By Stephanie Zacharek
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"I thought this was going to be one of the most difficult things I've ever done, given the subject matter, but instead it's been the easiest," Jolie tells me, looking even more radiant than usual in her period attire and short bob hairdo. It's now early December, one week before shooting wraps, and the production has arrived at the climactic scene in which Collins confronts convicted child-killer Gordon Northcott in his prison cell on the eve of his execution. It's a physically and emotionally draining sequence, during which Jolie must push actor Jason Butler Harner against a wall and repeatedly ask, "Did you kill my son?," her pleas becoming increasingly anguished until two guards intervene. It is, Jolie says, her "big Stella Dallas moment."
On stage 20 of the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, production designer Murakami has constructed Northcott's cell, as well as the institutional shower and elaborate series of interconnecting hospital corridors where the final week of shooting will take place. Today there are no extras on set, and the faint chill that hangs in the unheated air seems appropriate to the gravity of the scene.
This turns out to be, by Eastwood standards, a long day, which means that instead of wrapping at four in the afternoon, shooting drags on until six. At one point, I venture across the lot to the film's post-production suite, where editor Joel Cox shows me his cut of the courtroom scene. When I return, Eastwood is prepping the last shot of the day (known, in insider Hollywood parlance, as the "martini shot"). I tell him I like what I've seen and look forward to seeing how it all turns out. He shoots me his deadpan, squinty gaze and says, his voice just this side of a whisper, "I look forward to seeing how it turns out myself."
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