Always a star. Angelina Jolie may have been acting prior to Gia, but it wasn’t until the 1998 HBO biopic that she was really recognized for her outstanding work. Though she has gone on to have quite the career, we have Gia director Michael Cristofer to thank for helping discover her and bringing out of Angelina a truly excellent performance.

“We actually knew [Angelina would be a star] the first time I met her with the casting agent. She left the room and we looked at each other and said, ‘That’s it,'” Michael, 74, recalled exclusively to Closer Weekly at the Mr. Robot season 4 premiere screening. “Then we started shooting and I think at one point the cinematographer came up to me and said, ‘I don’t think it matters what we’re doing. This is the Angelina show and that’s what it’s going to be.’ He was right.”

Michael Cristofer and Angelina Jolie Filming 'Gia'
Larry Watson/Citadel Ent/Kobal/Shutterstock

Gia tells the story of one of America’s first supermodels, Gia Marie Carangi, who moves from her native Philadelphia to New York City to see if she can make it in the fashion business. As the film develops, Gia becomes addicted to drugs and, before she is able to get clean, contracts HIV — which later progresses to AIDS — and spends the rest of her life in a hospital.

Elsewhere in the movie, Faye Dunaway stars as Wilhelmina Cooper, the modeling agent who discovers Gia. Mercedes Ruehl plays Gia’s mom, Kathleen, and Elizabeth Mitchell plays Gia’s love interest, Linda. Mila Kunis actually plays young version of Gia. Angelina’s performance scored a Golden Globe win and also garnered an Emmy nomination too.

Michael admitted that he and Angelina aren’t “as much” in contact these days because she “kind of left the universe” since acting hasn’t been as much of a priority for her in recent years. Though she has the new Maleficent movie and just joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Thena in the upcoming Eternals film, the Oscar winner has shifted much of her attention to directing and producing more in recent years.

Angelina Jolie Kissing the Golden Globe Award She Won for Her Role in 'Gia'

“Acting can be a dangerous profession,” Michael warned. “An actor pretends to be doing many, many things and some of them are extreme and your body doesn’t know you’re pretending. Your body thinks it’s real — especially when you’re good at what you do — and that can take a toll on your body and your psyche, so it’s tricky. You have to be really strong and you have to be really vulnerable at the same time.”

Luckily for Angelina, she has six kids to keep her grounded in the crazy world that is Hollywood.

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