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Angelina Jolie: My Mother Was a Lion

05/20/2008 at 02:35 PM EDT

Angelina Jolie: My Mother Was a Lion
Angelina Jolie
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic
Angelina Jolie's latest role also turns out to be one of her most personal.

"I lost my mother a few months before filming," Jolie, 32, said during a Cannes Film Festival press conference for Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood, about a mother's search for her missing child, based on a true 1928 incident in Los Angeles that eventually helped alter the California judicial system.

Her character, said Jolie, she said, "reminded me of my mother, and it was a kind of way to revisit my mom after passing and spend time with her," said Jolie, whose mother, Marcheline Bertrand, lost a battle with ovarian cancer on Jan. 27, 2007. Bertrand was 56.

"It was nice and very healing," said Jolie of the role.

She also said, "My mother was very passive in many ways and very, very sweet – but when it came to her children, she was a lion."

Putting on her humanitarian hat, Jolie spoke of a bureaucratic legal system that hasn't necessarily changed, despite the passing of the years since the period when her new movie takes place.

"It is symbolic of many things happening today," Jolie, a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency, said.

A New Dirty Harry

Not that she and her director were completely serious during the press conference.

Eastwood, who is also in town to promote a new Warner Home Video release of his 1971 action thriller Dirty Harry, was asked if he would reprise his famed role as the cop with a biggest gun, Harry Callahan.

"That rumor is not true," said Eastwood.

"I am!" joked Jolie.

"Dirty Harriet," said Eastwood.

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