And what did Jolie learn about domestic bliss?
The making of Mr & Mrs Smith, the high octane rom com from Bourne Identity director Doug Liman, was dominated by rumours of an off-screen romance between the two co-stars, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. And it would not be surprising if the two became close off screen as they prepared to play married hired assassins John and Jane Smith.
Though both have appeared in their fair share of action adventures, including Tomb Raider and Fight Club director Liman felt it necessary that the two attend what he describes as "Spy School" if they were to play the parts realistically.
"I've never had a partner on film before and it's very different working with one. We had to learn to move in tandem...it was crazy, but we learned to trust each other"
"Brad and I have separately appeared in action films, but that is a specific method of training," explains Jolie. "I've never had a partner on film before and it's very different working with one. We had to learn to move in tandem with fully loaded pump shotguns, crossing each other, running into houses, breaking and covering an area, shooting at moving targets - it was crazy, but we learned to trust each other."
- Angelina Jolie on dodging bullets with Brad Pitt.
The two were trained by top notch professionals: Mark Stefanich and Mic Rodgers. Stefanich is a former member of the US equivalent to the SAS, the Navy SEALs, and included special operations and counter-terrorism tactics in his training of Pitt and Jolie. "We started them off with the basics, including weapons familiarisation, proper stance, how to hold the weapon, safety and use," he explains, making filming sound more like an episode of the Krypton Factor. "We progressed to moving through and shooting multiple targets."
The training shows as the two leads fight their way through a climatic finish that would do Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid proud. According to second unit director/stunt coordinator Simon Crane, the work put in by the actors was worthwhile. "An audience wants to see actors do their own stunts, they don't want to see computer generated graphics," he says. "People want to go to the movies to be entertained by their favourite actors."
"We started them off with the basics, including weapons familiarisation, proper stance, how to hold the weapon, safety and use."
- Technical advisor Mark Stefanich explains his method acting training.
Dodging bullets was not the only bit of choreography the actors had to learn for the film. Two dances set the tone of their relationship - a sexy salsa at the start and a smouldering tango towards the end - with each vying to take the lead in their explosive relationship. Choreographer Marguerite Derricks worked on the routines with Pitt and Jolie to make them look as graceful, fluid and sexy as possible.
Just how important the dance scenes were is made clear by screenwriter Simon Kinberg: "The first time John and Jane dance they are both leading. Sometimes she leads, sometimes he leads, but they are both competing. It is a bit anonymous. The characters are a little drunk; they don't know who the other person is and the excitement and energy of the space informs the dance."
Jolie was brought into the film after it became clear they needed a strong actress able to counterbalance Pitt's character John Smith. Wooing her was not an easy task: apart from finding space in her busy filming schedule, Jolie needed to be convinced that Mr & Mrs Smith was more than your average action movie.
"We spent ages romancing Angie, talking to her about our vision for the film, because it is that sort of movie that walks a fine line in terms of tone and what it's trying to achieve," says producer Lucas Foster. "At the end of the day it is a relationship movie. It has that great push-pull of people who want to work together, but life and circumstance interferes, and yet somehow they have to work through that if they want to stay together."
"It's great to be involved with a film where a man and woman need each other and are better when they are together."
- Angelina Jolie on the joy of teamwork.
The multiple layers of the film - action, comedy, romance and adventure - are what clinched the deal for Jolie. "There are dramatic scenes about relationship issues and huge action sequences and fight scenes that push the envelope and also there is real comedy," she explains. "It's a great balance and it's perfect because it's just like a real life marriage."
How does she feel about her gun-totting alter-ego? "I'm very much like Jane Smith," she says. "I learned something about myself through playing her. It is important for women to feel strong on their own, but it's great to be involved with a film where a man and woman need each other and are better when they are together."
The film recalls memories of the great romcoms of Howard Hawkes, such as His Girl Friday, in which Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell play divorced journalists trading wisecracks and stories. Jolie likes the theme of marital teamwork. "There is something great about people functioning as a team that movies haven't focused on for a while," she says.
The ability to be close to someone is key to Jane Smith's character, she explains: "Jane doesn't have real friends. She doesn't allow herself to get close to anyone because that would make her vulnerable. For Jane, getting close to someone is the most dangerous thing in the world - and that is saying a lot for a killer."