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'Maleficent': London premiere finds Angelina Jolie at a crossroads

Can Angelina Jolie still attract attention for what she does in front of the camera?

On screen, Angelina Jolie has played a globe-hopping treasure hunter, the mother of a kidnapped son, the wife of a kidnapped husband and a troubled fashion model.

Lately, though, she's been known for other roles — as international humanitarian, mother of six, poster child for preventative mastectomy and burgeoning film director.

Can she still attract attention for what she does in front of the camera?

That's the question ahead of Disney's U.S. release of Jolie's "Maleficent" on May 30.

A live-action inversion of "Sleeping Beauty" with Jolie as the titular villainess, the Robert Stromberg film marks Jolie's first movie as an actress in several years. (She was last heard on the screen in the 2011 animated tale "Kung Fu Panda 2" and last seen there in 2010's "The Tourist," with Johnny Depp.)

Stars who've taken time off have not always walked easily back into mainstream consciousness (see: Joaquin Phoenix), though Jolie has the advantage, thanks to all of her other activities, of never being too far out of mind.

Still, tabloid interest doesn't always correlate with box office, an axiom with which Jolie herself is familiar (see: the disappointing returns for "The Tourist").

To help reintroduce herself as an actress, the star has begun promoting the film overseas. She turned up at a U.K. event with partner Brad Pitt and son Maddox and fielded questions at a meeting with reporters.

Jolie said she is not planning a wholesale return to acting. "I'm sure there will be a few more films. But I am happy I am able to be selective and have fun with characters like this," Jolie said, adding that she most wants to concentrate on "writing and directing, and above all I would like to focus more on my work with the U.N. and [the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative]."

Reports of a possible on-screen collaboration with Pitt, incidentally, have also put her back into a more traditional performer position.

In the meantime, Jolie is expanding her horizons as a filmmaker, moving from little-seen directorial debut "In the Land of Blood and Honey," about the Bosnian war, to "Unbroken," Universal's adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand's bestseller about Olympic runner and World War II soldier Louis Zamperini, which is currently in post-production.

With a high-profile Christmas release, that movie is being positioned as an awards contender. Which means we'll continue to see plenty of Jolie off screen, even if her face may be a little less common in the theater.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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