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'Changeling' Chronicles Mother's Quest for Missing Son


Angelina Jolie stars in a new Clint Eastwood film based on the true story of a mother's search for her missing child and her quest for justice from a corrupt police department. Alan Silverman has this look at the drama Changeling.

It is Los Angeles, 1928. Christine Collins returns home from her job as a telephone operator to discover that her nine-year-old son Walter is missing. The L.A.P.D. launches an investigation and five months later, with press photographers and reporters on hand to chronicle the scene, the police detective presents the mother with a nine-year-old boy.

Reluctantly, she takes the boy home where Christine quickly finds evidence proving the child is not hers. However, her protests are ignored until she gains the support of a crusading clergyman - Reverend Briegleb - determined to uncover the police corruption rampant in L.A. at the time.

Director and producer Clint Eastwood says the script, by journalist-turned-screenwriter Michael Straczysnki, sticks close to the actual facts of the case.

"We'd be doing a scene …she'd be doing a very dramatic scene …and I'd say 'these people actually lived. They actually went through something like this or this exact scene or something very much like it.' How would you react to that? How could you live on with all this in your mind? It was just amazing," Eastwood says.

"It is an amazing story: what this woman went through,"adds Jolie, "what was done to her, that if it wasn't real everybody would just say it's the worst script that was ever written because it makes no sense. That would never happen."

Angelina Jolie stars as Christine and says the often-sensational news coverage of the day provided her with important insight into what the real character had to endure.

"They made the very smart choice of putting the front pages of all the Los Angeles Times [coverage] in the script so you could see her and you read the articles and they are fascinating to see," notes Jolie. "This real woman lived through this and fought this system. It was a story of justice to me in the end. That is always, I think, one of the best stories to tell.

"She was very much a woman of the time," adds Jolie. "In the beginning of the film she's a working mom and she's focused on her job and she loves her son and she's busy; but she is a woman of 1928 and there is something small …apologetic …about her. We did map out very carefully and the script allowed for this transition to find her strength, understanding and really coming to terms with what her rights are and what she lost. To me one of the main moments where things change is when she realizes that they just can't do anything else to her. She's lost what is important to her and now she is going to fight for everybody else …and I think that's a wonderful human transition."

Changeling co-stars John Malkovich as Reverend Briegleb. Colm Feore is L.A. Police Chief Davis and Michael Kelly plays the lead detective. The Christine Collins case, practically forgotten for 80 years until this film, helped launch a major investigation of police corruption in Los Angeles. It also resulted in a California law to prevent abuses of authority such as those to which she was subjected.

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