Charlize Theron’s ‘Work Ethic’ Is Best Special Effect in ‘Atomic Blonde,’ Director Says

Stairwell action sequence is being called one “of the best action sequences of the year”

According to critics, David Leitch’s “Atomic Blonde” features some of the best action sequences seen in quite some time — and the director says not much was needed for the thrilling scenes other than the star, Charlize Theron, herself.

“Her work ethic was off the charts,” Leitch told TheWrap. “As a producer, she was also relentless in that she wasn’t going to settle. She was never phoning it in at any given moment.”

Indeed, Theron revealed at March’s CinemaCon that she suffered cracked teeth and has had to undergo four root canals due to her stunts.

Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, an undercover British Secret Intelligence Service agent sent to Berlin to investigate the murder of a fellow agent. One scene in particular, in which she fights with multiple men in a stairwell of a building in a bloody, violent and cringe-worthy action sequence, appears to be a single take. And it is, for the most part, with a couple of hidden cuts here and there.

“There were four days in the stairwell and then another 2.5 days in the street to make the sequence seamless,” Leitch added. “It was a huge technical collaboration. Often times in movies, you don’t have the will or vision of the crew. Everyone involved in this movie, there was zero politics on the creative side. Everybody wanted it to be something special. We constantly asked, ‘How do we not give ourselves any outs?’”

And this scene has been the talking point of the movie, and might be for months to come, as fans are calling it one “of the best action sequences of the year.”

Set in Berlin around the time the Berlin Wall fell, “Atomic Blonde” is filled with great German songs such as Nena’s “99 Luftballons” and Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom.” And obviously, a reference to icon David Hasselhoff couldn’t be left out.

“I love it, personally,” said Leitch. “It kept coming in and out of the film. At first, we thought it might be too referential of Berlin. But you need to have a few giggles. It’s us slightly winking at ourselves.”

But, considering Hasselhoff’s huge popularity in Germany, did Leitch ever call him for a cameo? “No, the reference was enough,” the director said.

“Atomic Blonde” also stars James McAvoy, Bill Skarsgard, John Goodman and Sofia Boutella. The movie currently holds a score of 73 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

“We wanted to make something fun and fresh out of the spy genre,” concluded Leitch. “I think we made something really unique and fresh that rises above.”

8711 Action Design, Leitch and Chad Stahelski’s stunt-choreography and production company, also had a hand in “John Wick: Chapter 2” earlier this year, as well as “Baby Driver” and the upcoming “Aquaman.”

Watch a snippet of the stairwell fight scene in the trailer above.

Matt Donnelly contributed to this report.