HOLLYWOOD A-lister Charlize Theron has carved out an impressive new niche in recent years with a succession of intensely physical action hero roles.
There was her flawless performance as Furiosa in the 2015 Aussie hit Mad Max: Fury Road, her memorable tun in the 2012 Alien spin-off Prometheus, and this week, her surprise addition to the Fast and the Furious franchise as villian Cipher. Each role is marked by the kind of “physical storytelling” Theron says is in her blood, harking back to her pre-acting days as a dancer.
Next comes her titular role in Atomic Blonde, a cool-as-ice big screen graphic novel adaptation that sees Theron play a top-level M16 spy who kills henchmen with her bare hands, takes ice baths to soothe her battle scars, and hops into bed with both men and women in her quest to get top-level intel.
We spoke to Theron about bringing to life her latest action heroine – and how the retro setting of Atomic Blonde is more relevant than ever.
There’s a brutal fight scene in Atomic Blonde that lasts for minutes. How much of that is actually you?
Well, you don’t ever want ruin it for the moviegoer, but I also think you’ve gotta give credit where credit is due. I’m doing 95% of it all on my own, including some of the big falls. I had an incredible team that prepared me for that scene for two months straight, and nothing happened, which goes to show when you prepare, you avoid injuries. The guys that I’m fighting, by the way, are all my teachers. They were teaching me Muay Thai, kickboxing … I’d spend sweaty five-hour sessions with them for two months, then I got to actually shoot the stuff with them, so nothing was a shock.
You had a nasty fall on-set back in 2005 when you were shooting the action film Aeon Flux. Does an incident like that make you more nervous about doing stunt work?
You know, what happened on Aeon Flux was a very unfortunate accident, and it was very severe. I was a centimetre away from being completely paralysed for the rest of my life. It definitely woke me up to, OK, you have to be prepared. It was nobody’s fault, but it was just a freak accident where I landed on my neck. I had eight years of pain management, where I just couldn’t get rid of the spasms and the nerve damage. I ended up having a (neck) fusion four years ago, and it was the best thing I ever did. Now my body’s functioning perfectly again, and I obviously didn’t want to mess that up.
And I love storytelling through the physical; I think it’s the ballerina in me, the fact that I started as a dancer. I’m not interested in doing stupid things, but I am interested in learning new things. It’s different to getting on a motorcycle and doing something stupid — it’s precise.
Tell us about the film’s ‘Atomic Blonde,’ Lorraine Broughton. She seems a little like a female James Bond.
She’s a little more on crack! She’s got a mouth on her. She’s really good at her job, and you see her as a woman surviving in this tough world. She’s doing a job for MI6, but also dealing with double and triple agents. It’s interesting seeing a woman have to deal with all that stuff.
Do you feel like you have a responsibility to take on these kick-arse female action hero roles? We still don’t see enough of them in film.
I do the jobs that I really want to do because I love the stories. I don’t know that I’m ever making a mission statement about being a woman in this business — I love my job too much to make it that mechanical. I love if you can tell a good story with a woman who feels real and authentic, and feels like a woman you know.
Atomic Blonde is set in Berlin in 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Of course in 2017, we’re facing the prospect of a new wall courtesy of the US President …
Yeah, we’ve seen this kind of thing pop up before. The wall in Berlin and the wall in Mexico, they’re not the first two walls that have ever gone up. I think it’s sad when we can’t learn from history, and look back and try not to make the same mistakes again. That’s always very frustrating for me. Learn what happened and know your history so you can prevent it from happening again. It seems to not always work out that way.
You could almost be a poster girl for US immigrants living the ‘American dream’ (Theron moved to the US as a teen from her native South Africa). How is America today different to when you arrived?
I don’t remember this America from when I came here… That’s very sad for me. I’m so aware that I’m very much like these people who are being talked about like they’re criminals and drug dealers and they’re all going to be sent back. The forceful manner that people are being treated is very upsetting, because I am no different from any of those people, you know?
You’ve been acting for more than 20 years now. Are there still areas you’ve yet to explore?
I haven’t even gotten close to doing all I wanted to. More than characters and stories, for me it’s excitement at wanting to work with people. New filmmakers and writers that are pushing the envelope and making people think — I’m always excited about that aspect of it.
Atomic Blonde is in cinemas August 3.
SOURCE: newsnow entertainment