Angelina Jolie says she remembers "looking at a blank piece of paper" and penning the script for her film "In The Land of Blood and Honey."
The film depicts a romance between a Serbian soldier and Bosnian woman during the Bosnian War in the 1990s. It is the first feature film she ever directed and the first on-screen project she ever wrote.
"Having nothing and looking at a blank piece of white paper, thinking back to that first day when I looked at a piece of white paper and started to write something for the first time, the first word, and suddenly it becomes real, is an experience I've never had," she told OnTheRedCarpet.com co-host Chris Balish at the movie's Los Angeles premiere.
"I've lived my whole career with somebody else's words and somebody else's image," the actress said. "This was the first time it was mine and so it was different."
Several months ago, Croatian journalist and author James J. Braddock sued producers of "In The Land of Blood and Honey," claiming that Jolie "stole" elements from his 2007 book "The Soul Shattering" and used them to write the script. The actress told the Los Angeles Times: "There are many books and documentaries that I did pull from. It's a combination of many people's stories. But that particular book I've never seen."
"In The Land of Blood and Honey" is rated R and was released in the United States on Friday, December 23, and stars actors Zana Marjanovic and Goran Kostic. Jolie does not appear in the film, which is nominated for a Golden Globe. Pitt also received a nod for his role in the movie "Moneyball" (see a full list of nominations).
He told OnTheRedCarpet.com he is "so proud" of Jolie , adding: "When she set out to do this, she was intent on telling the story and telling the story with people from the conflict. It's very, very moving."
"I had to be quarantined from the children for two days," she said. "I was in the attic of a house in France. I was isolated, pacing. I don't watch TV and I wasn't reading anything. So I started writing. I went from the beginning to the end. I didn't know any other way."
The actress said Pitt read her work while on a trip and told her over the phone: 'You know, honey, it's not that bad.'"
The Bosnian War took place between 1992 and 1995 and pitted Serbs against Muslims and Croats. The violence killed more than an estimated 100,000 people and left about 2.2 million refugees and displaced persons in Bosnia, although some dispute the figures. Some 113,000 people are still unable to return to their homes, the UN says.
Jolie, a UN Refugee Agency Goodwill Ambassador, and the actor have visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past to discuss issues such as the plight of the country's displaced people. Jolie explained why she chose to make a movie about the Bosnian War rather than about other conflicts.
"I feel that the themes of this story are universal and I feel that in order to affect change in the world ... with violence against women, with understanding how to heal people in post-conflict situations, we have to not forget the past," the actress told OnTheRedCarpet.com.
"We have to learn from it, we have to study it and so we chose Bosnia because it was 15 years ago, it was a war of our generation, it was the '90s and one that people don't know enough about," Jolie added. "It could be said anywhere but my heart went to Bosnia and to this cast and this crew." The actress had said in a press release issued by the film studio, GK Films, that "In the Land of Blood and Honey" "is a love story, not a political statement."
Jolie has directed a project before - a 2007 documentary called "A Place in Time," which captures three minutes in time in various places around the world and also stars Anne Hathaway, Wyclef Jean and the actress' ex-husband and "Hackers" co-star, Jonny Lee Miller.
Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said the movie "has script problems," but that "as a director, Jolie has been especially vigilant in keeping the acting from becoming overdone or indulgent" and also praised the "sense of authenticity" in the film, which contains local actors.
New York Times critic Manohla Dargis said the movie "moves briskly and easily holds your attention," but added that Jolie often "switches into full-on expository mode, putting dry, plodding words into the characters' mouths that would work better in the kind of on-screen textual explanations, with their snippets of history and politics, that open and close the movie."
Additional reporting by Chris Balish, co-host of KABC Television's entertainment show "On The Red Carpet" (check for local TV listings).
Jolie attended the Los Angeles premiere of "In The Land of Blood and Honey" with life partner Brad Pitt, while her brother, James Haven, and father, Jon Voight, also made an appearance.