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Opening Night – Salt: Written for a Man, But Starring a Woman

The ten highest-grossing spy films of all time share a common theme: a male spy as their main character. In keeping with a tried-and-true box-office tradition, that’s how the new Angelina Jolie espionage thriller, Salt, originally started out. In the film, which is directed by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Rabbit-Proof Fence), Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent on the run after she’s accused of being a Russian spy within the storied American intelligence agency.

Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer (The Recruit, Sphere) first wrote the script with a fictional male CIA agent, Edwin Salt, as the title character. Tom Cruise was in talks to take on the role. But, after several story revisions, Cruise decided that Edwin Salt was a little too close to Ethan Hunt — Cruise’s spy character in the megasuccessful Mission: Impossible franchise — and he dropped out of the project.

With Cruise out of the picture, the filmmakers made a risky script revision. They changed the main character’s gender, turning Edwin Salt into Evelyn Salt. Soon after, Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal locked in Angelina Jolie to play the majorly overhauled role of a female spy/action star – a role that is unproven in Hollywood in terms of box office success and franchise potential.

In addition to being risky, the role of Evelyn Salt was physically demanding for Jolie as well. During filming she chose to do several of the high-risk stunts herself, guided by her go-to stunt coordinator Simon Crane with whom she previously worked on Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

When asked by AMC News why she wanted to do her own stunts, Jolie said she did them out of respect for the audience, to give moviegoers more of a “seamless” action-film experience… and also because “I want my kids to think I’m really cool.”

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