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Monster - Patty Jenkins Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Why this story? And why Charlize?
A.
Well, the story was one that I had seen in the news, in 1990, and I had always read true crime stories, and had come across a bunch of serial killer stories before, in that. But I saw her on the news and she just struck me so sideways. She seemed very unusual and very unlike the other serial killers; there was no sexual deviancy and she looked like this wounded animal, in a war story, more than a serial killer story.
I think it was about six years later that I realised there were a lot of great genre films, in the Seventies that I grew up watching, and I knew that her story would lend itself to a film like that. But it wasn't until two years ago, there was just such an overwhelming opportunity to make films like this, because they were making all of these serial killer films, that I finally ventured in and said, 'ok, let me see if it's possible to make a character film with that kind of funding in place'. And ended up not doing it that way, but once I got started I just followed through.

Q. I think part of the acclaim in Charlize's performance is that we wouldn't have imagined her playing it beforehand. What was it about her that attracted her to you?
A.
For me, by the time I'm thinking about casting I have a lot more information, obviously. It's not like I woke up and said 'I want to do a movie about Aileen Wuornos with Charlize Theron'.
I knew that this entire film rested on an actress' ability to pull off this part, and what was necessary in that was someone who had the talent and the strength and the dedication to show the strongest and most volatile side of Aileen, and still find the humanity in that person.
And, you know, I had seen Charlize in The Devil's Advocate and been really blown away, by how present and how truly talented and strong, yet very vulnerable she was.
I was racking my brain, and I think the second day of writing the script, The Devil's Advocate came on TV in the middle of the night and I woke up and saw her face and said, I just know that she's the one.

Q. What were the implications of creating a real-life person?
A.
I think the interesting thing about creating a real-life character, particularly as a first-time film-maker, is I think they are very different challenges, and the greatest thing about working on a real-life character, as opposed to a fictional one, is that it informs you as to what level and what depths character goes.
When oftentimes people write a fictional character, they can give them very few complexities and contradictions, and all people are contradictory, and I think that it's influenced to what depths I will go to create a fictional character on the page, and to what steps actors and actresses have to go to bring that person the sort of weight of a real human being.
Charlize: There have been a lot of times when you observe people and try and put it into a movie, and some people disagree and say 'no, that's not...' And I'd be going, 'but I saw this'!
That's the great thing about playing a real character, you actually have the evidence right there.

Q. Bearing in mind that Charlize Theron has stated she is against the death penalty, how would you have dealt with Aileen?
A.
That is such a tricky question, in relation to Aileen, 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, so it was a tricky place.

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