Jolie Talks Kids and the Movies

Her film "Changeling" highlights a mom's instinct, which she's an expert on.

Oct. 17, 2008 — -- These days, it's all about the kids.

When actress Angelina Jolie, a mother of six, and director Clint Eastwood, a father of seven, sat down for an interview for ABC News Now's "Popcorn With Peter Travers," kids were the inevitable topic du jour.

In part that's because Eastwood's new film, "Changeling," which opens Oct. 24, and stars Jolie, is based on the true story of a woman forced to prove that the son returned to her after a kidnapping is not her own.

It's also because Jolie, who was making her first public appearance in New York since having twins Knox and Vivienne in July, has become one of the most famous moms on the planet.

Asked how she shields her six-pack from the pop culture, of which she is a part, Jolie said: "The important thing is you can only censor so much," she said.

"They'll find things. They'll find it at a friend's house. You've got to make sure they get enough good stuff and nice stories and good messages at home and got some purity to it. But I think it's also making sure they have a life outside all that pop culture and making sure they travel and see the world, they go outside enough and play dress up, and do all those things children should be doing so they get balance, so their mind is balanced," she said.

These days, motherhood is such an immense part of Jolie's life that she hesitated before taking the role of Christine Collins in "Changeling."

"I read it in one sitting," Jolie told Travers. "And I was so angry as a mother that I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to touch it, I didn't want to think about anyone kidnapping my children. I didn't want to go near it. But I couldn't forget it and I couldn't stop thinking about her and I kept telling people about this amazing woman and so I realized that her story and the story of what she overcame and that she fought the system and who she was and I really wanted to tell it. It was confronting one of my worst fears, so it was a very difficult film and thankfully I had him [Eastwood] to help me through and made it all right."

Collins was a switchboard operator and single mother living in Los Angeles in the 1920s. After her son was kidnapped, the LAPD "found" a boy who was not her son and tried to convince her he was. In order to find her real son, Collins exposed the corruption within the police force.

"She's fighting against this system that doesn't listen to her, doesn't respect her and they trick her, they do this horrible thing," Jolie said. "It is a horror story, this film, in a way. But she's a hero of mine. She's a pretty great lady who is real and did some amazing things to change the law. She's extraordinary."

Eastwood was also attracted to Collins' determination amid incredible resistance and "the bullying she takes from the male establishment at the time," he said.

"How tough it must have been for a woman, a single mother, not having much support. The fact that they can take a woman, without any kind of recourse, can put them in the slammer, put them in a mental institution and leave her there a week before anyone finds her," Jolie said. "She finally continues on very dogmatically to bring down the whole police force, the whole political system of Los Angeles."

Jolie said the hardest scene for her to play was when Collins got the phone call saying her son had been kidnapped. "It's the phone call nobody ever wants to make, so I didn't sleep well that night."

The actress also struggled to respond the way Collins would have rather than the way she would have if someone had tried to give her a child that was not her own. The scene at the train station where police hand her a boy and try to convince her he's her son was difficult, she said.

"Everything in me is a modern woman," she said. "So it took to try and figure out how to do that and to do that where the audience would be able to watch that scene and not just find it absolutely insane. Because it really did happen and it's crazy."

"Changeling" brought Jolie and Eastwood, the Academy Award-winning director of "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby," together for the first time. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, who owned the script, asked Eastwood whether he would be interested in directing.

When they asked him how he felt about working with Jolie, who had expressed an interest in the script, Eastwood said, "I feel great about it."

"I'm a big admirer of hers. I think she's terrific, and after working with her I realize it's super terrific," Eastwood told Travers.

The feeling was mutual. "I got the phone call that he was, he was definitely going to do it and was OK with me doing it and I was jumping around the house," Jolie said. "It was like getting my first job, I was thrilled. And it was everything and more that I hoped it would be as an experience."

"It was just the greatest experience I've had working on a film," Jolie said. "And it's probably one of the hardest films I've ever done, with all the balance I needed to find and all the emotion there was. I fell in love with the way he makes films, and his crew and his pace. He's so decisive and he's such a director. It was great."