Chiwetel Ejiofor and Angelina Jolie

*Chiwetel Ejiofor, a talented and versatile actor, has taken on another impressive role. He alerted the president, Danny Glover, in “2012” of the impending disaster and was Denzel Washington’s partner in the “Inside Man.” In “American Gangster” he starred again opposite Washington as his brother.

In “Salt” Chiwetel’s task at the CIA’s counter-intelligence division is to track Salt down. Angelina Jolie is “especially pleased” that Chiwetel is her nemesis. “He’s a strong man,” she comments, “and he’s very tough. He’s an amazing actor.”

When the asked how he feels about being cast for “strong” roles, Chiwetel quipped, “I don’t know. Never thought about it. But I will now,” he laughs. “I guess it feels great. I like the concept of being wanted as a strong man. What I liked about this character (William Peabody) was that he was smart. He always seemed to me to be a good pursuer. It seemed like there was an inbuilt drama and tension that made him so determined to get results-and his mindset propelled the audience along as well.”  

“It was an interesting thing,” Chiwetel continued, “because I like the idea that he was just a very constant kind of character. He just has a great consistency. Speaking to the CIA was fascinating to me. I was really interested in the interdepartmental ideas within the CIA. It just seemed to me that that was in some form a real important part of the story. I was curious about the distinctions between agents in the field and the counterintelligence and whether they were the same. The idea of somebody being an agent in a kind of shop suit and dark glasses is kind of distant. I felt that was too much of a stretch.  I felt that it was probably more interesting to kind of ground these characters in something that was real I thought that might be exciting for the people to watch.”

Watching Jolie running like a bat out of hell in “Salt” wasn’t much of a stretch for her with six kids that keep her going. “They can still run faster,” Jolie jokes. “Zee is the fastest in the house. The kids are all over the place and the twins are going in different directions as the same time.” Dressed in all black and wearing Emerald earrings, Jolie beams when talking about the children. But she was quick to correct any thought that Vanity Fair might have suggested in their story that she was thinking about quitting.

“It’s not that I’m retiring but there will be less films at some point and I’d love to do other things. I’d love to live in Africa for six months and fly planes. I’d just like to see what else there is to do and artistically I’m sure there are other things to do. I’ve been so lucky that I’ve been able to raise a family and have a career-and audiences have accepted me.” Unlike most actresses, Jolie says she is not freaking out about getting older. “I like getting older. I think maybe it has something to do with losing my mother. You really appreciate being able to get older and see your age, have history with the people that you love. It just becomes important to you. You want to see your grandkids. You want all those things and so there’s a deep pleasure in it.”

Getting back to the topic of Salt, the role that took her away from her family, Jolie admitted it was a unique role. Having been approached to be a Bond girl, her response was typical Angelina. “I jokingly said, ‘I want to play Bond.’ After laughing it off, I got a call about two or three years later and was told, ‘You got it. His name is Edwin.’ I said ‘It sounds sexy. Send the script over.’ When filming began I did have a moment my first day because I hadn’t worked for a a year and a half where I thought, ‘What am I doing? I’m somebody’s mother.”

The interviews were done in Washington, D.C. but Brad (Pitt) was nowhere around. “They all came with me to Cancun and then I came back and spent a lot of time with the babies because they couldn’t come and then the girls came to DC because it’s a girl trip and the boys are having special boy time with dad. So we try to just really think about it and actually schedule it in a way that works out so that everyone has special time.” She admitted that Pitt was supposed to do a cameo in “Salt,” but it couldn’t be arranged. “He had to be with the kids on that day and we couldn’t work it out.”

Award winning producer Lawrence Bender (“An Inconvenient Truth,” “Inglourious Basterds”) is back with another riveting project called “Countdown to Zero.” Fact couldn’t be stranger than fiction this week with Russian spies in “Salt” and the planet being nuked the topic of discussion in the film “Countdown to Zero.” The film traces the history of the atomic bomb from its origins to the present state of global affairs. Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA agent whose status was revealed by White House officials out to discredit her husband after he wrote a New York Times op-ed piece saying the Bush Administration had manipulated facts about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq, appears in the film. She joined Bender and writer/director Lucy Walker to discuss the ramifications of “Countdown to Zero.”

“At the time when we were doing this 2½ years ago we didn’t have this president in office,” Wilson explained. “He has given great voice and great leadership to this whole idea. It has given us traction. He’s done what Lawrence called earlier this morning a trifecta. He pulled together 47 world leaders in Washington in April. He signed the START treaty. So there is momentum building.”

“Countdown to Zero” is a very a very bleak film, although audiences do gravitate towards disaster movies, so I asked them should moviegoers have any hope when they leave the theaters? “Yes, there is hope,” Walker enthused. “The president called for a world free of nuclear weapons. I feel like I dreamed that, you know what I mean?”

“Yes, absolutely,” Bender chimed in. “There are many people who have changed the way they think about this. So can we get to zero tomorrow? No, but certainly a lot of people either former heads of state, former military advisors and people in power now who do believe that this is the direction. The president actually said it when he was running, during the primaries. He said it in Prague when he announced the negotiations of the START treaty.”

“The film, as bleak as it is, it does empower you at the end. It doesn’t just dump you out. It shows you how we can get there and there is this entire social action campaign that has been built around the movie. There’s where individuals can go and find out how they can become involved, people can petition their senators to ratify the START treaty and sign the global zero declaration. Go see the movie, tell friends and spread the word.”