The WWII epic, which had its premiere in Sydney on Monday night, spans the astounding story of real-life war hero Louis Zamperini – and Jolie, 39, had to convince the studio she was up to the task of directing.
“I had to fight quite hard for this job,” she told PEOPLE on the red carpet, where she was joined by husband Brad Pitt.
How did she feel about taking on such an immense project?
“Terrified,” she said with a laugh.
The film had been stalled out in Hollywood for decades, and it was only with Jolie’s involvement that things finally came together, says producer Matt Baer.
“In my long journey to get this film made, Angelina was certainly the catalyst director to connect with what I was trying to get going,” says Baer. “Lou’s story is difficult to tell in film, it’s so long and so epic, but Angie wasn’t afraid to take it on. For many years, others were afraid to take it on, but Angie had it instinctively in her creative soul.”
• Reporting by EMMA MARTIN and ALYSSA BRAITHWAITE