Vanity Fair is standing by its portrayal of Angelina Jolie’s controversial casting of Cambodian children, as detailed in its September cover story on the actress, with a partial transcript from Jolie’s recorded interview with the magazine’s reporter.
The magazine published an excerpt from the transcript Thursday in an online article after Jolie told HuffPost last week in a statement that the magazine had taken out of context a casting game her directors played with Cambodian children for Jolie’s upcoming Netflix film, “First They Killed My Father,” about the Cambodian genocide of the late 1970s.
In the article published to their website, Vanity Fair said Jolie’s lawyers had asked the magazine to run a statement saying that Vanity Fair contributor Evgenia Peretz had “mistakenly” reported the audition in her profile of the actress and asked the magazine to apologize for it. Lawyers also requested that Vanity Fair remove the paragraph in the profile that describes the game and to publish a correction note in its October issue and online, according to the magazine.
Despite the lawyers’ requests, Vanity Fair stood by Peretz’s reporting and instead released partial transcripts from audio recordings of Peretz’s interview with Jolie, which the magazine claims the reporter recorded on two devices.
According to Vanity Fair, Jolie said:
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.”
The full transcript excerpt can be read here.
In Vanity Fair’s profile of Jolie, Peretz described a “game” that Jolie’s casting directors reportedly played with Cambodian children from “orphanages, circuses and slum schools” while searching for an actor to play the starring role in her film, based on Loung Ung’s memoir.
In the game, Peretz wrote, Jolie’s casting directors placed money in front of children, asked them what they needed the money for, then took it away so directors could see how they would react. Critics slammed the game, as described by Vanity Fair, as an exploitative practice and emotionally abusive.
Jolie, who directed the film, responded to the outrage with a statement sent to HuffPost saying that she was “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.” She added that “real money” was not taken away from children during the audition, and she called anything suggesting otherwise “false and upsetting.”
A source familiar with the film’s casting process had also told HuffPost that no money was used during the audition process.
Jolie has been a United Nations special envoy for refugees since 2012, and she has had a special relationship with Cambodia since she filmed the 2001 action film “Laura Croft: Tomb Raider.” One famed temple in Cambodia, a site used in the “Tomb Raider” film, was renamed by locals the “Angelina Jolie Temple.”
In a teaser for the film released in February, Jolie said she made “First They Killed My Father” into a film for her “dear friend” Ung, for the writer’s family and country, and for her 15-year-old son, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, whom she adopted from a Cambodian orphanage in 2002.
Netflix released its first full trailer for Jolie’s Cambodian war film on Wednesday. It is scheduled to premiere on the streaming site Sept. 15.
HuffPost has reached out to representatives of Jolie and Netflix for comment on the newly released transcripts and will update this story accordingly.