A/V Room









Monster - Charlize Theron Q&A

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Was there an inkling that if you pulled this job off, this could be the highlight of your acting career to date?
I knew that it was the kind of material that, if it was done correctly, could be something incredibly interesting.
It was definitely the kind of story, first and foremost, 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, women, when they do it, it's almost not encouraged because it's almost uncomfortable to watch.
Before meeting Patty, I knew that if it were in the hands of some young, 'let's do the MTV/lesbian/serial killer, pump the music, sort of movie', it would be a disaster.
And so, meeting Patty was really important to me, and it was in meeting her that I immediately wanted to do the film, because it was really her vision and how she wanted to tell this story.
Patty and I always joke about this, because I think we both really knew that it was the kind of thing that you either tap into and want to do, that's not necessarily the thing that everyone's going to tap into and want to see, that if we got it playing in one art-house screen and eight people went to see it on the first night, that would be really awesome [laughs].
And then it just became a personal journey for us. We believed in the story and wanted to tell it truthfully and with integrity, and I knew that being a part of something like that, as an actress, with Patty, 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 and changed, and that I would grow as an actor.

Q. Were there any doubts that you wouldn't be able to pull it off?
I drove Patty insane, because it was odd for me, as I had never had a film-maker come to me and believe in me as much as this woman did. It was amazing, and very strange, and I had to get used to it, because I'm usually the one who has to go into the room and prove myself, showing people that I'm willing to do it.
You know, don't think of me as this celebrity walking down the red carpet, that's not... I'm an actor, and there's a process involved, and you have to sort of visualise it. And very few people do that.
And the fact that Patty didn't ask any of that of me, and said I want to make this movie with you, you're the only person who can play Aileen Wuornos, was incredible.
But there were many times that I would call her at some crazy hour in the night. I was filled with a lot of anxiety on this film.
I think the whole process of acting is a kind of discovery that you go through. The entire time you're working on a film, you don't ever get to the kind of place where you sit back and relax, now I have it. But in this case, it was really heightened. Even on the second to last day, I was still asking questions and discovering things. I had many dreams of being replaced.
Yet she was incredible and understanding and nurturing through all of that.

Q. Did anyone close to you advise you that there might be dangers in taking the role?
No, so many people are using the word brave, in relation to this role, but in so many ways I just feel extremely lucky, because I think these are the kind of parts that women are dying to do.
Actually, the actresses I'm talking to, 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 way, too'.
So 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 than how they've been used before.
When my manager read the script, she instantly said she thought it was incredible, as this type of material doesn't come around very often.
She had the same concern I was talking about earlier, in that we didn't know Patty, who was a first-time director, but that was the only concern, and that's why we immediately met with her, and after that had happened, the two of us looked at each other and went 'where do we sign'?
The fact that she believed in me, helped me to view it as a great opportunity - as did my manager and a lot of people close to me.

Q. You've now played two real people back to back - Britt Ekland and Aileen Wuornos - do you find it more useful to have all that information that they are real people, or do you like building a character from scratch?
Both, you know. I think at the end of the day, it's really the story that counts. I've never walked around with this vision in my head of the perfect part, this role I wish I could play. It's great when you can read material and something that you never really thought you would be playing can actually become a possibility.
The difference, for me, is that 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. 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 for the sake of a better movie, or embellish parts for more excitement. We did it with integrity.
You don't have that when you're playing a fictional character. I mean, you have it to a certain extent, because you have to make it human.

Q. You put on 25 to 30 pounds for the role, what did you have to do to put it on and how difficult was it to take it off?
It was quite a shock to me how people responded to all of that stuff in the beginning, because I wasn't prepared for it.
But the interesting thing was that everything we did physically, the way Patty and I approached it was never like making a little list of things that we're going to do. It was so organic.
For some reason, because it's a real-life character and because I had all these images of Aileen, I imagined that this would be how I would find the character - from the outside in.
But when we started doing research, it really changed. We barely talked about the physical aspects in the beginning, rather we started doing research and taking road trips together and went to places where Aileen lived, and hung out, and started reading these letters that she wrote in the 12 years she was on Death Row to a really good friend in Michigan. The more we got to know her, emotionally, the more the physical stuff just came to happen.
Whenever we would read a scene through, things would just start to happen to my body, and I realised that everything about her physically was there because of the emotional stuff.
She didn't look the way she looked because she thought it was cool; she looked that way because those were the consequences of the life that she was leading. It was never that we thought she was fat, or anything, but Patty and I read a letter where we knew that she had a child when she was 13, and that she obviously was homeless and didn't know where her next meal was coming from, she'd never set foot into a gym. But she wrote in one letter that even though she was a prostitute and pretty much did everything, the one thing she never did was take her shirt off.
I remember Patty and I had gone what sort of mindset did you have to be in to feel that way about your body, and so it just made sense to me to get my body to a place where I tried tom imagine what it would be like if I had to eat that way and live that way.
So, to answer your question, very much fun to put it on, and very painful to lose.

Q. How did you bond with Christina Ricci?
It's really incredible that when the three of us got together, there is a certain amount of respect that you have to just have for other actors, and for how they want to go about finding their characters and how they want to rehearse, even if it doesn't necessarily work for you.
The three of us got together and were sitting in the basement of my house. There was no plan, or anything, but we just started talking, and three hours went by and we were still just talking about these people, and this story and this life, and asking questions, and reading scenes and discussing all of it.
We did three days of that and it was just the most incredible rehearsal process I have ever had, because that was what the three of us really wanted to do. It was great to be able to work together, very similarly, towards this sort of stuff.
I love that stuff, trying to find the puzzle and piece it together.

Q. Congratulations on the Oscar. What went through your mind when Adrien Brody read out your name?
That I'm going to have to make out with him! With the other award shows, I thought maybe it would be easier as I'd had a little bit of practice, but it's just never... This whole experience has been such a surprise. Patty and I have had a lot of 'oh my God' moments. It's just so unbelievable and unexpected.
We really just went to have a good night because you just don't know what's going to happen. And when it did happen, I was just a mess. I didn't know how to get on stage, and I didn't know what I was saying until I actually heard it, and I'm not a really good speaker in front of a lot of people; English becomes a fourth language and I get hives.
So it's incredible but at the same time nerve-wracking.

Q. You said that you're against capital punishment, so what do you feel would have been the ideal punishment for Aileen? And did you have a private mantra that you said to yourself before the more difficult takes?
No, for both of us, whenever I had a question for Patty, the one thing she always said was that we just have to stick to the truth. And that was really incredible, because she was really up against a lot.
Patty really stuck to the story she wanted to tell.
The thing I loved about making the film with Patty is that, for the first-time, I really truly felt like I was in a partnership. That the two of us were going to stick together, no matter what, and to have that sort of trust in someone was really incredible. So whatever the situation was, or however hard it was, the two of us were together.
That didn't mean that we were taking it easy on each other. There were a lot of times that some of the scenes were extremely hard for me to do, as we had 28 days to complete the shoot, and exhaustion played a huge part, 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 to answer your question, 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.
As for what I would have liked to see happen to Aileen, that's difficult, because I don't have the perfect answer.
What Aileen's story represented to me, was that it opens the idea that if we actually took the time, to look at how these things happen, then maybe that way we can stop them.
Because 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; there's so many people out there who live these desperate lives, and through their circumstances get pushed into a corner and make these really terrible decisions. That was why I wanted to tell this story, cos 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.

Q. Do you find yourself staying in character?
No, I can't. It's almost impossible to explain the sort of situation to explain what it was like shooting this movie, because we had a great time. People kind of go, 'that doesn't sound very nice'.
But all of us worked so close, it became such an intimate set, and the calibre of people who came on board.
I find that I'm much more effective if I can actually take a break from it, emotionally, and come back to it. Other times, it is easier to stay in it. And Patty was good at being able to read that. But most of the time, I fairly desperately need to have a laugh, to get out of it and clear my head, completely. And it was great, because people could kind of sense those sort of things - when you need to be left alone, or need some humour to lift you a bit.

Q. What ambitions do you have left?
To work with Patty Jenkins again. At the end of the day, it's been an incredible honour, but there's never the guarantee of those sorts of things. I feel extremely lucky to have met Patty and to have been a part of her first film, and know she is going to turn into an incredible director. I just hope that she will give me another job.


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