Angelina Jolie, who plays the widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in "A Mighty Heart," said she was overwhelmed by Mariane Pearl's inner strength and her ability to let go of hatred.
"For me, so much of why this film was important to do is because I highly doubt there is anybody in this room who has more reason to hold hate inside herself than Mariane, and she doesn't," Jolie told reporters Monday at the Cannes Film Festival, where she and partner Brad Pitt, the movie's co-producer, were in town for the premiere.
"She is a very compassionate, thoughtful person who looks to dialogue to change things, to make things better. ... That is, I think, a lesson for all of us," Jolie said.
The film, based on Mariane Pearl's memoir of the same name, recounts the search for her husband after his abduction in Pakistan in 2002, where he was researching a story on Islamic militants. She was more than five months pregnant at the time.
Partly shot in Pakistan, the film has a naturalistic documentary feel. British director Michael Winterbottom has made past forays into the Muslim world in "The Road to Guantanamo" and "In This World."
For most of the movie, Jolie's Mariane Pearl is steely despite her sleeplessness, grounded despite her grief, a portrayal that is true to life. In one television interview soon after her husband's death, Mariane Pearl reminded viewers that Pakistanis were suffering from a lack of education and resources, and that 10 Pakistanis had been killed by terrorists at about the same time as her husband.
Jolie's Mariane Pearl breaks down only once in the movie - near the end, on learning of her husband's death.
"I was very, very nervous to get it right," Jolie said of her role. Pitt, who said he was gripped by Daniel Pearl's story from the moment it was first reported, said that everyone involved "felt great responsibility" for the film.
Daniel Pearl was captured by Islamic militants in January 2002. Despite worldwide pleas for his release, he was beheaded nine days later, and video of the killing was posted on the Internet. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an alleged al-Qaida chief held atGuantanamo Bay, has confessed to killing Pearl.
The film begins on the last day the Pearls spent together in Pakistan, where they were both on assignment as reporters, and it follows local police on the hunt for the kidnappers, through teaming streets, into crowded slums.
It also flashes back to happier days, to the Pearls' wedding day in France. Dan Futterman, the screenwriter for "Capote," plays Daniel Pearl in Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Vantage film.
Mariane Pearl said she got in touch with Jolie after reading a magazine interview with her and being struck by the feeling they could be friends. She asked Jolie to play her, and said their friendship grew over the course of the project.
"I think about the fact that my son will see the film one day, and this is a great moment of pain for me," Pearl said. "And this role was played by somebody who loves me, and it means a lot to me."
Jolie said her own pregnancy, during the film's preparatory stages, helped her understand what Pearl went through.
"I remember being six months pregnant and thinking, I can't imagine at this time not having the father with me ... and being concerned about his life, and trying to eat and trying to remember to get some sleep and trying to take a deep breath and physically even just moving around," Jolie said.
"So as a woman, it just made me so much more connected to her and aware of her," she said. "And also knowing that carrying that life inside, that little boy that is half-Danny, that is so, so amazing."