Back in the summer of 2008, Salt was a script about a CIA agent who’s accused of being a Russian sleeper spy- a male Russian sleeper spy. At the time, Tom Cruise was attached to play lead.
But as the script evolved into more of an on-the-run espionage thriller, Cruise began to feel that the character was a little too close to his “Mission Impossible” alter ego, Ethan Hunt. When Cruise bailed, Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal remembered a series of conversations she’d had with Jolie about creating a female James Bond-style franchise for her at the studio. And voila, the movie’s hero, Edwin Salt, was rechristened
Evelyn Salt. “We tried to change the name to Edwina,” says Jolie, “but it didn’t quite have the same ring to it.”
Jolie says she wasn’t nervous about the role’s gender reassignment. After all, there’s a long history of Hollywood heroes swapping sexes, including the character of Ripley in “Alien.” “I was simply looking for the best action script that was going around,” says the 34-year-old star. With Jolie on board, director Phillip Noyce, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and writer Kurt Wimmer flew off to Chez Brangelina in the south of France to retool the screenplay. But the process was a bit trickier than just changing the hero’s name and adding high heels. “In the original script, there was a huge sequence where Edwin Salt saves his wife, who’s in danger,” says Noyce. “And what we found was when Evelyn Salt saved her husband in the new script, it seemed to castrate his character a little. So we had to change the nature of that relationship.”