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Monster: 10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Charlize Theron Movie

Charlize Theron in Monster
(Image credit: Newmarket Films)

On October 9, 2002, Aileen Wuornos was executed at Florida State Prison a little more than a decade after being convicted of robbing and murdering seven men she met while working as a prostitute. The following year, first-time director Patty Jenkins released Monster, the Academy Award-winning biographical drama that added context to the headlines and told one unforgettable story.

As part of our ongoing partnership with Plex, which just rolled out its new media-management feature Plex Pass (opens in new tab), we have gone through and found some of the most interesting behind-the-scenes facts from the production of Monster that shed light on Jenkins and star Charlize Theron’s process of crafting the unforgettable true crime story. You can check out the most interesting things we found below, and then head over to Plex where you can watch Monster for free right now (opens in new tab)

Charlize Theron in Monster

(Image credit: Newmarket Films)

Aileen Wuornos Left All Of Her Personal Letters To Patty Jenkins Before Her Execution

Although Patty Jenkins never had a face-to-face conversation with Aileen Wuornos before the convicted killer was put to death, the two had a correspondence in those final years, during which time a level of trust was built between them. During a 2017 discussion (opens in new tab) with Bryce Dallas Howard at the American Film Institute, Jenkins revealed that before Wournos was executed, she left her personal letters to Jenkins.

Charlize Theron in Monster

(Image credit: Newmarket Films)

Charlize Theron Initially Had Doubts About Portraying Aileen Wuornos In Monster

Charlize Theron’s portrayal of Aileen Wuornos earned her an Oscar for Best Actress after its release, but Theron initially had doubts about portraying the character and thought she wasn’t the right person for the role. In a 2019 interview with Marie Claire (opens in new tab), Theron revealed that it was Patty Jenkins who ultimately convinced her to take on the role recalling the time the director told her she was “the only person” who could play the part. Having someone believe in her gave Theron enough of a push to give one of her most iconic performances (opens in new tab) to date.

Christina Ricci and Charlize Theron in Monster

(Image credit: Newmarket Films)

Charlize Theron And Patty Jenkins Went On A Road Trip To Daytona, Florida To Better Understand Aileen Wuornos

In preparation for their work on Monster, Patty Jenkins and Charlize Theron, who also produced the film, went on a road trip to Daytona, Florida, where they retraced Aileen Wuornos’ steps, went to her old stomping grounds, and met some of the people she knew there. In a behind-the-scenes featurette that accompanied the movie’s home release, Jenkins and Theron both talked about how enlightening it was to see where Wuornos spent her time and to meet the people she called friends, which ultimately helped Jenkins better craft the story and provided Theron with insight into the character.

Charlize Theron in Monster

(Image credit: Newmarket Films)

Small Details About Aileen Wuornos’ Life Helped Shape Charlize Theron’s Transformation

Charlize Theron went through a lot to become Aileen Wuornos in Monster. When speaking with CNN (opens in new tab) shortly after the film’s release, director Patty Jenkins revealed that this remarkable feat was pulled off thanks to the makeup team as well as all the research she and Theron put into the production. As they would learn more about the real-life person and get background information on her looks, they would incorporate that into the character. This included her complexion, hair, and general mannerisms.

Charlize Theron in Monster

(Image credit: Newmarket Films)

Charlize Theron Received A ‘3 A.M.’ Phone Call From A Financier About Her Appearance

Charlize Theron’s transformation into Aileen Wuornos was so remarkable, the actress even began to receive comments from people backing the movie. Years later, when taking part in a roundtable discussion moderated by The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab), Theron revealed that, after she’d begun putting on weight for the role, one financier in particular called her up at 3 a.m. after his wife discovered that the actress looked nothing like her normal self.

Theron explained that the guy kept asking about her looks and facial expressions, saying that she looked “horrible” and “angry” in the role. And even though she admitted she panicked a little bit, Theron stood her ground and didn’t try to second-guess herself too much.

Christina Ricci and Charlize Theron in Monster

(Image credit: Newmarket Films)

Monster Was Filmed At Locations Aileen Wuornos Frequented, Including The Last Resort

Not only did Patty Jenkins and Charlize Theron visit Aileen Wuornos’ old stomping grounds to prepare for Monster, they also filmed a portion of the movie there, including The Last Resort bar where she was arrested in January 1991. In the behind-the-scenes featurette accompanying the home release, it was revealed that some of the extras seen throughout the movie frequented the same bars and even knew Wuornos.

Charlize Theron in Monster

(Image credit: Newmarket Films)

The Props Guy Had To Catch The Thrown Gun Because It Was The Only One On Set

Unlike with Wonder Woman’s massive budget, Patty Jenkins had a smaller amount of cash to work with on Monster. During an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (opens in new tab), Theron revealed they only had one prop gun to work with. This meant that during the scene where Aileen throws the gun off the bridge, the prop guy had to get in a small rubber dinghy beneath the bridge and catch it at the right time before it fell into the water. And then there were the alligators they had to watch out for.

Charlize Theron in Monster

(Image credit: Newmarket Films)

Only Two Of The Cars Shown When Charlize Theron Is Looking For Johns Were Part Of The Production

During the same conversation on The Tonight Show (opens in new tab), Charlize Theron revealed another aspect of the film’s shoestring budget. Before filming the scene where Aileen Wuornos is walking down the highway looking for Johns, Patty Jenkins told Charlize Theron that only two of the cars featured in the shot were part of the production and that she shouldn’t get in the car if any of the other cars driving down the roadway stopped. And while the scene was being shot, Jenkins and the camera crew were hiding beneath an underpass to not get in the way or distract the non-paid drivers.

Charlize Theron in Monster

(Image credit: Newmarket Films)

Monster Was Going To Be Released Straight-To-Video Through Blockbuster Before Newmarket Films Agreed To Distribute

Monster would go on to win an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and numerous other awards and accolades following its release, but the film that made $58 million (per Box Office Mojo (opens in new tab)) almost didn’t have a theatrical release at all. During the THR roundtable discussion mentioned earlier, Charlize Theron revealed she and Patty were about to sign a straight-to-video contract with Blockbuster because no one else would give the movie a chance. But then, at the last minute, Bob Berney contacted them and agreed to release it under the Newmarket Films banner.

Christina Ricci and Charlize Theron in Monster

(Image credit: Newmarket Films)

Charlize Theron Grew Close To Ex-Journey Frontman Steve Perry During Production Of Monster

Journey’s iconic song “Don’t Stop Believing” plays a crucial role in Monster and is featured prominently in the scene where Aileen Wuornos and Selby Wall (Christina Ricci) kiss for the first time at the skating rink. In order to make that moment special and use the song, Charlize Theron wrote to Steve Perry (the band’s ex-singer) and asked if they could use the song, to which he agreed. In an interview with Advocate, Theron explained they talked quite a bit, with the actress even calling him a “friend” and “ally.” But it doesn’t stop there, as Theron even thanked Perry in her Golden Globes acceptance speech (opens in new tab).

Hopefully these behind-the-scenes facts from the making of Monster make you want to revisit the harrowing yet beautiful crime drama. If you want to check it out for the first time in years, or the first time entirely, you can do so as Monster is streaming for free on Plex.  (opens in new tab)

Philip Sledge
Philip Sledge

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.