People say a lot of things about Angelina Jolie, and yet you never hear anyone call her a “director of war films.” Yet, over the past decade or so that’s exactly what she’s become—and she’s not changing that anytime soon.
Today it was announced that Jolie will slip into the director’s chair for the sixth time for the film Unreasonable Behavior. The flick will be a biography of Don McCullin, the revered British photographer whose work often showed the cruelty and dark underbelly of war. He traveled the world, including Vietnam and Cambodia, capturing conflicts with an emphasis on the victims of atrocities. When he was denied a press pass to cover the Falklands War he surmised it was because Margaret Thatcher’s government thought his work was too disturbing and could be politically inconvenient.
Though McCullin mostly concentrated on war and poverty, he did occasionally shoot lighter fare. He took several iconic photos of The Beatles, and perhaps to particular interest to W readers, lensed the photos used in Michelangelo Antonioni classic fashion film Blow-Up.
That Jolie should be attracted to his story is no surprise. Her work as a director has also often concentrated on the cruelty of war. Her debut narrative film In the Land of Blood and Honey was a tragic romance set against the backdrop of the Bosnian War. Unbroken was a biopic of track star turned war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini who spent 27 days at sea on a raft—only to be taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese during World War II. First They Killed My Father, Jolie’s latest film and her best reviewed so far, focuses on the true story of a girl trained as a child soldier during the Cambodian civil war. Her collaboration with Brad Pitt, By The Sea, is the only film Jolie has directed that has nothing to do with war.
But it might be more accurate to categorize Jolie as more of an anti-war film director. Her films seem interested in exploring the tragedies of war rather than triumphs (which could be said of many films commonly heralded as “war film” classics). Jolie’s work as an advocate for human rights has taken her to several war zones across the globe, including Darfur, the Syrian-Iraqi border, and Kabul during the war in Afghanistan.
“I am humbled to have a chance to bring Don McCullin’s life to film,” Jolie said in a statement. “I was drawn to his unique combination of fearlessness and humanity—his absolute commitment to witnessing the truth of war, and his empathy and respect for those who suffer its consequences. We hope to make a film that is as uncompromising as Don’s photography, about the extraordinary people and events he witnessed, and the rise and fall of a unique era in journalism.”
Tom Hardy will produce the film, and at one point was linked to the lead role, though confirmed casting remains unclear. Scottish playwright Gregory Burke will pen the script.
Though Jolie’s work as a director has been greeted with mixed reviews, First They Killed My Father, released through Netflix, was seen as a major artistic breakthrough and a step forward. The film received BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations and an award from the National Board of Review. Even Jolie’s lesser-reviewed war films have been cheered for their handling of accurately capturing the atmosphere of war. No word yet on when this upcoming film will be released.