Angelina Jolie has denied playing tricks on Cambodian children while casting for her latest film First They Killed My Father. The actress recruited local youngsters to star in her movie, which is adapted from Loung Ung's memoir about her childhood under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Angelina explained they had used a casting game which involved giving money to poor children, and then taking it away. The interview proved controversial, with many accusing the star of being 'exploitative'.
In the article, the mother-of-six had explained how directors had looked through slums and orphanages to find actors for the project, adding that they were "specifically seeking children who had experienced hardship". The casting game saw children being asking to snatch some money, and then when they were 'caught', come up with a lie for why they stole it.
"Srey Moch [the girl selected for the lead role] was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time," Angelina told the magazine. "When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion… When she was asked later what they money was for, she said her grandfather had died, and they didn't have enough money for a nice funeral."
Angelina, 42, has now issued a statement to The Huffington Post in which she said it was "false and upsetting" that people had misinterpreted the situation. She said: "I am upset that a pretend exercise in an improvisation, from an actual scene in the film, has been written about as if it was a real scenario. The suggestion that real money was taken from a child during an audition is false and upsetting. I would be outraged myself if this had happened."
The star added that "every measure was taken to ensure the safety, comfort and well-being of the children on the film, starting from the audition through production to the present".
Producer Rithy Panh, who is himself a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, added that the casting "was done in the most sensitive way possible". "The children were not tricked or entrapped, as some have suggested," he said. "They understood very well that this was acting, and make believe."