Action film badass Charlize Theron says there weren’t always opportunities for leading women to thrive in action films, but there has been a “facelift” recently for female action stars that excites her.
“30 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for women to do action movies, and the first time that showed itself to me was after I won my Academy Award in 2004,” Theron said on a panel moderated by IGN’s Terri Schwartz during Comic-Con@Home on Friday. “It was hard that there were so many preconceived ideas, and there were so many boxes everyone wanted to squeeze you into, and it was a character that today I think would be celebrated cinematically way more than it was… ‘Mad Max’ really changed the trajectory for me and it made me realize, there is a lot of possibility here, you just have to find the right people who are willing to take the risk and want to explore those stories with women. “
She explained that she’s chosen to work with filmmakers who want to explore those stories with women, or in some cases just develop them herself as she did with “Atomic Blonde,” which was praised for its stunt work and high-octane action scenes.
“We’ve change the genre for women, I think,” she added. “There is great evidence where we now know we can’t hide behind ignorance anymore. Audiences love these films, they love how we’re now telling these narratives of women at the core. There is just a facelift there, it feels fresh to explore the world of action with women fighting, and all of that stuff really excites me.”
In 2003’s “The Italian Job,” Theron was the only woman among a group of guys, and she said she was scheduled for six more weeks of car training than anyone else on the cast. “It also added more fire under my ass and I made it a point to outdrive those guys…women are so unfairly thought of or treated when it comes to the genre.”
She said that “Atomic Blonde” really pushed the envelope, because it became clear that just because women can’t fight in the same way men can, they can fight in different ways that are equally as effective.
“I was proud of the action in ‘Atomic Blonde,’ it felt like we were pushing the envelope, and we were saying that this concept that women have been arguing to fight like men is so ridiculous… that we can fight just as hard with our elbows, with our knees and and with our knees, that’s when it became exciting to me. What’s great is that there is not one way but we are definitely pushing it.”
She also said she felt immense pressure working on “Atomic Blonde” to get it right, given that she was developing it from an unpublished graphic novel of which she had only seen eight pages before she said yes to it. She said she couldn’t get the adaptation wrong because of the fear that she’d never get an opportunity like it again.
“I think the reason I pushed so hard was because there is still a part of me that didn’t want to get it wrong — I still feel if you get it wrong once, you will not be given that opportunity again,” she said. “I made ‘Atomic Blonde’ when I was 40 years old — there is a sense of time is running out so you gotta get it right. I put a lot of pressure on a lot of people and I hired David Leitch for that reason. I told him, mediocracy is going to be the enemy on this film.”
All in all, Theron is happy that the trajectory for women when it comes to action films has changed.
“I remember vividly seeing the lack of conflicted women in cinema. I remember watching Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson got to play all these f—ed up people and women rarely got to explore that,” she said. “There was this inherent fear of putting a women in circumstances where she might not shine. Society has instilled this idea, we can either be really good hookers or really good mothers, people are not brave enough to explore beyond that. The richness of those stories are not only great entertaining stories to tell and great movies to make but it’s a disservice to women, because we are more complicated than just those two things.”
Watch the interview above.
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