Feature by: Jack Foley
FOR both Oscar-winning actress, Charlize Theron, and writer-director,
Patty Jenkins, the most important challenge of filming Monster,
was staying true to the facts concerning serial killer, Aileen
"You have a much bigger responsibility when it's a real-life
character, because it is someone's life, and whether they've done
horrible things, it doesn't take away from the fact that it is
their life, and you have to respect that," explained Theron,
at a press conference in London, on the eve of the films
UK premiere, in Leicester Square.
"At the end of the day, it was very important for me and
Patty to be able to walk away from this film and have a clear
conscience, and know that we told the truth and hadn't tried to
manipulate it for the sake of a better movie. We did it with integrity."
It is little wonder, therefore, to find that the subsequent film
has attracted widespread critical acclaim, as well as landing
Theron with numerous awards, including the best actress accolade
from the Academy.
In order to portray Wuornos, who was dubbed Americas first
female serial killer after murdering six middle-aged men, between
1989 and 1990, Wuornos completely transformed herself, putting
on 25 to 30 pounds in weight, donning false teeth and scrubbing
herself of make-up.
Yet Theron relished the challenge from the start, despite a gruelling
28-day shoot, and running close to exhaustion on a couple of occasions.
"I knew that it was the kind of material that, if done correctly,
could be something incredibly interesting," she commented.
"It was definitely the kind of story that I was interested
in because I find it very rare that women get to play really conflicted,
flawed characters. Those are usually the parts that De Niro gets
to do, and Dustin Hoffman, and when they do it, it's accepted
and almost cool, yet for some reason, when women do it, it's almost
not encouraged because it's uncomfortable to watch."
Her only real reservation about taking on the role was if it
had been placed in the hands of some young 'let's do the
MTV/lesbian/serial killer, pump the music, sort of movie', which
would have been a disaster.
"But meeting Patty was really important to me, and after
that happened, I immediately wanted to do the film, because it
was really her vision and how she wanted to tell this story.
"It then became a personal journey for us. We believed in
the story and wanted to tell it truthfully. And I knew that being
a part of something like that, as an actress, would definitely
change things for me.
"Whether it was going to win awards, you don't know, but
I knew that I would walk away from this definitely being challenged
Her performance has also inspired fellow actresses to believe
that they, too, could be offered material as challenging in the
"I've received so many great cards from actresses my age,
who say 'god, we can't even be jealous of you, but encouraged
that hopefully someone will look at us that way, and use us that
"I think that so many actresses are really dying to find
a film-maker who can see them and utilise them in a different
way to how they've been used before."
Theron remains remarkably grateful for the role, and describes
her relationship with Jenkins as one of the most enjoyable aspects
of shooting, describing the bond shared between them as a
partnership, which helped her through some of the harder
"That didn't mean that we were taking it easy on each other,"
she continued. "There were a lot of times that some of the
scenes were extremely hard for me to do, and I'd be lying on the
ground and she'd come up to me and say 'babe, I'm sorry, but we're
going to have to do it again'.
"But that's what you want. At the end of the day, you want
someone you can trust, who's not going to settle for mediocre,
but someone who is constantly going to keep pushing you.
"But the only thing we wanted to keep in mind was Aileen
and her victims, the people who were a part of the story. To not
make any decision without keeping them in mind."
Theron clearly became influenced by the plight of Wuornos while
making the film and, together with Jenkins, describes the day
she was executed as one of the most difficult of the shoot.
The actress is openly against the death penalty, and told one
journalist, who asked whether she thought there could have been
a better punishment for Wuornos, that what Aileen's story
represented to me, was that it opened the idea that if we actually
took the time to look at how these things happen, then maybe that
way we can stop them.
"I think what we're doing now is just dealing with the consequences,
and I think that there's actually a way to look at someone like
Aileen, who's not a solitary case," she explained.
"That was why I wanted to tell this story, because I think
that if we can get to a place where we realise that the death
penalty isn't working, and come up with a different way of stopping
these things from happening, that could maybe be better."
Jenkins, too, finds the circumstances surrounding Wuornos
execution difficult to properly address, given the psychological
condition of the killer.
In answering the same question, she observed: "This is so
tricky because of the fact she wanted to be executed, desperately.
"The thing that makes me the saddest about someone in her
circumstances, is that there is no attempt to rehabilitate somebody
when you know you're going to execute them, so essentially they're
left sitting in a room for 12 years.
"I mean, if she was going to live, and would not have been
executed, it would have been wonderful if she could have had some
psychological help, because she suffered a tremendous amount of
guilt and confusion, between the fact that she had done these
horrible things, yet these horrible things were done to her.
"She would fluctuate wildly between 'they all deserved it'
to 'no, I'm a terrible person, kill me'. And that was her inability
to understand the grey, which was what our whole film was about.
"The day Aileen was executed was one of the most difficult
days of our lives, because we had even said to everyone involved,
if you want any help in an appeal process, we would help. But
no, she wanted to be executed.
"So there was a part of us that was happy for her, that
she escaped this horrible life, and, obviously, the victims' families
found satisfaction in it, as well."
As tragic as the circumstances surrounding Wuornos life
and death remain, however, the story has helped Theron to great
personal joy, the highlight of which was her best actress triumph
at the Oscars - the movie industrys most prestigious awards
When asked how she felt upon hearing her name read out, she merely
blushed and recalled: "When it happened, I was just a mess.
I didn't know how to get on stage, or what I was saying until
I actually heard it later, and I'm not a really good speaker in
front of a lot of people - English becomes a fourth language and
I get hives.
"But this whole experience has been such a surprise, as
it just so unbelievable and unexpected," she concluded.