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Charlize Theron Answers Questions From Times Readers

Category: Art & Culture,Arts

AUSTIN, Tex. — The Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron traveled to South by Southwest over the weekend for the premiere of her new romantic comedy, “Long Shot,” in which she stars as a presidential candidate opposite Seth Rogen as her speechwriter. The film opens nationwide May 3.

We asked readers if they had any questions for her during the festival, and I selected a handful of those to ask Theron on Saturday at the Four Seasons. She spoke about how “Monster” (2003) made her more empathetic, how her physical transformation for “Tully” took a toll and how she’s still waiting for a part in a Marvel movie. Here are edited excerpts from her responses.

Your performance in “Monster” was an absolute tour de force. It felt to me as if you did much more than study Aileen Wuornos. It seemed as if you were able to connect with her psyche in some way. Can you talk about your connection to this role a bit more?Deb, Wilmington, Del.

I think the more you embed yourself in the information you have access to, the more alive things become underneath your skin.

They executed Aileen on the day I said yes to the film. Patty Jenkins, who wrote and directed, had been writing her letters, but we never had the chance to meet with her. But her friend [from] her childhood years in Detroit became the custodian of her letters from prison. She invited us to her house and said, “Look, you can have access to all of it. I’m not sending it to you and I’m not making copies. So Patty and I flew out to Flint, Mich., and we spent three days in a guest bedroom, reading as many of Aileen’s letters as we possibly could to just try and understand her.

Many actors mention how playing a role can sometimes impact their views on issues in the world. Have any of the roles you’ve played had that effect on you, and if so which one, and in what way?Frank Komola, Bradford, Mass.

Yes, I never really truly understood the difference between empathy and sympathy until I played Aileen. Once I empathized with her, I could understand her actions a little bit more. And I think it’s sometimes a tricky thing to talk about, because we don’t want to ever justify this person’s actions. But I remember being done with that movie and walking through my life in this world, traveling, going to Africa, and just really understanding the power of empathy and how, I don’t think, we encourage it enough.

You’ve demonstrated your action-movie cred in about a half-dozen films, but haven’t yet appeared in a Marvel or DC project. Hard to believe you haven’t been asked, so what’s the story?Stu Freeman, Brooklyn

That’s a question for Marvel. I’ve met with those guys and we’ve had some conversations, but I’ve never been offered anything. I would totally be open to it. That genre is becoming really fascinating to me, and that kind of physical storytelling is something that I’m really enjoying. So get with it, Marvel!

Is there any physical change you won’t make to play a role? — Lanie, San Antonio

There’s nothing so far that a director has asked of me that I’ve said no to. But for [the 2018 movie] “Tully,” I had gained all this weight and it was really, really hard in my 40s to lose it. I did a lot of damage to my body and I definitely went through a period of full frustration where I was like, I will never do that again. And then of course I know, if the right material came around, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The film industry seems to be making progress with more complex female acting roles (although there is still a lot to be done). But the industry still does not have nearly enough female directors. Why do you think it is so difficult for female directors to succeed? — Cristina Salazar, Baltimore

We’ve gone through a very long period where women weren’t supported in that job, and so now we’re in the recovery process. It’s great because of film festivals like South by Southwest and Sundance and Telluride. There are more platforms for filmmakers who haven’t had the opportunities in the last 20 or 30 years. And I also think the industry now understands the benefit. This stuff is not always generated by good thoughts and big hearts. The industry is realizing that there is something to be monetized here and that women are actually tapping into storytelling in a way that is really good for our business.

You said in an interview that you were stalking the incredible director Lynne Ramsay. Is it working? — João Xará, Lisbon, Portugal

Not yet. I have to amp up my game a little bit more. We had a really nice period where she was in L.A. writing and not living far from me. We got to hang out a little bit. She has a little girl and our kids got together. She’s an absolutely lovely person and I’m such a fan of her work. But she moves by the beat of her own drum, and unless she’s going to be inspired by something, none of my stuff is flattering enough for her to change her process, which is what I admire most about her.

How much credit do you give the directors for helping your performance shine? — Screed, New York

The majority of it. If I felt like I didn’t need that or benefit from that, I think I would just be directing my own stuff. There’s something really powerful about working with people, whether it’s your director or your cinematographer, your entire crew. I often imagine them all sitting at a table, and what they each bring in their own expertise that makes what I do so much better.

Any interest in directing? — Padgman1, Downstate Illinois

I feel like probably, but not right now. I have a passion for storytelling and exploring it in many different facets. I can literally see myself getting into production design. I just love all the tentacles of the process. So yeah, I can see it happening, but there’s nothing in the near future that I’m imagining.


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