The day before Sony Pictures' "Salt" opened nationwide -- it grossed $36 million in its first weekend -- the stars, director and producer appeared at Comic-Con International to take the Hall H audience behind the scenes of the action-thriller.
"Salt" centers on Evelyn Salt, a CIA officer accused by a defector of being a Russian spy. Salt goes on the run in an effort to prove her innocence, but her actions only serve to cast doubts on her motives.
Star Angelina Jolie was in attendance at the Thursday presentation, along with co-star Schreiber (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), director Phillip Noyce (“Clear and Present Danger,”) and producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura (“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”).
“I thought it was one of the smarter scripts I’ve read,” Jolie told the audience. “And I’ve done a lot of action, but this one was based in reality. I had a great time.”
“Seven years ago I read a script with a great drama,” Di Bonaventura said. “Eventually we got it made with the exact right person.”
Di Bonaventura had some high praise for the film's star, telling the crowd that he considers Jolie “one of the great living American actors.”
“Angelina brings an extraordinary acting ability with an amazing athleticism," he said. "It’s not the athleticism that makes her character so good … it’s her acting. She makes it easy to get to work every day.”
Jolie said that Noyce was the perfect person to direct the film.
“Phillip and I worked together 10 years ago [on 'The Bone Collector']," she said. "We’ve both changed and grown up a lot, especially me. Phillip is one of those guys who takes story and research very seriously. At the same time he knows and understands the big action scenes. It’s rare you get both, but I knew we’d get that with Phillip.”
The crowd was shown an extended preview of "Salt," one that showed Jolie jumping on and off moving vehicles, wrecking a police car and tasering a police officer as she did it.
Noyce boasted, “There was no stunt double,” for Jolie.
Jolie reflected on doing her own stunts by recalling the one injury she sustained during the filming. She said it was on one of the easiest stunts she did in the entire movie -- diving into a room.
“I jumped and rolled on the ground, I rolled into a desk and I cracked my head open, right here,” she said, pointing to an area between her eyebrows. “I was worried because I couldn’t hear anything and I thought, ‘Oh my god, I did it, I’ve got a concussion!’ And then I remembered I had my earplugs in [for the bullet sound effects].”
Schreiber was then asked if he performed his own stunts as well, and what “went in to” him deciding what stunts to do.
“Are my clothes going to get torn? How long will I have to keep my foot in a bucket of ice? Is anything flying at me?” he said. “There are lots of things that go into my decision of doing a stunt,” he joked before saying he didn’t have much violence in the movie.
A common point of emphasis from the panel was that “Salt” is unlike many other Angelina Jolie action movies in that the film was grounded in reality, unlike, say, “Wanted.”
“I’ve had so much fun doing some [action] films, but you can get away with so much … you can bend a bullet, you can jump off things that aren’t there,” she said. “With this film, you had to keep it in reality … it got harder, darker and meaner. The stunts in this movie are better than in other action movies I’ve done.”
Schreiber agreed, adding that it was only a few weeks ago that an attractive Russian spy made headlines in real newspapers.
“That was one of the great marketing efforts ever,” he laughed.
A fan asked if they did much training on any specific weapons, and if the two actors had a favorite. Jolie said they used “just about everything” for this film, while Schreiber joked that his favorite weapon was “the super-soaker.”
“At the end of the day, it was our decision to just get down and dirty and punch each other,” Jolie said.
A fan asked Schreiber if he could tell the crowd more about the relationship between Salt and his character Ted. In one scene where Jolie is being taken away, it’s apparent that Schreiber’s character is emotionally hurt.
“I can’t talk about it too much," Schreiber said. "Suffice it to say Ted takes it very personally when he thinks Evelyn has betrayed him. It was just a fun ride. It kept twisting and turning.”
Di Bonaventura mentioned that the script originally called for a man in Salt’s role, and it was an interesting challenge to rewrite the script with a female lead. What they learned was that the character didn’t change much, but the reactions of the people around her did.
“With Liev’s character, how he relates to a male colleague [and] to a female colleague is very different, there’s a snowball effect," Di Bonaventura said. "The big question was, do you expect something different from a male character or a female character? But the getting a character from point A to point B is the same. It transcends gender, really.”
Jolie said Evelyn Salt was one of her greatest characters, and also one she could somewhat relate to.
“It’s unusual to define such a great character. Her childhood defines a lot of what she is,” Jolie said. “At the end of the day this movie is about the decisions you make, the things you’ll do, and your own personal line. ... At some point you make this big decision to make your own choices. And she does.
“There was a real duplicity to her personality, and there’s a part of her that’s not necessarily a good guy," she said. "She’s a bit damaged, she’s not just a hero, and she’s not just brave, there’s something off about he r… and there’s something off about me. So we have that in common."
Jolie and Schreiber both researched intelligence gathering, and said they learned a lot about the kind of person it takes to work in that field.
“For me, if you work at the CIA, you can’t share anything about your work with your family or friends," Jolie said, "so they become very secluded, very lonely. ... It’s a big sacrifice they have to make."
“What motivates someone to do this job?" Schreiber said. "It turns out they don’t make a bunch of money. It turns out that the motivation, by a legitimate amount, is of country.”