Mailbag: Charlize Theron Spotlight
To kick off Charlize Theron Spotlight month, Rough Cut staff answers the most important questions about Furiosa.
1. Let’s kick it off with a timely question. You have to quarantine with one of Charlize Theron’s characters. Who do you pick, and why? Sara Murphy D’Amico: Marlo (Tully). We could make cupcakes together and talk about how we feel old and jaded and a little depressed. And then lie on the couch in sweats and baggy t-shirts and imagine we have someone helping us deal with life. Zach D’Amico: Oh, for sure Secretary of State Charlotte Field from Long Shot – both sides of her. My quarantine has been filled with bursts of fevered productivity followed by stretches of existential malaise. I want politician Charlotte to keep me on-track during the week, and then hits-the-dance-floor-on-ecstasy Charlotte for the rest. Carson Cook: I would pick Charlotte Field (Longshot), except I’d assume in this scenario that she’s the actual president and wouldn’t have time to hang out with me. So I’ll go with Marlo (Tully) — seems like the best quarantine buddy would be a regular person, good head on their shoulders, who you could just sit at home and drink wine with. Ben Nadeau: I, too, am going with Marlo. It’d just be nice to sit with somebody as constantly anxious and stressed out as I am. Although, if we keep storming headlong toward an apocalyptic scenario, then having a driver like Furiosa would be a strong initial foot forward... Jonny Diaz: Obviously if things really go south, there’s nobody better to have in your corner than Imperator Furiosa. But in the meantime, throw me a curveball: in the first hour of The Devil’s Advocate, Mary Ann Lomax seems like an absolute blast - sharp, fun, vivacious, but still down-to-earth. Sounds like a great quarantine buddy to me! 2. Now imagine that you’ve just learned one of the characters that Charlize Theron has played is 100% autobiographical, but she won’t say which one. Who do you think it is? SMD: Stella Bridger (The Italian Job). No question. Do you have any doubt that Charlize is actually a safe-cracker who once seduced a guy to steal all of his Venetian gold as a way to avenge her murdered father? Exactly. ZD: The correct answer is Morticia Addams, and if you don’t believe me, read this description of her from Morticia’s literary creator: “The real head of the family ... low-voiced, incisive and subtle, smiles are rare... contemptuous and original and with fierce family loyalty ... muted, witty, sometimes deadly ... given to low-keyed rhapsodies about her garden of deadly nightshade, henbane and dwarf’s hair ..” CC: Queen Ravenna, Snow White and the Huntsman. BN: Stella Bridger because a real-life Ocean’s Eleven spin-off is an undeniably cool origin story. JD: If you told me that Theron had an entire double life as an undercover MI6 Agent in the Cold War (Atomic Blonde), and then became an actor later, I wouldn’t bat an eye.
3. Okay, let’s close out this discussion of her characters: what character will she be remembered by? SMD: Imperator Furiosa. Theron brilliantly became a woman who was unapologetically fierce, battle-hardened, and yet deeply in touch with her humanity. Only Theron could have pulled off a performance with such nuance and depth.
ZD: Imperator Furiosa. And though it seems like she’s way ahead of the pack, Theron is playing a centuries-old immortal mercenary named “Andromache of Scythia” in the upcoming The Old Guard, so don’t go counting your chips yet, Imperator. CC: Hard to imagine it won’t be Furiosa — Mad Max: Fury Road is likely to have the longest legs of any movie she’s done and she’s the film’s lynchpin.
BN: Imperator Furiosa, easily. Biased, yes, but stupid? No. Mad Max: Fury Road has already gone down as one of most influential and highly-rated films of the 2010s – it’d be hard to beat that. JD: Based on visual iconography alone, it has to be Imperator Furiosa. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also an incredible performance in the best, most culturally influential movie she’s starred in to date. But since I assume everyone else is saying the same thing, I’ll plug Aileen Wournos in Monster; the Oscar win cements its place in history, and it’s an unquestionably deserving performance. 4. If you had to make one Charlize Theron movie your annual Christmas rewatch, what would it be? SMD: Probably Long Shot. I like watching lighthearted movies around the holidays, and this one made me chuckle several times. Theron and Rogen were an unlikely coupling for a rom-com. But Seth brought out the fun/spunky side of Theron, and her appearance in the film gave it a little more credibility as a movie with a somewhat serious message. It’s a good movie to watch with your family, too (especially if your go-to is something like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation). ZD: Atomic Blonde, because it’s fun and inspirational and if I watch it every year I’ll eventually be able to figure out exactly what happened at the end.
CC: Prometheus is already a Christmas movie, so you can’t go wrong there. I’ll report back once I’ve seen Reindeer Games and let you know if that changes my mind, though I think that’s...unlikely. BN: Kubo and the Two Strings, an opinion I’ve loudly yelled in the Rough Cut Slack channel since my arrival three months ago. Where’s the love for an excellent, thoughtful, and beautifully animated adventure romp? Try not to cry at the end, I dare you! JD: I assume that The Huntsman: Winter’s War (aka gritty, live-action Frozen) is a Christmas movie based on the snow, so let’s go with that. I haven’t seen it, but it’s got Theron, Emily Blunt, Chris Hemsworth, and Jessica Chastain, so it can’t be all that bad, right? Right? 5. Now name one collaborator who Charlize Theron should work with in every movie from now on - but it has to be someone she’s worked with before. ZD: I’m surprising myself by going with Margot Robbie (Bombshell). Theron’s career is indicative of Hollywood’s fear of putting more than one woman in a movie, so I’d love to see her and Robbie just repeatedly team-up for the next decade or two. CC: After Young Adult and Tully, it’s clear that Theron is one of the actors who can really nail Diablo Cody’s acerbic dialogue while still lending the characters the emotional heft they deserve. If the two of them decided to exclusively work together moving forward, it would be far from the worst outcome imaginable. BN: Mackenzie Davis (Tully) because such excellence and chemistry deserve its own expanded library. The Charkenzie Daveron Cinematic Universe, who says no? JD: Theron delivered maybe her two best performances to date in large part thanks to the incredible roles devised for her by screenwriter Diablo Cody, who somehow manages to make the most of all of Theron's considerable talent. I don’t know that I would’ve necessarily guessed it before seeing Young Adult and Tully, but it’s a perfect union of performer and material. 6. What is her most under-appreciated performance? SMD: Once again, Marlo in Tully. I feel like this movie was largely overlooked and underrated. My guess is that Theron's performance drew from her own experience as a mother and a woman; the credibility and persuasiveness of her desperation, frustration, and sadness made her character both relatable and real. ZD: As I wrote about here, it’s the magician’s trick she pulled in The Italian Job to bring a cliché character to life. CC: 1997’s The Devil’s Advocate was one of Theron’s earliest roles and while it doesn’t entirely do right by her, she calibrates her performance perfectly to that of her co-stars — no easy feat for a young actor having to act against 90s Al Pacino playing the literal devil. BN: As Jill Young in Mighty Joe Young. JD: Young Adult is criminally underseen, and in it, Theron gives a prickly, layered performance in service of a deeply unsympathetic character, finding the humanity in it without shying away from Mavis’s acidic and self-destructive qualities.
7. Tom Cruise, Dwayne Johnson, Keanu Reeves. All great action stars of today. But is Charlize Theron our greatest living action star? SMD: Interesting. I’m not sure I’d pick her as our greatest living action star but I certainly would go see a movie with her over any movie with one of the three aforementioned gentlemen. ZD: Yes, for two reasons. First, the others were born to be action stars; she had to overcome a career of dramatic roles to suddenly become an action icon in her mid- to late-30s. Second, and most importantly, she doesn’t just return to the same action hero repeatedly in franchises – she creates new characters and then it’s on to the next. She’s more than just an action star, but she’s still a big one. CC: As much as I swear by Atomic Blonde and Fury Road, this question seems specifically designed to antagonize me by relegating Cruise and Reeves to second-tier status and I refuse to play along. BN: Jackie Chan is still alive, so no. But it’s close. JD: I love her, but no. With respect to those three men, my girl’s got raaaange. While Cruise, Johnson, and Reeves either predominantly or exclusively make action movies (especially these days), Theron jumps genres from action to romcom to biodrama to deep space sci-fi. Calling her an “action star” feels too limiting - she’s so much more than that. 8. And finally, Charlize Theron is winning a lifetime achievement award! What one clip from her career needs to be in that montage? ZD: The range, truly, is remarkable.