Back on the big-screen after a too-long hiatus as the self-centered-yet-self-destructive author at the heart of “Young Adult" (opening this week in limited release, then nationwide on Dec. 16th), Oscar-winner Charlize Theron isn’t acting her age on screen or off. She tells PopcornBiz about playing her character’s arrested adolescence and keeping a childlike spirit of play in her work.
It looks like you must have enjoyed walking around in this character’s shoes for a while.
I did – I've got to tell you, it's probably the best experience I've ever had on a film. I just really had an amazing time. I did this November of last year, and prior to that I didn't really work for like three years. I started a television division on with my production company and we kind of launched that and hit that really hard and started developing a bunch of stuff. But I hadn't been in front of the camera for like three years, except for like three days on ‘”The Road,” so going back for the first time in a while and having it be this was just a real gift. Nerve-wracking the first couple of weeks, and then we just kind of hit our flow.
Your character, Mavis, is a very complicated character – did you relate to her at all or was she coming at life from an alien point of view to you that you wanted to explore? Where did she sort of fit in your mindset?
No, I think she's very real. And, yeah, there's a lot about her that I definitely relate to. Obviously, I think you want to come from a place of empathy. Maybe I don't relate to everything. My life isn't hers. My choices aren't hers. The way we go about things in our lives are very different. But at the core I really had empathy for how she went about it, which was sometimes brutal. Really brutal. I mean she's like this horrible car accident that you just can't take your eyes off sometimes. But, yeah, I don't feel like I have to be able to relate to everything or feel like I share experiences. There are some things about her – just the fact that she's a girl in her mid-thirties and the way the world kind of looks at a girl that age who's still single, all of that sh*t I really loved. That whole theme I loved. But her tool set is very different from mine. She’s in a state of arrested development. She never really grew up and kind of leaned on her world and just went through life like writing these teen novels and never kind of grew out of it. Never evolved. She just kind of stayed stuck in that world, so you can't really expect somebody who has that set of tools to kind of go about life in anything better than the way she does.
So what kind of production/development work were you doing exactly during your hiatus from acting?
The development stuff that we were doing with our company was really, really creative. We had set up a show at HBO with David Fincher about this guy named John Douglas who was the first profiler that ever worked for the FBI. And we also put another show up at HBO with Ridley Scott's company, so creatively I was…I mean just because I wasn't in front of the camera, I was really happy with the work that we were developing, the people I was developing with and working with. It was a highly creative time in my life. And there was really nothing else. I had said yes to [the proposed Mad Max reboot] "Fury Road" for George Miller. And we were supposed to start that movie two years ago. So I was kind of, in a way, hanging on, getting ready, training for the that. And that just kind of kept pushing. So it wasn't like I was just kind of sitting around waiting or anything like that. I was kind of off the market because of that film. And I was just kind of training and do the production side and kind of waiting for that film to start. So this just kind of was a really beautiful accident.
And you really don't seem to have sat still since going back to work. What led you to the upcoming "Alien"-related sci-fi movie "Prometheus"?
Oh, a little director by the name of Ridley Scott. I mean, for me there was always this bit of a love affair with really wanting to work with Ridley. I think every actor has that one iconic director that kind of like sets a genre that they want to work with, and for me that's Ridley Scott. And so when he called and said if I wanted to do this and he was willing to kind of develop the role a little bit with me and with [writer Damon] Lindelof I was really, really excited. But, you know, first and foremost, I mean I love the script. I think people are going to be really, really pleased with where he went with this. And it was a really exciting project to work with and just a real gift to get to have the Ridley Scott experience of being directed by him.
And you also have "Snow White and the Huntsman" coming up...
I’m just on a bit of a hiatus [from that movie]. I'm going back in November. And I'll finish, like, the first week of December. It's been good. It's a huge production. So it's fun. This has been a great sandbox to play in. just huge sets and great costumes – and yet very grounded, the material. Really real and it's even quite a challenge. Really quite a challenge.
So it's not an opportunity to really chew the scenery as the Evil Queen? You do have to make this character have a certain reality?
I had said right from the get go that if I wanted to do this, if this was going to work out and I did this, that there was definitely something that kind of always reminded me of Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." I played with the character's idea of being stuck, that cabin fever. Being stuck in a castle and kind of slowly, slowly losing your mind and madness and your obsessions kind of eating you up and being capable of doing something that you don't necessarily think that you would be capable of doing. So there was always that kind of real mindset that we kind of tackled with this character right from the beginning, which has been really dark and great.
"Young Adult" opens in limited release this Friday. It goes nationwide on December 16th.