To play the ill-fated supermodel in HBO's Gia, Angelina Jolie took a walk on an all-too-familiar wild side
Scene 1, Philadelphia, 1977: "Do I make you nervous? Good," sneers the punkish girl with the spiked purple hair. "That's the idea, to scare the s---- out of people and then they don't see how scared you are." The speaker is Angelina Jolie as Gia Marie Carangi, one of the hottest models of the pleasure-seeking disco era and the subject of Gia, HBO's no-holds-barred biopic. Known for her sultry look and rampant drug use, Carangi crashed and burned in 1986 at age 26.
Scene 2, New York City, 21 years later: Over lunch at a restaurant, 22-year-old Jolie offers her own take on scaring people. It happened not long ago when, with her head shaved for the role, she tried to check into a Hollywood motel. The clerk took one look at this bald, tattooed apparition in a leather jacket and ripped jeans and ordered her out. "She was clearly afraid of me," recalls Jolie, looking far less menacing with her raven hair grown into a sleek short cap. "She probably thought I was a skinhead."
It was more than her ability to strike an insolent pose that made the daughter of Oscar winner Jon Voight ("Coming Home") a casting dream come true. Gia director Michael Cristofer (who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Shadow Box") was looking not only for a gorgeous, "extraordinary" actress but for one unafraid of full nudity and explicit same-sex love scenes. "By some miracle," says Cristofer, "Angelina walked in. Not only did she have a remarkable combination of technique and intuition, but she resembled the real Gia."
Yet while Jolie was unfazed by the raw scenes, she initially turned down the role: "I didn't know if I was strong enough to confront the parts of her story that were close to mine." She also feared that the "ugly stuff" -- Gia's heroin-induced plunge from supermodel to dying charity-ward AIDS patient -- would be sugar-coated. She relented when she "realized how much I identified with and deeply loved Gia. I think I would be very similar in her situation."