MOTHER LODE A BURDEN
Tully, one of two upcoming films from Charlize Theron, sees the star take on the demanding role of a mum stretched to her breaking point
Charlize Theron’s default mode in recent times has been badass – from Mad Max: Fury Road to Atomic Blonde and the coldhearted, dirty-mouthed corporate manipulator she plays in the upcoming black comedy Gringo.
But the 42-year-old switches gear for a moment in Tully, playing Marlo, a mother of three overwhelmed by her responsibilities and wiped out by post-partum depression.
Theron, herself, became a mother six years ago when she adopted her son, Jackson.
Daughter August, now three, followed in 2015.
Finding the requisite level of tiredness to play Marlo wasn’t an issue.
“Believe me, I was living that exhaustion,” says Theron.
“I’d go home from set and live it every day. It was hard for me but, of course, my circumstances are different from Marlo’s, as it is different for every mother.
“But I can tell you that playing this role didn’t feel foreign to me.”
For the sake of authenticity, Theron eschewed the traditional “fat suit”, gaining more than 20kg.
It worked for the role, but it didn’t leave the star feeling great about herself.
“I was not in a happy state because of the diet I was on, which was really not healthy, but it put me in a mental state pretty much like Marlo,” she says.
“It would be impossible to make a movie like this and not have empathy for women in this position. Although I’ve had empathy for friends who have suffered post-partum depression, after this movie I was like, ‘God, my heart goes out’. It’s just not understood enough and it’s a really tough thing to go through.”
Change sweeps through Marlo’s life when a night nanny, Tully (played by Blade Runner 2049’ s Mackenzie Davis), arrives to lend a hand.
Not only does Tully help Marlo finally get some sleep, she soon has the house in order and her friendship reignites a bit of Marlo’s old spark.
The film reunites the team behind 2011’s Young Adult – Theron, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody. Tully is without doubt completely gritty and raw in confronting parenthood.
“If I didn’t have Jason and the people that I love to work with, Tully would have been a really bad experience for me,” says Theron, who was also a producer on the film.
Reitman returns the compliment. “As a producer and as an actor, Charlize brings a fearlessness to everything she does. Her desire to be authentic in every scene was the only way to make this movie,” he says.
As with Patton Oswalt in Young Adult, Reitman again chose a comic actor for Theron to bounce off – in this case, Ron Livingston as Marlo’s husband, who is largely absent from parental obligations due to his work commitments.
“I was so impressed with Ron,” Theron says.
“Funnily enough, I know Ron because our kids go to the same school. So I’d see them dropped off and go, ‘Hey, movie husband!’.”
In Gringo, she’s paired with Aussie Joel Edgerton, the two playing the heads of a pharmaceutical company.
Mixed up in some shady business south of the US border, when things go wrong, these merciless bosses feed a clueless underling – played by David Oyelowo – to the wolves.
Gringo is directed by Joel’s brother Nash Edgerton, who had been friends with Theron since she saw his acclaimed 2007 short film, Spider, and sought him out. The two had been searching for a project to tackle together – she has a producing credit on Gringo – and the older Edgerton delighted in making her say lines of dialogue as corporate nightmare Elaine that would make a sailor blush ... and sometimes Theron, too.
“Things came out of (Elaine’s) mouth that I never imagined would come out of my mouth,” Theron says with a laugh.
Edgerton thinks his star is selling herself short on her sweariness and sense of humour. “It was fun to get her to play that,” he says. “But I don’t think I taught her to swear or anything – I think she knew how to do that already.” Tully opens in major cinemas today, Gringo opens May 31
Charlize Theron plays a mother of three overwhelmed by her responsibilities and wiped out by post-partum depression in Tully.