Angelina Jolie is upset over a recent Vanity Fair profile that depicted an audition scene for her upcoming Cambodian film "First They Killed My Father," which many people found exploitative.
The Vanity Fair cover story, published online this week, described a "game" Jolie's casting directors played with children from "orphanages, circuses and slum schools" while searching for an actor to play the role of Loung Ung, the author of the memoir on which the is film based.
In the game, as described by Vanity Fair contributor Evgenia Peretz, casting directors placed money in front of the children, asked them what they needed the money for, then took it away to elicit a reaction.
Critics called the casting strategy described in the magazine emotionally abusive and cruel.
Jolie said in a statement Saturday that the audition scene had been taken out of context. According to the actress, there were parents, guardians and non-governmental organization partners, as well as medical doctors, present throughout the entire filmmaking process, including auditions. She emphasized that no one was hurt by participating in the recreation of the film's scenes.
"Every measure was taken to ensure the safety, comfort and well-being of the children on the film starting from the auditions through production to the present," she told HuffPost in a statement.
Jolie, who directed the film, said the audition "game" described in the profile was an improvisation exercise based off a scene in the film. She also said real money was not taken from children during the auditions.
"I am 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," said Jolie, a United Nations special envoy for refugees. "The suggestion that real money was taken from a child during an audition is false and upsetting. I would be outraged myself if this had happened."
A source familiar with the film's casting process told HuffPost the children who auditioned were aware they were improvising a scene from the film, adding that no real money was involved. Casting directors reiterated to the kids auditioning that it was a "pretend game" in order to ensure the actors did not feel any pressure, the source said.
The "pretend game" was reportedly based on Ung's real-life experience of getting caught stealing by the Khmer Rouge. Ung, a Cambodian-American, survived the Khmer Rouge killings that claimed the lives of her parents, two siblings and nearly 2 million Cambodians in the late 1970s.
The actors who were ultimately cast in Jolie's film are a mix of trained actors, orphans and disadvantaged children. Srey Moch Sareum, the child playing the film's leading role, lives in a slum community and attends a non-governmental organization school in Cambodia.
"Srey Moch [the girl ultimately chosen for the part] was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time," Jolie had told Vanity Fair. "When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion. All these different things came flooding back."