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Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road

When considering how Charlize Theron became one of the most prolific action stars of her generation, the simple answer is that she is a badass. That definitive persona was the very basis of her virtual panel interview for this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, during which the actress gave a broader explanation for how she got where she is today in the world of kicking butt and dodging explosions and such.

The 45-year-old South African native gave her first credited performance in director Tom Hanks’ music-heavy period piece That Thing You Do!, but that was certainly not among the films she discussed with IGN’s Terri Schwartz over video chat. This interview on the second day of the social distance-friendly Comic-Con covered some of Charlize Theron’s experiences filming the likes of The Italian Job, Mad Max: Fury Road, and the recent Netflix original The Old Guard.

She gets into the real nitty gritty about the making of these modern classics and what these performances mean to her career and the action genre as a whole. The follow five facts are easily the most eye-opening bits of trivia that Charlie Theron pulled the veil off of in the process.

Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster

Charlize Theron Is Drawn To Roles Exploring Human Beings’ “Messiness”

While Charlize Theron has the appearance of someone who has it altogether, rarely do the characters she plays give off that same aura, especially her Oscar-winning role as Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Apparently, that is just how she likes it, claiming she is most intrigued by “the messiness of being a human, especially a woman” when it comes to choosing a role.

She doubles down on that description by recalling her jealousy of male actors “who got to play all of these really [explicit] up people,” which is something she rarely saw women having the advantage of in Hollywood while growing up...

There was this inherent fear of putting a woman in circumstances where she might not shine, and it was -- I do believe, society has us still somewhat in this madonna/whore-complex box. Like, we can either be really good hookers or really good mothers, but anything in between, people are sometimes not brave enough to want to go and explore. And it's so sad to me because the richness of those stories are not only great, entertaining stories to tell, great movies to make, but it's a disservice to women in general. We are more complicated than those two things and we can be many things. And that our strengths can from our faults and from our mistakes and from our petty and vulnerabilities and our madness. Those are the things that make us interesting.

Charlize Theron then states how she also looks to people “who don’t think of themselves as heroes” as the kind of people who inspire her. A perfect example of that in a character from her own filmography would be Furiosa.

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road

Why Charlize Theron Believes Furiosa To Be One Of Her Most Important Characters

Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller’s Oscar-winning 2015 post-Apocalyptic masterpiece is often cited, by Charlize Theron herself, as a major point in the action genre and in her career, but not just for the revolutionary action. Theron considers the bald, one-armed badass Furiosa to be one of the most important characters she has ever played and compares the experience of playing the character to her own reactions to her first time seeing Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise, adding:

It just changed everything for me. It was like the world opened up and the possibilities were just endless. The amount of intelligence she brought to that role. She was completely in demand of it. She owned that world. But it wasn’t forced and it wasn’t written and it wasn’t acted. It was just lived and she was living in that world in such an authentic way and Furiosa was the first time that I felt like I couldn’t even look at her as a character. She felt so real to me and maybe it was because the shoot was so hard [and] the fact that we were there for so long that we really did live in that environment that made me feel that way about her. If that character can, in a small part, do what Ripley did for me as an actress, as a woman, that’s something that I’m incredibly proud of.

Charlize Theron in The Old Guard

Training For The Old Guard Required Charlize Theron To Broaden Her Fighting Style

The pride that Charlize Theron felt from playing Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road comes through in her most recent action flick, The Old Guard. She plays Andromache, a mercenary with thousands of years under her belt, in the sci-fi Netflix original which, as she claimed in the Comic-Con interview, proved to be one of her greatest challenges yet.

Her character’s agelessness would indicate a wealth of martial arts expertise well above what the average mortal could achieve in a lifetime. This meant that Theron had to learn a whole new style of hand-to-hand combat more complex than anything she had done before. The Old Guard would not be the first time she had to push her physical for a role, however.

Charlize Theron in The Italian Job

Charlize Theron Trained Harder Than Her Male Co-stars For The Italian Job

Early on in the Comic-Con panel, Charlize Theron cites the The Italian Job as the first time she was tasked with performing real stunts for a role, but it also made her realize that a “misconception around women” in action films still existed. She recalls being scheduled to undergo stunt driver training for the 2003 heist movie remake that would last six weeks longer than her male co-stars were required.

Initially insulted by this, she adds that it “put a real fire under [her] ass” that inspired her to “make a point to outdrive all of those guys,” which paid off beautifully by her recollection. Charlize Theron said she “vividly” remembers when Mark Wahlberg was forced to pull his car over to vomit after a training session left him nauseous, while she managed to pull off reverse 360’s without a hitch.

Charlize Theron in Tully

Fear Is Charlize Theron’s Most Essential Motivator

It seems like Charlize Theron would have to be fearless to pull off many of the things she has done and, as IGN’s Terri Schwartz points out, her producing partners are quoted as describing her as such. However, the actress begs to differ, stating the following:

I think that that the essence that I put forth that there might be no fear is completely motivated by fear. I think I just cover it up, but the truth of it is that everything actually scares me. I don’t know, really, how to create not from a place of fear. Not that I’m saying that you can’t. I just have never. I don’t know if I ever could. I think the idea of going into a project and not being scared would actually freak me out. It would feel really wrong. I think my creativity really thrives around my fear.

The strength that Charlize Theron finds out of her own weakness was also something that she touched upon during the Comic-Con interview in reference to the critical and commercial misfire of Aeon Flux pushing her to continue chasing opportunities for strong female action roles, which would inspire her to endure the “exhausting” process of making Mad Max: Fury Road and develop nearly unprecedented action techniques in Atomic Blonde with director David Leitch. That, in a nutshell, is the basis of her badass evolution.

Be sure to check back for additional information and updates on the Academy Award-winning action star, as well as more from San Diego Comic-Con 2020, here on CinemaBlend.