Maleficent: Elle Fanning as Aurora

If Maleficent has long been a symbol of the dark feminine, the character Aurora has always symbolized the light and innocent. In casting the role of the princess who falls under Maleficent’s spell, the filmmakers chose one of the most talented actresses of her generation, Elle Fanning.

“Elle is Aurora,” comments Jolie.  “From the moment I met her, she is just sunshine. She’s a wonderful, sweet, intelligent young woman. Elle’s such a capable actress and a very strong person, which is nice because this Aurora is not just in love with the flowers; she is elegant and beautiful and delicate and loving, but she’s centered and she’s quite an impressive young woman. Elle is bringing all of that and a great deal of emotional depth and her talent, as an actress, has really surprised me.”

“Elle is fantastic and I have nothing but the highest respect for her,” adds her director.  “She’s not only beautiful but she’s a tremendous actress; she’s going to be doing wonderful things in the future and she’s a pleasure to work with on the set. She just brings a smile to everyone.”

For Fanning, winning this role was a dream come true. “It’s been sort of everything that I dreamed of,” says the young actress.  “I think from the moment of putting on her first outfit, getting the hair and everything, it’s been really special to get to play such an iconic character.”

Although most people know Aurora as Sleeping Beauty from Disney’s classic animated film of the same name, Fanning reveals that in “Maleficent” audiences will get to find out more about her. “In our film you get to see her have different emotions and really get the essence of her,” says Fanning. “I love how she’s very free spirited, and since she has been kept away from normal life, she’s very open to things and innocent. But that’s what makes her very likable and charming.”

Fanning adds, “Aurora exudes lightness and it’s so great in our movie that we have the dark and the light, total opposites, because they work so well together, like opposites attract in a way.”

Sharlto Copley

Aurora’s father in the film, King Stefan, was driven by blind ambition to become king and stopped at nothing to achieve his goal. Sharlto Copley plays the complex character whose journey from innocent young boy to vengeful monarch is a revelation to audiences familiar with the original. Describing Stefan and his role in the story, Stromberg informs, “We meet Stefan, who is human, early on in the film, when he sneaks into the moors where Maleficent lives, and the two eventually become good friends. Over time, we realize that Stefan lusts for power whereas Maleficent is tied to the moors where she belongs, taking on the responsibility of protecting the creatures that dwell there.  We follow Stefan on a journey to the King’s castle, where he begins his quest for power, wealth and money.”

Copley adds, “I like characters that go through a significant journey and Stefan goes through a rather profound one, from a commoner to a powerful ruler. Stefan is ambitious and feels like he deserves more respect than he’s getting in the world.”

Maleficent possesses magical powers but Stefan, being human, has none. “Stefan relies on human ingenuity and that’s what he uses to become king,” explains Copley. “He uses human ingenuity and human ruthlessness, if you will, at times as well. I think the line is very fine. I think what Stefan learns as he goes along is that the line between ingenuity and invention and greed can be extremely blurry.”

Copley admits that he enjoyed playing the antagonist, commenting, “It’s definitely fun to play a bad guy like this when there’s a degree of caricature involved. It’s a larger-than-life character. It’s a genre movie, so I had a lot of fun with the character. It’s fun to be able to just yell and be a complete egomaniac and then go home and try not to do that in your life.”

Maleficent is a very well-defined character but Stefan required more navigation through the relationship he had with Maleficent, so Stromberg worked with Copley “daily on the essence of what his character would be.” On the experience of working with Copley, Stromberg remarks, “Sharlto Copley is also a very passionate actor who really engages with his character, not unlike Angelina does. He’s a very professional guy, a very talented guy, who was a pleasure to be around.”

Though Stefan presides over the human kingdom, he is not without allies in the magical forest kingdom. Three pixies—Knotgrass, Flittle and Thistlewit, who fear and feel alienated by Maleficent—are chosen by Stefan to raise his infant daughter until the day after her 16th birthday. The King couldn’t have chosen more poorly when it came to selecting guardians with child-care skills.