Changeling is a 2008 American drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by J. Michael Straczynski. Based on real life events in 1928 Los Angeles, the film stars Angelina Jolie as a woman who is reunited with her missing son—only to realize he is an impostor. After she confronts the city authorities they vilify her as an unfit mother and brand her delusional. The dramatized incident was connected to the "Wineville Chicken Coop" kidnapping and murder case. Changeling explores female disempowerment, political corruption, child endangerment and the repercussions of violence. Ron Howard intended to direct, but scheduling conflicts led to his replacement by Eastwood. Howard and Imagine Entertainment partner Brian Grazer produced, alongside Malpaso Productions' Robert Lorenz and Eastwood. Universal Pictures financed and distributed the film.
After hearing about the case from a contact at Los Angeles City Hall, Straczynski spent a year researching the historical record, which he said shaped 95% of the script. The shooting script was Straczynski's first draft and his first produced film screenplay. Several actors campaigned for the lead; Eastwood cast Jolie partly because he felt her face fit the period setting. Jeffrey Donovan, Jason Butler Harner, John Malkovich, Michael Kelly, and Amy Ryan also feature. Most of the characters were based on real life people, while some were composites. Principal photography began on October 15, 2007, and concluded in December 2007; filming took place in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California. Eastwood's low-key direction led actors and crew to note the calmness of the set and the short working days. In post-production, scenes were supplemented with computer-generated skylines, backgrounds, vehicles and people.
Changeling premiered at the 61st Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2008, to critical acclaim. Further festival appearances preceded a limited release in the United States on October 24, 2008. The film opened wide in North America on October 31, 2008, in the United Kingdom on November 26, 2008, and in Australia on February 5, 2009. Critical reaction was more mixed than at Cannes; the acting and story were generally praised, while criticism focused on the film's conventional staging and lack of nuance. It performed better at the international box office than in North America, earning $111.5 million worldwide. Changeling received nominations in three Academy Award and eight BAFTA Award categories.
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