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Can Angelina Jolie become Maria Callas? Pablo Larraín thinks so

The filmmaker, who successfully transformed Natalie Portman into Jacqueline Kennedy and Kristen Stewart into Princess Diana, faces a new challenge: turning the Hollywood star into the Greek diva

Angelina Jolie Maria Callas
Angelina Jolie as Maria Callas, in an image from the film 'Maria' by the Chilean director.Fabula Films
María Porcel

Angelina Jolie balances the few movies she stars in between the highly commercial — such as Maleficent, Kung Fu Panda and Marvel’s Eternals — and the intimately personal like Those Who Wish Me Dead and By the Sea, which she directed and starred in alongside her now ex-husband, Brad Pitt. She also has her fashion brand, advertising commitments, companies and humanitarian work.

But her next project strikes a middle ground between those two extremes: Maria, a new movie by Chilean director Pablo Larraín, in which Jolie will play the greatest soprano of all time, Maria Callas. The only two images from Maria were made public on Monday. The movie — which is already in production — will recount Maria Callas’ last days in Paris, where she died in September 1977.

Larraín, 47, is renowned in Hollywood for his biopics. In 2016, he rose to fame with Neruda, a movie about Chilean poet Pablo Neruda that triumphed at film festivals. But it was really Jackie, which explored Jacqueline Kennedy’s pain and trauma following the assassination of her husband John F. Kennedy, that really secured his stardom. The iconic figure was played by Natalie Portman, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance (it was eventually won by Emma Stone for La La Land).

There were high expectations when Spencer, a very personal portrait of Princess Diana and her decision to separate from then-Prince Charles, hit the theaters in 2021. Lady Di was played by Kristen Stewart, who scored her first Oscar nomination thanks to the role, although the award went to Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

Angelina Jolie in the role of opera singer Maria Callas, in a promotional image for the film 'Maria.'
Angelina Jolie in the role of opera singer Maria Callas, in a promotional image for the film 'Maria.'Fabula Films

Now, Larraín is exploring another complex female character: Greek diva Maria Callas. The singer will be played by Jolie, a role that may give the 48-year-old actress the critical recognition that she has not received — nor appears to have sought — for years. The movie could land Jolie her third Oscar nomination and second Academy Award (she won the award for Girl, Interrupted in 2000, was nominated for Changeling and took home the Jean Hershold Humanitarian Award in 2013).

For now, the challenge is achieving the physical resemblance, as Maria Callas is a well-known public figure who has been played by many other actresses, such as Fanny Ardant in Franco Zeffirelli’s Callas Forever (2002); Paz Vega in Grace de Monaco (2014), and Jane Seymour in the TV movie Onassis: The Richest Man in the World (1988)

Fanny Ardant (l) and Paz Vega, in their respective interpretations of the Greek opera singer Maria Callas.
Fanny Ardant (l) and Paz Vega, in their respective interpretations of the Greek opera singer Maria Callas.Cordon Press

“I am incredibly excited to start production on Maria, which I hope will bring Maria Callas’s remarkable life and work to audiences all around the world, thanks to the magnificent script by Steven Knight, the work of the entire cast and crew, and especially, Angelina’s brilliant work and extraordinary preparation,” Larraín said in a previous statement.

Knight — who is also known for his work on Spencer, Peaky Blinders and Dirty Pretty Things — completed the script for Maria before the screenwriters’ strike. In addition to Jolie, the cast includes Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog, Elvis), Pierfrancesco Favino, Alba Rohrwacher, Valeria Golino and Haluk Bilginer.

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in 'Spencer.'
Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in 'Spencer.'Courtesy Everett Collection / Cordon Press

Little is known about the production. Filming will last eight weeks and will take place in Paris, Milan, Budapest and Callas’ native Greece. Jolie’s wardrobe will be based on real clothes that Callas wore, including vintage leather garments from the collection of costume designer Massimo Cantini Parrini. According to the production, the decision not to use or obtain new fur garments was made after consulting with various animal protection associations, including PETA.

While there is no planned or estimated release date, there is already talk that the movie could be a springboard for Jolie to shine at the awards season.

A still from 'Jackie', by Pablo Larraín, with Caspar Phillipson as John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy.
A still from 'Jackie', by Pablo Larraín, with Caspar Phillipson as John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy.Fox Searchlight Pictures (ZUMAPRESS.com / Cordon Press)

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