Sometimes Hollywood seems like the smallest place on earth. If you've ever seen celebrities backslapping on the red carpet or even sat through a season of Entourage, you might conclude that everyone in the movie business knows everyone else. Take Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. Between them, they've made 70 films. They own homes within an hour of each other in the south of France. And they both live with actors, which you'd think would expand their A-list circles further. But it wasn't until last November that the costars of The Tourist actually met. ''We're both not that social,'' says Jolie. ''I don't think either one of us goes out of our house, especially in France. We're both locked away.'' Adds Depp: ''So much has been written about Angie and Brad. They're sort of the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton of our era. I knew she was a big star, but I didn't know what to expect...''
We take for granted that if two movie stars are big enough and beautiful enough they will have instant chemistry on screen. And when the PG-13 romantic thriller hits theaters on Dec. 10, the world will find out whether Depp and Jolie arguably the biggest male and female stars on the planet will have that indefinable spark. Until then, though, there's a story worth sharing. The story of how Angie met Johnny.
As with most $100 million-plus Hollywood productions, The Tourist took a byzantine path to theaters. It began in 2005 with a French film called Anthony Zimmer a Hitchcockian import starring Sophie Marceau and Yvan Attal that barely made a ripple on this side of the Atlantic. Still, the pretzel-like wrong-man thriller about a money launderer on the run from detectives and Russian mobsters in sun-kissed Nice was fresh and clever enough for studios to think remake. Zimmer had twists, turns, and double and triple crosses, not to mention juicy parts for two major stars. In no time, Tom Cruise was said to be attached. Then Charlize Theron.
Over time, a who's who of six-figure screenwriters tried to blockbusterize the story, which was now being set in Venice: Jeffrey Nachmanoff (The Day After Tomorrow), William Wheeler (The Hoax), Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), and Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) turned in one promising draft after another. But every time it looked as though The Tourist was headed for a green light, that light quickly turned red. Cruise backed out and went off to make other films. Then Sam Worthington was in. Until he wasn't.
Just as The Tourist seemed headed for the turnaround graveyard, Jolie was in New York wrapping the stunt-heavy Salt. She remembers being black-and-blue and exhausted. ''I wanted to do something that would be a great vacation for my kids,'' she says. ''I got a phone call saying, 'Okay, the film's shooting in Venice,' and I said, 'I don't know what it is, but I'm going to say yes.'''
Jolie's only half-kidding. The actress, 35, admits she's always had a sweet tooth for action thrillers and was intrigued by the story about two good-looking strangers in trouble in a picturesque European locale. But she also knew the script needed work a lot of work. It also needed a director, a producer, and a leading man. Still, her mind kept drifting back to a working vacation on the canals of Venice. There are worse places to spend a few months, she thought.