Okay, so Cruise is out. What next? Time to think outside the box, according to Columbia. What if Edwin A Salt was really a woman?
It was an idea that immediately appealed to the studio – especially when the name Angelina Jolie swung into frame.
“[Columbia Exec] Amy Pascal had been talking over the years and had often spoken to Angelina Jolie,” explains director Noyce, who remained onboard post-Cruise. “They’d expressed their mutual desire to try and create a female spy franchise, so we sent the script to Angelina.”
Jolie then met with Noyce and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura.
In that meeting, according to Noyce, they discussed their “mutual visions for what the film could be, and how, if a male character was to be turned into a female character, how that would be achieved”.
As a result, Brian Helgeland “did a character pass, or dialogue pass on the film” and sent it Jolie to see what she thought. By September 2008, the deal had been done. Angelina Jolie was the new Salt.
What did that mean in terms of changing the script so that it was told from a woman’s perspective? Not too much more than a find and replace on the name Edwin, according to Noyce.
“The locomotive of ideas that drive the movie are the same,” says the director. “An undercover CIA operative is accused of being a Russian mole, and has to go on the run to defend themselves. That’s been the same since day one.”
But in terms of the film’s tone, there were changes, especially as the script had been floating around for so long.
“Following the trend in action-adventure spy movies, it has evolved into a story where we hope at all times that the audience take seriously the emotional interplay between the characters, and are very, very involved on an emotional level with the story,” Noyce says.
“As well as getting enormous thrills and spills, and all the other popcorn elements that you’d hope to see in a summer movie.”
Next: Who Is Salt?