Sony Entertainment and Columbia Pictures Host SALT Junket

SALT, a Sony Entertainment/Columbia Pictures film recently hosted its press junket which included a debut screening of the film, followed by an exclusive reception at The International Spy Museum and a Spy City Tour of espionage hot spots in Washington, DC.

SALT, the fast action high suspense espionage thriller stars Angelia Jolie and opens nationwide July 23, 2010.

The press debut of SALT, held at the Regal Gallery Theater, was the first full length showing of the new action adventure directed by Phillip Noyce and starring Angelina Jolie as CIA Operative Evelyn Salt.

On the set of SALT.

SALT, produced by Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and in cooperation with Sony Entertainment and Columbia Pictures, portrays Jolie in the traditional male role of action hero, wrongly accused government agent with a twist.

Angelina Jolie in SALT.

SALT,  is filled with multiple elements, adding layer upon layer of intrigue and old fashioned suspense so that one is not sure exactly who the traitor is even to the last minutes of the film. Jolie is at her action best. Never having seen her previous work, she is impressive and fearless. Stepping back and judging her on professional level she, and there should not be a gender distinction, tackles the traditional male action hero role and pulls it off leaving the audience wanting more. She is talented, multi dimensional, and has the strength to carry this type of James Bond lead.

Scenes from SALT with Angelina Jolie.

Action authenticity issues are never judged when the male hero leaps from a tall building with a single bound, stops speeding bullets and quite honestly we are in the 21st century and there won’t be those judgments now. Ms. Jolie makes stunt decisions based in real time and necessity, as her character, Evelyn Salt trained CIA operative, would call it. Would we jump from an overpass onto a speeding semi? Possibly. When? When our lives were in danger.  Her role resonates of live free or die trying among other things.

Scenes from SALT with Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

SALT also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Liev Schreiber both whom add interesting elements and very strong performances. They are on the opposite side of the chessboard. Schreiber as Ted Winter,  a CIA Operative and Ejiofor, as William Peabody counter intelligence, IA for the locals, the man everyone hates. Although not present for the interview, the film also starred Andre Braugher of Law & Order fame as The Secretary of Defense and in a stellar performance, Daniel Olbrychski as Orlav, the man with all knowledge.

SALT hooked me from the beginning sequences with the reuniting of Evelyn and her husband played by German actor, Philip Krause. Jolie has depth as a talent, she is not fluff.

The International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. *

After the screening the press boarded coaches for the trip to The International Spy Museum where dinner and A Spy Night Experience followed. A panel discussion with espionage experts including former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former US Intelligence Officer and Middle East counterterrorism expert, Melissa Mahle, Director of Communications and Analysis under the Bush Administration, Kirk Whitworth and Operative and former KGB General Oleg Kalugin were on hand and provided interesting highlights complimenting the SALT operative experience. Moderating the panel was Peter Earnest, the Executive Director for the Spy Museum who also conducted a Q & A session. The Panel discussions and interviews will follow separately.

Scenes from SALT.

The International Spy Museum is a must see for any person who is remotely interested in espionage, its roots in American history, contemporary espionage, spy films, spyware and the evolution of spy gadgetry and pays tribute to great spies from Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 to Bond, James Bond and the real deal, of course. We were fortunate to get the abbreviated tour and it was thoroughly an enjoyable opportunity.

The two day event included an early morning, Spy City Tour of famous cold war and contemporary spy rendezvous  points which stressed the fact that the behind the quaint charm and stunning architecture of our nation’s capital lies the real truth that espionage is alive and well and still exists even in our modern diverse, embracing world.

Angelia Jolie in SALT.

Following the tour members of the press were notified of the roundtable interview arrangements. Each roundtable was given fifteen minutes with the three actors, the director and producer. Held at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, which also housed members of the press, SALT cast members including Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor were in attendance along with SALT Director, Phillip Noyce and Producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura.

Below are highlights of the talent interviews. The complete version along with the SPY Night Experience espionage expert interviews will follow separately.

For the record, Ms. Jolie is genuine and she is, to quote her describing her character, “nicely complex.”  She is, as is Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Eijofor, dedicated to their craft, hard working, knowledgeable, ready to combat tabloid headlines, and clearly different from the media projected persona. Director Philip Noyce is no stranger to espionage thrillers having directed both Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger. Producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, a former Warner’s Exec, has had a string of hits including The Beverly Hills Cop franchise with Eddie Murphy at Warner’s and on his own with the Matrix films and more recently the Transformers franchise.

Liev Schreiber at the roundtable interviews during the SALT Junket. *

Janet Walker: What are your most memorable moment from working on this film?
Liev Schreiber: Most memorable moment working on the film? I think the most memorable moments were the scripts conversations that happened in the first two weeks because there was a lot of rethinking and renegotiating plots which was terrifying and very exciting.

Janet Walker: You mentioned one of your most memorable moments was the first two weeks of the film and you didn’t really elaborate on what that was and when you got that script what turned that into a most memorable moment in the process?
Liev Schreiber: No. It’s the first two weeks when everybody is in the same room negotiating decisions. And that’s very important because on a film like this, and I think it happens on a lot of action films and a lot of films that move very quickly is that some decisions need to be made as a group very quickly because the movies are so expensive and when they have this many twists and turns you've got to commit to things and the problem is if you’re not all committing to the same things you can run into huge problems down the road.

And it was very important to make those decisions quickly and commit to them as things shifted or locations changed or ideas changed you knew the direction you were trying to push the character and you had agreed with the director, the producer and the other actors that you were trying to push the character in that direction. And the reason that time is exciting is that really is the birth of the character when it really starts to happen.

Chiwetel Ejiofor at the roundtable interviews during the SALT Junket. *

Janet Walker: How did you prepare for your role?
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Well, I just spoke to people in the CIA. People who were in the working CIA. I was very interested in the interdepartmental aspects of intelligence and whether there were any tensions between counter intelligence and agents in the field and what were the dividing points are between being an agent that does the farm then goes into the field and somebody who does counterintelligence knowing that one of the things you are looking for is your own colleagues in the CIA and knowing therefore that there is going to be a level of being ostracized and what would create that decision. I was curious about that.

And different people have different perspectives the things. One of the things I concluded with the others and with these two guys especially around this idea of moles there’s definitely these elements of tension between them. They exist well before anyone comes in and defectors are around and that was the kind of the jump off point of the tension between them.

Janet Walker: You role was one of counter terrorism so you had to look at your colleagues in a particular way or be suspect of your colleagues, not counter terrorist, counter intelligence.  So would that have changed if it had been Edwin Salt or is it across the board in suspect regardless of gender?

Chiwetel Ejiofor: Yes. I think the script changed in a number of different ways as a result of the gender change. I don’t know if that was one of them I don’t think so. But I say there is so much we have in terms of gender expectation that I was so surprised. I came to the project fairly late well after these changes had been made and Edwin became Evelyn but I still was aware that certain things were being figured out because things were slightly about more expectation and I think it’s still quite fascinating. If a man is trying to save his wife there’s a subtle difference in terms of the movie than the woman trying to save her husband.  And trying to delineate what those difference are in fact it’s quite complicated but it’s about what our expectations are for the character. I think it’s very interesting the way it is now I think it pushes certain boundaries and I don’t know if there are many other films that have pushed that and it also shows that it works and you don’t feel like the husbands weak or you don’t feel you buy both characters and I think that’s a very important push.

Angelina Jolie and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Janet Walker: Do you have a most memorable moment working on this film? I asked this question at every roundtable so far and they’ve all indicated they had these moments where the role became. There was a very poignant moment for them in the script process and I was wondering if you had one also?

Angelina Jolie: Um, I don’t know if it was that kind of movie for me. I think maybe watching the children. I think that maybe for me, they had to sit me down and they showed me all this footage of children in institutionalized settings doing all these things and as a little me which kind of looked a bit like Shiloh to me and she was almost in it for a moment. I guess it told me so much about my character but it also made me think of those kids. My character is orphaned. To see the little baby in the classroom by itself obviously I’m drawn to that moment.

Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt.

Janet Walker: Last night at the Panel, the CIA Consultant talked about how she worked with you specifically on the Walk-In and how it was very important and she said you sat with her for some time picking her brain on that and can you tell me what you were trying to gather from her for that particular scene?

Angelina Jolie: Well, for the Walk-In as far as the details, I don’t remember the specifics things such as how she behaved or what was appropriate or is this technically right, that kind of stuff. It was more, for me, this understanding of the loneliness of someone who’s not allowed to talk to their family about anything and just studying her which she probably didn’t realize I was studying her. I was asking her questions and watching her mannerism and her behavior and just her.

She is so the opposite of this tough and I’m feeling am I tough enough and she doesn’t fit that package, the obvious tough either and yet she is the real thing. So, it gave me comfort to know that I could also be lady and a woman and there was the reality to that as well and that I didn’t have to go tough and not try to mimic some idea but to actually study this lovely lady who had actually done this.

SALT Director, Phillip Noyce.

Janet Walker: Angelina said that “she had a great role in the collaboration process” other than the gender change which is an obvious change what was one of the most major changes or contributions of the collaboration process? 

Phillip Noyce: It happened in every scene really. There’s just too many to be specific, really.  She is a great collaborator and more than a collaborator. I tend to encourage actors to speak with voices meaning when they start to say that dreaded line, “but my character wouldn’t do that?  But that’s not like it was for Dennis Hopper with Henry Hathaway [in From Hell to Texas].” It’s not a burden it’s something that frees you as a director because now you know they’ve crossed over to the other side. To their character. They’ve become their character.

Janet Walker: I noticed there were a couple of gratuitous violence shots at the very end in the helicopter where he takes a couple of solid punches and I don’t want to say that it stretches the imagination but it somewhat does . . .and  . . .
Phillip Noyce: One wonders whether those are gratuitous or whether they’re the actions of a person who are deliberately trying to throw the other people who might be listening and watching what’s about to happen to throw their attention in another direction and to establish what is a false attitude to the person you are interrogating. If you remember before the first punch he spend a good few seconds looking at the other people in the helicopter thinking and then he throws the punch and he says, “What?” as if to say, “if you don’t like it turn away. But this is how I feel about her." I think it’s part of being the actor that’s inside every spy.  He was acting. No, the character was acting.

Janet Walker: Was that[scene] at your direction or were those element brought to life by the  . . .process?
Phillip Noyce: Actually,  that was in the screenplay.

SALT Producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura on the set of Transformers.

Janet Walker: From concept to completion, basically you said, the movie went through a lot of changes, it sat on someone’s desk who picked it up, from point of concept to in-can or finished or digital whatever the current term, how long did it take to make the film?

Lorenzo Di Bonaventura: Seven or eight years. I don’t remember exactly. We developed this five years before it got sold and I think it been roughly two years since they bought it maybe a little more. I think from the first time I read a draft until now it’s probably seven and half years. I think I’m right on that.

Scenes from SALT.

Janet Walker: I saw the movie last night with everybody and her first response is “I've got to contact my husband, I've got to contact my husband”  and I hear everybody saying that was her driving force saving her husband but it didn’t appear to be that. To me it appeared her driving force were her loyalties and we didn’t know where they were. Were they with her husband? Were they with her country? Were they with her cover? Were they with the president? Were the with the agency?

So, as you’re making this film, we’re all talking about how this is the driving force and you say there is no difference in what a hero would do. So where, I'm just not sure, I know I saw the same movie as everybody else. I’m just trying to figure out is there that one interpretation. Do you think that there is that one interpretation or do will there be many?

Lorenzo Di Bonaventura:  I think she knows from the beginning. The moment she’s called in she understands her husband’s in jeopardy. So, I think on an emotional level contacting her husband is her primary objective. I think her loyalties are defiantly part of it. She is not a singular emotional character. There are a lot of different colors to the character. I think one of the things that is so interesting about the movie is that it breaks every rule that I’ve ever been taught growing up in the movie business on how you deliver the lead of the movie.

We purposely let you [the audience] worry about either the ability to root for her or affiliate with her and that is usually something that would kill a movie. My whole career I spent time trying figure out to get you to root for the movie star. This is the purposeful attempt in making you [wonder] ‘What’s your idea about some of her actions and some of her decisions?’ I think that makes it [the movie] fresher in a way and one of the things I particularly like about this movie is that we don't do that. It’s not black and white. It’s gray and a lot of other colors, too.

SALT Press Check-In during the recent film junket. *

SALT, a twisting, turning, fast action, high suspense espionage thriller, is guaranteed to shake up the summer box office. See it and see it again!

SALT opens nationwide July 23, 2010.

Pictures courtesy of SONY Entertainment/Columbia Pictures.

Pictures where noted (*) by Janet Walker courtesy of Pulse Point Productions, Inc.

Special Thanks to Warren Betts of Warren Betts Communications for the Junket Invitation/opportunity and all things special.

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