Div­ing deep into the world of Char­l­ize Theron.

A con­ver­sa­tion with the su­per­nat­u­rally-down-to-earth Char­l­ize Theron.

Elle (Canada) - - #Storyboard - By Pa­trick Williams

The crew is pa­tiently wait­ing for Char­l­ize Theron to emerge from hair and makeup for the last shot. It has been a sunny but cool day in Los An­ge­les, and we’re won­der­ing how she’s go­ing to feel about climb­ing into the pool. Wear­ing a one­piece bathing suit, the tall blonde ap­proaches the edge and dips her toe into the water. “It’s freez­ing!” she says but then quickly pulls her­self to­gether and slides into the water with­out a sec­ond’s hes­i­ta­tion. She’s like a Greek god­dess un­af­fected by ex­treme heat or cold (un­like we mere mor­tals).

Later that day, in the luxe liv­ing room of her Hol­ly­wood Hills man­sion, Theron ap­pears for the in­ter­view wear­ing a sim­ple white robe. Her face is makeup-free, and her wet hair is ca­su­ally tou­sled. She’s a gen­er­ous con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist, which isn’t al­ways the case with ac­tors. We chat about the Africa Outreach Project she launched in 2007 to fight HIV/AIDS, her two chil­dren—four-yearold Jack­son and one-year-old Au­gust—and The Last Face, the film she made with her ex-boyfriend Sean Penn. You’re left with the im­pres­sion that Theron is an in­tel­li­gent, con­fi­dent woman who has led a rather ex­traor­di­nary life. Case in point: her im­pres­sive fil­mog­ra­phy. She has of­ten cho­sen ex­treme and rather dis­turb­ing roles, such as se­rial killer Aileen Wuornos in Mon­ster (2003). For this film, she fa­mously gained 30 pounds and was made to look very unat­trac­tive. The up­side? She won an Oscar for Best Ac­tress in 2004. Last year, she starred in Mad Max: Fury Road, sport­ing a shaved head and missing an arm. She jok­ingly sug­gests that play­ing these dis­turb­ing char­ac­ters has been rather cathar­tic. “I’ve never had any psy­chother­apy,” she says. “Be­ing an ac­tress is enough.”

For the past decade, she has coun­ter­bal­anced these dark roles by play­ing the muse for Dior’s J’adore fra­grance. The cam­paigns all de­pict a modern woman at dif­fer­ent mo­ments in her life. Theron smiles when asked which char­ac­ter she is most like. “I lay claim to all of them,” she says, laugh­ing. “I think that women can be all of these things at once. It’s a big mis­take to think that we can play just one role: a mother or a se­duc­tress, a homemaker or a work­ing girl. In the past, women suf­fered too much from be­ing cat­e­go­rized. Like men, they are multi-faceted.” She uses her own mod­el­ling back­ground to il­lus­trate her point and also to show­case how things have changed.

“Re­mem­ber that when I first started, there were no mod­els who went on to be­come ac­tresses,” she ex­plains. “It was re­ally frowned upon. If it did hap­pen, peo­ple thought that these no-tal­ent girls were ex­ploit­ing their beauty to get act­ing roles. So I tried to keep my dis­tance from mod­el­ling as much as pos­si­ble so that I could as­sert my­self as an ac­tor. For­tu­nately, things have changed a lot over the past 10 years, and these bound­aries no longer ex­ist. And it is a tremen­dous plea­sure for me to be Dior’s muse.”

Some peo­ple say that you are in­ac­ces­si­ble, even se­cre­tive. How do you, as an ac­tress, live with the fact that you have to ex­pose your­self in your films? “But that’s just it! I don’t ex­pose my­self in my films— I play a role. There is a false and very wide­spread be­lief that an ac­tress has to give up her privacy. I don’t be­lieve that. I don’t re­veal some parts of my pri­vate life to the pub­lic. That’s what I need to do to pre­serve my men­tal health. I want to be able to come home at night and feel that part of me is still in­tact, secret.”

At the be­gin­ning of your ca­reer, you said you dreamed of see­ing your name on a bill­board on Sun­set Strip. How do you feel about see­ing it to­day?

“Oh, did I say that? [Laughs] My great­est dream at that point in my life was sim­ply to make a liv­ing with my art. I know a lot of ac­tors who didn’t make it and who have to take on any sort of job to make ends meet. It’s re­ally hard. I feel ex­cep­tion­ally lucky.” You’ve achieved so many of your goals. What drives you now? “It’s al­ways the same: to tell sto­ries. I see my­self less as an ac­tress than as a sto­ry­teller, both when I play a role and when I pro­duce films through my own com­pany. Be­ing in­volved in cre­at­ing a story that moves me, that makes me think, that makes life more ex­cit­ing—life doesn’t get any bet­ter than that.” I’ve read that you are very close to your mother. What role does she play in your life? “An es­sen­tial role. We see each other all the time, and we can talk about any­thing—but that doesn’t mean that we’re joined at the hip! [Laughs] She is a solid, down-to-earth per­son, and she likes peo­ple. She can get up at five in the morn­ing to go hik­ing with her friends. I re­ally ad­mire her! She thinks nothing of pack­ing her back­pack at a mo­ment’s no­tice to join me for three months of film­ing in Hun­gary and do a lit­tle babysit­ting.” You have adopted two chil­dren in the past few years. How has that changed your life? “Ev­ery­thing has changed! When I be­came a mother, I had al­ready wanted it for a long time. I craved moth­er­hood, and I was in­cred­i­bly in­vested in it. It’s not easy to adopt, even when you’re a celebrity. But when I held my chil­dren in my arms, I was hap­pier than I ever ex­pected to be. To­day, moth­er­hood is a source of joy ev­ery sin­gle day, some­thing stronger than ev­ery­thing else, more pow­er­ful than my ca­reer.” You adopted as a sin­gle mother. Do you feel that you rep­re­sent an al­ter­na­tive model for par­ent­ing? “I don’t know. I’m not try­ing to prove any­thing or be­come a sym­bol. It’s just the way things worked out. When you adopt, you have to do it un­con­di­tion­ally. I threw my­self into the adop­tion process be­cause I was con­vinced that I could ful­fill the role of mother and give my chil­dren all the love and at­ten­tion they need. No one as­pires to be­come a sin­gle par­ent, but I learned a long time ago that you can’t con­trol ev­ery­thing in life. I have adapted to the sit­u­a­tion be­cause I am prag­matic.” In Sean Penn’s lat­est film, The Last Face, you play a woman who works for an NGO in Africa. Does this role re­flect your own ex­pe­ri­ence as a celebrity ac­tivist? “Not re­ally. My char­ac­ter is a real hu­man­i­tar­ian pro­fes­sional. My work with the Africa Outreach Project is much more modest. I try to sur­round my­self with ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple and learn as much as pos­si­ble. I also try to go into the field as much as I can to gain an un­der­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion. But I am def­i­nitely not as in­volved as she is.” In the film, the two char­ac­ters are in love, but their vi­sions of their work are com­pletely dif­fer­ent, to the point that it drives them apart.... “The char­ac­ter I play thinks that poverty should be dealt with on a large scale, on the macrop­o­lit­i­cal level. Her lover, the doc­tor played by Javier Bar­dem, has the op­po­site view: that peo­ple should be helped on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis, ev­ery day. Beyond the hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sues at stake in the film, these dif­fer­ing view­points are ones that speak to us all. You can be madly in love with some­one, but your world view, your be­liefs, can be di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed.” You are fight­ing against AIDS and sex­ual vi­o­lence in Africa and for equal­ity of the sexes and gay mar­riage. Where does your pas­sion for ac­tivism come from? “It’s just my per­son­al­ity, who I am. I’m a mil­i­tant; I like to take ac­tion and get in­volved in is­sues. Even if I weren’t fa­mous, I’d be the type of per­son who writes to her MP. I grew up in a sit­u­a­tion of ex­treme in­jus­tice: apartheid. Given what I saw as a child in South Africa, my in­volve­ment is un­avoid­able.” n

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