honesty of the relationship as well. "They may be messed up in many, many ways, but they have a very honest relationship," she says.
"That's what I value most with my children is they are who they are with me and they know who I am, and they accept me, flaws and all."
The three powerful and independent female characters teasing out these themes are Maleficent, Aurora and Queen Ingrith, and so their distinctive and individual looks are important.
Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick says of Angelina's character: "Maleficent is a complicated character and a difficult one to define, and she has a huge story arc that ultimately brings her back to love."
As the strongest character in the film, Maleficent needed to rise above everyone else, never blend in and always have her own unique silhouette and shape.
"Maleficent is iconic," Mirojnick explains. "So you have to be able to continue that idea and raise the stakes a bit. She is the black and white movie star of the fairytale world, and that's the image we started with. Her skin is very white, her lips are red and her body is totally silhouetted in a very strong shape. Her accessories start off as organic and evolve to include bone and gold and eventually black diamonds and emeralds."
Aurora's wardrobe, in contrast, is ethereal with a touch of sophistication, perfectly suited for someone who reigns over a realm of mystical creatures.
And Queen Ingrith's look is regal, modern and suggests an air of wealth and privilege.
Hair and makeup designer Paul Gooch oversaw a department of 44 artists on "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil." In addition to doing hair and makeup for the principal and supporting cast, he and his team were tasked with getting hundreds of extras camera-ready as well.
Angelina Jolie's makeup was conceptualised by her personal makeup artist, Toni G., who also worked with the actress on the first film. The glamorously wicked look includes chiseled cheekbones, pale skin, perfectly arched eyebrows and one prominent feature from the animated film—the character's glam red lips—and required two to three hours in the make-up chair for Jolie every day.
The set is out of this world, with four worlds defined - the fairy world of the Moors with Aurora's castle; the town of Ulstead; Queen Ingrith's castle; and the world of the dark fey.
An army of carpenters and skilled artisans worked tirelessly to bring these worlds to life.
"These Disney films are always big and beautiful. It's one of the reasons it's a privilege to be a part of them," says Angelina.
"But on this one, Joachim saw it as an opera, like a big, intense opera. It is a very big scale, and there are very interesting new worlds to see."
Disney's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is in cinemas from October 17. Rated PG: Violence and Scary Scenes.
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