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Charlize Theron as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road

When Charlize Theron’s Furiosa debuted in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road exactly five years ago, it was quite a shock. The actress completely transformed into a badass and unexpected hero of George Miller’s epic return to his film franchise. Furiosa’s shaven head and war paint is now an instantly recognizable staple of pop culture, but according to Theron, it almost looked completely different. In her words:

At first, Furiosa was this very ethereal character, with long hair and some African mud art on her face. It was a different costume designer back then, before Jenny Beavan, and the costume felt a little more Barbarella-y. I worried about it.

Can you imagine? It’s really tough to picture Furiosa looking any different, and a look inspired by the likes of Barbarella would have been understandably worrisome for Charlize Theron. As the actress told NY Times, she worked closely with the costume designer Jenny Beavan to craft Furiosa’s iconic look, but at first she would have had long hair and likely more tight-fitted clothing.

Jenny Beavan, who took home the Costume Design Oscar for Mad Max: Fury Road, said that as soon as she and Charlize Theron connected, they quickly realized that practically-speaking, the originally intended look for Furiosa just didn’t fit the character. Theron actually fought to give the famed character the look she is remembered for. In her words:

George [Miller] was really incredible in just hearing me out. I called him and said, ‘I don’t know how she’s getting by in the mechanics’ room with all this hair. I think we need to shave my head, and she needs to be a more androgynous, grounded character.’ You know, he trusted me so much that it kind of makes me emotional.

What an amazing behind-the-scenes tidbit about Mad Max: Fury Road five years later. It goes to show how pivotal Charlize Theron was to the character of Furiosa and the importance of the right costuming coming together. Directors often get all the credit for the vision of a film, but it’s certainly a team effort, and Theron has to be grateful she spoke out about the appearance of Furiosa.

Originally given a more feminine appearance, Mad Max: Fury Road gave Furiosa an androgynous look that has had an impact on how a woman can tackle an action character in a franchise film. Yeah, can we honestly think of another film character that has come close to Theron’s Furiosa since Fury Road? Talk about a challenge.

Charlize Theron’s comments come just as George Miller gears up to cast a new actress for his in-the-works Mad Max spinoff that has brought about rumored casting featuring the likes of Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer and The VVitch’s Anya-Taylor Joy. The director recently said he plans to recast the role due to the “uncanny valley” he feels CGI de-aging technology still struggles with. The filmmaker has been reportedly holding auditions for the prequel Skype during the current global health crisis.

Charlize Theron will star next in another badass role for Netflix, The Old Guard, which drops on the service on July 10.

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