Maleficent doubts her fitness as a mother. So did Angelina Jolie

Maleficent is many things Angelina Jolie is not: a flame-throwing fairy, an orphaned outcast, a winged warrior.

But the Maleficent: Mistress of Evil star can relate to her title character on some level, especially when it comes to motherhood.

"Where she fails is that she doesn't believe in herself," Jolie says. "She doesn't believe that she's a good mom. She doesn't see herself as a mom. But I think I questioned, when I was first a mother, whether I was good enough. And I think that a lot of good moms question whether or not they're good enough. And I think that there's nothing wrong with that."

It may come as a surprise that Jolie, a mother-of-six – and who also brought to life Maleficent: Mistress of Evil as a producer – ever doubted her nurturing capabilities.

But in the franchise's latest installment, Maleficent faces similar anxieties, afraid she might lose her newly engaged goddaughter Aurora (Elle Fanning) to heartbreak and nefarious forces. The tale is a complex portrait of a woman – actually, three women, when you include Fanning and Michelle Pfeiffer.

"There are many different types of strength represented for women in this film," Jolie says. "It's not just the strength of a fighter. It's the strength of a tactician in Michelle – and a leader. It's the strength of a mother and wife – mother-to-be and wife – in someone like Elle, who is soft, and her strength is in her heart and her softness… all of these things are different aspects of women. We're very complicated."

Further complicated is the rocky relationship between the witch and the princess, which has seen significant change in the years since the first film hit cinemas in 2014. But behind the scenes, Fanning – who donned a flowery, Aurora-inspired look on the carpet (complete with a bloody, pin-pricked finger) – revealed she and her on-screen fairy godmother have only grown closer.

"I was 14 when I did the first movie, so you can't really talk about the same things that we can talk about now, and our bond has … gotten so strong, and the advice that I feel she's given me, and what I've learned from her," the 21-year-old actress says. "I really do truly, genuinely feel that love between us and that I could reach out to her at any moment."

Elle Fanning, aka Princess Aurora, says her relationship with co-star Angelina Jolie has evolved quite a bit since the first Maleficent. Now that she's older, they were able to have more mature discussions on set, and she greatly valued Jolie's advice

Just added to the mix of female powerhouses was Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith, who faces off against Jolie's horned sorceress in a struggle to claim parenthood of Aurora. Pfeiffer, who hadn't met Jolie prior to filming despite both being industry veterans, "relished" the opportunity to join the franchise's on-set sisterhood.

"When we did the end battle, we were stuck up on this tower for a long, long time," she says. "It was nice because it was just Angelina and Elle and I, and so … I got to know them both more and [we] just hung out."

Jolie also makes sure to credit the men of Maleficent, such as director Joachim Rønning, co-writers Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, and actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, with allowing their female colleagues' strengths to flourish. The feeling was mutual for Ejiofor, who plays a new character, a dark fairy named Conall.

"She just brings such a complete, just everything to it – this real, all-encompassing energy and real knowledge of what she wants to do," he says. "Her projects really do represent her worldview … I admire her so hugely as an actress but also as a force in the world."

A force, indeed: A running theme ahead of its debut this month has been Jolie's immense influence on the film, which seemed to reach as far as Maleficent's enveloping wingspan – from its fantastical costumes to its girl-powered soundtrack.

"She's pushing everyone around her to be the absolute best," Rønning says. "It was in every part of the process. … spending months with the screenwriters, getting it right. The angle of her horns, of course, the wardrobe, the colour of her lips – hours and hours of relentless hard work."

Come the next Maleficent, Rønning may be out of a job, as Jolie reveals her next ambition is directing, and she's already begun to think like a visionary. Like any committed mother – or producer – Jolie always had the final say. And all agreed the story was better for it.

"We'd write her some line of dialogue that we thought would really kill, and she would say, 'You know what? I think I'll do that with a look'," Fitzerman-Blue says. "And she can."