Posterized [episode 4]
Angelina Jolie turns 35 today. Her supernova career holds many lessons for talented young actors (and we civilians, too). While an unforgettable presence, the key ingredient, is not exactly duplicable even for those with above average skills, other elements are. If a young actor can muster up even half of her watchability, they'll have a robust career. Just a quick perusal of her filmography brings certain lessons to light.
Rule #1 Take anything you can get (at first).
Ms. Jolie, unlike many children of Oscar winning movie stars before her, didn't exactly aim high at first. She'd do youth movies, genre movies, straight to video movies, music videos, short films, television, cyborg movies. You can lose a lot of opportunities if you're too picky, too soon. Those posters up top are just a few from her teenage and early 20s period.
Rule #2 Never phone it in
Or: Always make an impression. There's nothing more disheartening than watching an actor do something they feel they're above or can't take seriously (see Halle Berry in any superhero flick). Whatever your skill set, use it. Angelina knew she had sex appeal and boy did she flaunt it. There was no holding back. Even in an ensemble like Playing by Heart, where she couldn't flaunt it as spectacularly as she did in Gia, she was 100% committed to making an impression.
Rule #3 Raise Your Game
If you're lucky enough to get those early gigs, you have to get pickier once people know you can do the job. Take the secondary lead opposite bigger stars (Heh. That Pushing Tin poster is now hilarious. Blanchett and Jolie less saleable than Cusack and Thornton? My how things change) and don't forget rule #2 while engaged in #3. Witness the grand theft movie that was Angelina in Girl Interrupted (1999). Angelina wasn't even on the poster (at first).
Rule #4 Embrace Your Strengths
Many actors would have shifted over to prestige fare once they'd won their Oscar, but why go for a job you're not as well suited for just because it's more "respectable." Angelina knew that the intense appeal of her physicality was at least the equal of her acting gift. Action movies and erotic thrillers it was then.
Rule #5 Experiment and Network
Once you're famous (or steadily employed since mega fame happens to precious few) and know your strengths, continue to mix it up a little and work with all kinds of different people on all kinds of different projects. Take a job that's smaller than what you'd normally go for and practice rule #2 (see Sky Captain or Alexander) or just try different genres and stretch a little. Not everything will work, but you have to try. You can always lean back into your strengths.
Rule #6 Remember All Previous Rules But Play Harder to Get
Notice how Angelina just keeps flipping between Action / Drama but we don't see her as often? Sometimes we literally don't see her but her fame is maintained (voicework: Kung Fu Panda and Shark Tale). By doing all three of these things she gets to keep her superstardom, her mystery, and Real Actress cred all intact.
Disclaimer: Though these rules can be equally helpful to careers outside of the movies, #6 is not advised until you're very successful. If you hope to keep your job, you do have to show up.
<--- Angelina illustration by Kyle T Webster
How many of Angelina's performances have you seen? Do you think you'll try these rules at your own job? I suppose we should talk about the posters, too. The marketing departments seem to consider her lips her #1 attribute and her full body is only employed for the action flicks.