Vanity Fair Fires Back at Angelina Jolie in Child Casting Flap

Despite Angelina Jolie’s objection to a controversial passage in her September Vanity Fair cover story, the magazine is siding with the writer.

Vanity Fair fired back at the Oscar winner in an article posted on its website Thursday afternoon, writing that “after reviewing the audiotape, V.F. stands by [Evgenia] Peretz’s story as published.” That statement came at the end of the story following a brief account of the controversy that swallowed the juicy celebrity profile — Jolie’s first sit-down interview since filing for divorce from Brad Pitt — ever since it was published July 26.

Following its initial publication, the story, titled “A Life in Bold,” was picked up immediately as dozens of outlets focused on her statements about her marriage, her Bell’s palsy diagnosis and her new home life as a single mother to the couple’s six children. However, it didn’t take long for other outlets and social media users to zero in on the specific passage in which Jolie describes the casting exercise with which she used to find child actors for her new film, First They Killed My Father, based on the book by Loung Ung.

“In order to find their lead, to play young Loung Ung, the casting directors set up a game, rather disturbing in its realism: they put money on the table and asked the child to think of something she needed the money for, and then to snatch it away. The director would pretend to catch the child, and the child would have to come up with a lie,” Peretz writes in the story. “‘Srey Moch [the girl ultimately chosen for the part] was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time,’ Jolie says. ‘When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion. All these different things came flooding back.’ Jolie then tears up. ‘When she was asked later what the money was for, she said her grandfather had died, and they didn’t have enough money for a nice funeral.'”

The “game,” as many have called it, was immediately criticized and Jolie responded, accusing the magazine of misrepresenting what she said. On July 29, Jolie sent a lengthy statement  to the Huffington Post to take issue with Peretz’s retelling of it. “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,” said Jolie, who was backed up by a similar statement from producer Rithy Panh. “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 point of this film is to bring attention to the horrors children face in war, and to help fight to protect them.”

Apparently, she got her lawyers involved too. In today’s V.F. post, the magazine notes that on Aug. 1, Jolie’s lawyer contacted them “saying Peretz had ‘mistakenly’ reported the incident, and asked us to run a statement, excerpts of which follow: ‘The casting crew showed the children the camera and sound recording material, explaining to them that they were going to be asked to act out a part. … The children were not tricked as some have suggested. … All of the children auditioning were made aware of the fictional aspect of the exercise and were tended to at all times by relatives or guardians from NGOs. … We apologize for any misunderstanding,” recounts Vanity Fair.
Her lawyer also requested that the magazine remove the original paragraph from the online story and add corrections both online and in print. Instead, Vanity Fair reviewed the transcript and audio of Peretz’s interview and is clearly on Team Peretz. The published transcript is below.
THR has reached out to a rep for Jolie but hasn’t heard back yet as of press time.
An except of the transcript as published by V.F.
Jolie: But it was very hard to find a little Loung. And so it was what they call a slum school. I don’t think that’s a very nice word for it, but a school for kids in very poor areas.And I think, I mean they didn’t know. We just went in and — you just go in and do some auditions with the kids. And it’s not really an audition with children. We had this game where it would be — and I wasn’t there and they didn’t know what they were really doing. They kind of said, “Oh, a camera’s coming up and we want to play a game with you.” And the game for that character was, “We’re going to put some money on the table. Think of something that you need that money for.” 
Sometimes it was money, sometimes it was a cookie. [Laughter] “And then take it.” And then we would catch them. “We’re going to catch you, and we’d like you to try to lie that you didn’t have it.”
So it was very interesting seeing the kids and how they would — some were very conscious of the camera. They were actually — there are so many talented kids in this country. But Srey Moch was the only child that stared at that money for a very, very long time before she picked it up, and then bravely, brazenly lying, like was trying to hide, but then she also kind of —…
Perez: Wait. This is the girl, Loung.
Jolie: This is the girl. And then when she was forced to give it back became very kind of like strong, emotional, she became overwhelmed with emotion that she was — and she just — all of these different things flooded out. And I don’t think she or her family would mind me saying when she was later asked what that money was for, she said her grandfather died and they didn’t have enough money for a nice funeral.