This week we caught up with Charlize Theron as she promotes her new movie Mad Max:Fury Road. In an exclusive interview she tells us what attracted her to her character Furiosa (she shaved her head for the part!), how they filmed the amazing fight and stunt scenes and why she is still in love with cinema.
When you first talked to George Miller about Max Max: Fury Road, what drew you to the project and what resonated with you about your character, Furiosa?
She is an anti-hero in the classic sense, She’s driven by these very human flaws. For me, what sets her off is that she has had enough of feeling worthless as a woman in a world where women are only good for one thing, and that’s procreating. And she’s going to take what matters most to the Immortan because he took the most valuable thing away from her when he stole her away from her mother and then discarded her. To me, this is about not letting the bastards get away with it, and I love that about her
The whole thing was pretty secret. There was a script, but it was really just a long storyboard. There was a lot of backstory that he introduced me to, and a real intrigue in what he wanted to do with the film, which felt really honest. It was interesting for me to play in this world, in a genre where a character’s flaws are celebrated.
George and I had conversations, and he communicated what he wanted to do with Furiosa, I think, later on—not necessarily even in this movie. When George told me he wanted to create a female Road Warrior who can stand next to this very iconic character as his equal, I believed him and he didn’t let me down. The material allowed for two characters who don’t fall for each other, or even become friends, because there is no room for relationships in this place
In a world of such dire straits as this, words are a luxury, But trying to get some feeling across without speaking, and in a very small space, you’re forced into a direction that is out of your comfort zone. I give George a lot of credit for knowing how to reveal this film’s incredible emotional arc with very little dialogue. I suddenly realized how much I had relied on words as an actor. It also took me back to my days as a dancer where you have to tell a story with just your body, and once you made peace with that, it actually became very liberating.
Is there a moment that you remember during production that was particularly intense to shoot or just took your breath away?
There are lot of them. We were shooting with these stunt units, and it’s pretty incredible what they were doing. I think as an actor, you kind of prepare for this stuff that you have to do, and, for me, there were these amazing moments when you see what the stunt people were doing around you that you weren’t prepared for—the work on wires and poles that they were doing in the fight sequences. Getting to do that while you were actually driving the War Rig, and having people kind of fall in and out of the truck while this fight sequence was happening—I mean, it was incredible to watch. Or watching real explosions while you’re doing an action sequence.
You realize you’re really in a world. There’s no CGI. There’s no green screen. This is, really, a director giving you the opportunity to embed in a whole world. And, I mean, as an actor, that’s such a great gift.
There was an element of everybody, in a safe way, wanting to really kind of push this film, and for us, on a physical level, we felt that every single day. There’s a scene where we’re driving the War Rig and I have to hold Tom up when he’s falling out of the truck. And because of my character’s mechanical arm, I was attached to him on a wire, but the wire did drop a little too far below so I had to extend my body out of the window. I mean, I think I was prepared for all of this stuff, but while we were in it, it was a little hairy.
George has truly reimagined a world he loves with this film. Anyone can enter it and experience something spectacular. There are some nice little gems in there for people who love the movies, and, at the same time, I think he’s created something that will resonate with a new generation that didn’t grow up with ‘Mad Max.’ That’s the beauty of ‘Fury Road
Once you’d wrapped your mind around this character, did you feel an ownership of her, and did George welcome your collaboration?
Yeah. I think I had ownership because George allowed me to have ownership, you know? As an actor, you can’t just kind of take it. I think it’s really up to the filmmaker to invite you into that, and George is absolutely fantastic and encouraging of collaboration. I think he really wanted that for all of us. We didn’t breathe for six months while making this film, But doing something this challenging and this epic is what George thrives on. He sees possibilities others never would have seen. For me as an actor, that’s always very important.
As an actor, you prepare for certain things that you have to do, but on this film, there were moments when you see things you weren’t prepared for, Like stunt guys doing these fight sequences on wires and poles, or watching real explosions, and you’re actually driving the War Rig—it was amazing to watch. You realize you really are in a world. This is a director giving you the opportunity to embed in a whole world. That’s such a great gift
He just loves actors, and really loves the process. I mean, we spent a lot of time sitting down one-on-one, or with the group, and just really talking. You can just see in his eyes when something kind of sparks an interest. grabs a lot of it, and that’s really nice, to work with a director who values actors that way.
What do you think audiences have to look forward to when they experience Mad Max: Fury Road, and what do hope they take away from it?
I hope that the movie speaks to an audience on individual terms, because, for myself, as a moviegoer, that’s why I love movies. So, to say what I hope they take away from it, that’s kind of killing the magic of why I think we make movies. We all go sit in a dark room, and a story takes us somewhere, or does something to us—moves us, makes us angry, makes us laugh. And then we walk out and have disagreements about it. And I think that’s the beauty of film. So, I hope moviegoers experience all of those things.
You have a great fight scene with Tom Hardy, can you tell us more about it?
Furiosa’s journey is derailed when she runs into Max, There’s an elated feeling when you’re bringing that dynamic to life opposite an actor like Tom Hardy, who is playing at such an impressive level, You really want to set the bar with him. When you’re in the throes of a big fight scene, the adrenaline’s pumping, and you’re just trying to be an animal, surviving
Your physique and look is unrecognizable, did you enjoy the training process?
I had done significant strength training, primarily upper-body yoga and inversions. I look like a football player in this movie, But I hate the idea of scrawny little girls fighting men and then winning. I wanted to look like I had tremendous upper-body strength because there was so much physicality in the movie. I was a new mother; I was going to be in the desert; I thought, ‘We need to just shave my head, “I was so excited that I called call George, and he took a breath. Then, he said, ‘Yes,’ and we did it the next morning. Looking back, I can’t imagine doing this film any other way.”
Mad Max:Fury Road is out May 14th.