Charlize Theron: a life constantly in Flux

Following media hype surrounding great performances in “ugly” roles (there is already Oscar talk surrounding her acting in North Country), Theron has now gone to the opposite end of the spectrum, strutting her stuff in a black leather jumpsuit as the title character in her latest film, Aeon Flux.,There aren’t many actresses who can pull off the Academy Award-winning role of a serial killer and then be just as convincing as a scantily clad, futuristic superhero vixen. But, Charlize Theron takes it all in stride.

Following media hype surrounding great performances in “ugly” roles (there is already Oscar talk surrounding her acting in North Country), Theron has now gone to the opposite end of the spectrum, strutting her stuff in a black leather jumpsuit as the title character in her latest film, Aeon Flux.

The movie is based on an animated MTV series developed by writer Peter Chung in 1995.

The 30-year-old actress said she took an immediate interest in the role despite being unfamiliar with the television show, according to the transcript of a recent conference call Theron participated in with college media.

“I was raised in South Africa and we did not have MTV,” she said. “So I never knew about the show. When the offer came through, I rented a couple of tapes and started watching it and really liked it and thought it was really edgy and different.”

After portraying real-life women like the aforementioned Aileen Wuornos in Monster and, most recently, female activist Josey Aimes in North Country, the role of cartoon character Aeon Flux was quite a leap for Theron. She said, however, that despite the fictional basis for her latest role, the process of finding a connection with the character was similar to her preparation for other films.

“It is the same for me whether it is contemporary or real life or fiction or future,” she said. “Whatever the genre is, it does not really matter to me. At the end of the day I just want to do something that still has, at its core, some form of a reality and [Aeon Flux] was very real to me.”

Although there are undeniable differences among Theron’s most recent roles, they all have the common thread of being strong, resilient female personalities.

“I think [Aeon Flux] was very much a woman and she was conflicted the same way I think a lot of women are,” Theron said. “And yet, the story takes place 400 years in the future and her circumstances are very different. But I think at the core she is smart, she is intelligent, she is very good at what she does. And she asks questions and she is constantly kind of challenging the world that she lives in and those things I really liked. I liked that strength.”

Both Theron and director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) were new to the science-fiction genre when they began working on Aeon Flux. But, according to Theron, this actually ended up being a positive influence on the end result.

“I think the studio took a chance on both of us,” she said. “For me it was a great challenge because, yes, I have never done this kind of thing. But, that was the great thing about it for me, to do something that was very foreign.”

Theron said she wanted the character of Aeon Flux to be seen as more of a human than just a “superhero,” and she thought that Kusama as a director would be able to accomplish this feat.

“There is something I like about studios giving directors who come from a character background . a chance to do these kind of films,” she said. “Because I find, a lot of times, that element of humanity is kind of missing in these kind of stories and that so much focus gets placed on just the visual and just the futuristic aspect of it that the human core of it is always lost … I knew with [Kusama] that the character would not get lost.”

Even so, according to Theron, the inherent differences among her recent roles have tested her versatility as an actress.

“They all have different elements,” Theron said. “You cannot kind of throw them all in the same basket. You cannot compare a film like Aeon Flux to North Country or Monster. They are different genres and you have to celebrate them for that and it does not make one easier than the other. Aeon Flux was one of the hardest films I ever had to make.”

Some of the difficulties of filming Aeon Flux included the physical demands of the role. Theron even suffered a herniated disc in her neck during a stunt on the shoot, which sent the actress to the hospital and put production on hiatus for several weeks.

“This was a hard physical film for me to do so I had been kind of injuring myself in lighter ways so many times on it and I was so prepared to go through that kind of pain,” she said. “When that happened it was a little bit more serious.”

In spite of her injuries, however, Theron insisted on continuing to perform the acrobatics herself, and has since made a full recovery.

“One of the huge reasons why I took this job was because I wanted to do the physical stuff,” she said. “That was so much a part of the character for me that I could not imagine just having stunt people do it . At the same time, I also do not want to break my neck for a film, but you just find the medium and you take the precautions and you try and be a little bit more careful afterwards.”

Although the film is set in the distant future, Theron said she believes that Aeon Flux has thematic significance today.

“The whole film is really about questioning your government and I think right now, in this day and age, the majority of America is doing that,” she said. “I think it is a very relevant film . I sometimes did not think of this as a futuristic film at all. It deals with issues that I think we are dealing with right now and if we do not pay attention to them we will be dealing with the final product of what Aeon Flux deals with 400 years in the future. So maybe we can learn something.”

No matter what audiences take from the film, it is evident that Theron has learned something from each character she has portrayed.

“For me as an actor, the most important thing always has just been to be true to myself and to do work that really means something to me, whether it has a social message or whether it is just a great entertaining film,” she said. “There is nothing that I walk around in my head going, ‘God I really want to do this or I want to play something in this genre’ … Those things are usually a surprise and they are usually things that I least expected myself to do.”