Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

January 13–20, 2000

movies

Boy, Disrupting

James Mangold: It’s not a "chick flick."

interview by Sam Adams

The most important thing James Mangold wants you to know is that Girl, Interrupted is not a "chick flick." Sure, it’s got a nearly all-female cast, and it’s about a young woman finding herself in a turbulent society, but there’s none of that touchy-feely stuff. In fact, despite the fact that he’s, well, not a woman, Mangold isn’t shy about saying that he felt more qualified to direct the movie of Susanna Kaysen’s book than a lot of female directors. "Women’s pictures have been made by women directors," he says from New York, "but they’ve tended to get boxed into a certain corner. I hoped my presence would be freeing. I wanted to see movie about women with the same kind of intensity and freedom and love that we see in male characters, but women’s pictures tend to be played in a pastel palette."

Set in a mental institution during the late ’60s, Girl begs the inevitable comparison to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which is only appropriate since Cuckoo’s Nest director Milos Forman is Mangold’s mentor. Still, he’s chary of any equation between the two films. "Milos Forman’s a friend of mine," Mangold explains. "I wrote Heavy with a lot of his input. But I haven’t watched Cuckoo’s Nest in five years or more." Instead, Mangold cites movies like Slaughterhouse-Five, Black Narcissus and even The Wizard of Oz as his chief inspirations.

While Girl, Interrupted was conceived as a vehicle for Winona Rider, who was attached to the project before Mangold was, it’s Angelina Jolie who’s gifted with the meatiest role, that of a charismatic but cruel free spirit who, in the words of one character, "just thinks she’s hot shit because most sociopaths are men." Mangold has high praise for Ryder, whom he calls "incredibly talented at taking things in and reacting to them, almost like a silent movie actress." He’s even more extravagant on the subject of Jolie.

"Even in the history of movie actors," he says, "Angie is very rare. She’s got balls the size of Volkswagens. She has this incredible majestic power, and yet incredible sensitivity as well. She speaks musically, and she’s almost a dancer on screen. She’s dangerous, charismatic, hilarious, frightening, fearsome. Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, maybe a couple more are in her class, but that kind of energy is very unusual on film. Noni [Ryder] is an orchid, but Angie’s a volcano."

a.d. amorosi interviews James Mangold circa Copland.

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