PARIS — For a successful actor, a lot of different factors go into choosing a project, but when it initially came to signing on for The Tourist, Angelina Jolie had one thing on her mind.

“I had questioned if there was anything out there that shot in a great location. Honestly, that was the phone call I made,” she says with a laugh. “And I got this call that there was this film that happened to shoot in Venice and Paris and it was a real lady, so I was interested.”

The film features Jolie playing the estranged girlfriend of a wanted felon who leads Johnny Depp’s out-of-his-depths American tourist into an international game of cat and mouse, with cops from several nations and a handful of gangsters on their trail. But while there’s plenty of action and gunplay, Jolie’s character doesn’t really get her hands dirty.

“It took me a while to get the heels and the gloves and the whole how to hold the handbag,” she says of her über-elegant character. “I think everybody knows I’m not necessarily that female in that way. So it was a little bit of an exercise to get in there.” But it was a challenge that Jolie relished. “You get into it, and you kind of have the fun of being a girl,” she explains. “It was fun for me to discover that, having come off Salt. It was nice to rediscover female.”

While working with co-writer and director Florien Henckel von Donnersmarck, Jolie found the hardest part of nailing the character was learning to take it easy. “My note that I got every day was slow down,” she says. “Because I think a very modern woman, we attack things, we’re aggressive, we move through. We’re like New Yorkers, you know? So this is the hardest thing for me, to kind of take a deep breath and just glide a little more. It took me a really long time.”

As for the film’s primary location, Jolie saw Venice as something of a parental shortcut. “As a parent you always feel you should be responsible to teach your kids about culture, so you get this, Great... done,'” she says, wiping her hands clean. “You just drop them in Venice for two months and they go to the museums and have an Italian teacher.”

And while Jolie is a proud parent herself, she’s rarely played a mother onscreen. “I’d love to play a parent. I’m sure I’ll start to,” she says. “Salt had a child, but I actually decided she wouldn’t because I felt that somebody whose life is in danger wouldn’t have a child. I guess I play a lot of characters that I question whether or not they should have a child because of the decisions they’ve made in their lives.”