We speak to the actress starring in the new 'Snow White and the Huntsman' film about working with Kristen Stewart and the roles of women in Hollywood
As one of the most beautiful actresses working in Hollywood today, Charlize Theron has distinguished herself among her peers precisely by turning her beauty on its head: either literally (her Oscar winning turn as Aileen Wuornos in ‘Monster’) or metaphorically (last year’s embittered former teen queen, Mavis Gary in ‘Young Adult’).
I think women are way more complex than cinema has allowed us to be. I don’t believe in good and bad – I think we are all to a certain degree, a bit of everything.
In ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, Rupert Sanders’ dark and stylish retelling of the classic fairytale; Theron plays the mythical embodiment of all evil, Queen Ravenna. And while Kristen Stewart, as the raven haired titular heroine is the film’s nominal star (reimagined by Sanders as a Gothic Joan of Arc) it’s the desperate and devastating turn by Theron that’ll stay with you long after the credits roll. With the one-two punch of ‘Snow White’ and the breathlessly expected ‘Prometheus’, this year promises to be Theron’s biggest year yet.
Dazed Digital: What was the first fairy tale your mother told you?
Charlize Theron: I didn’t grow up with fairytales. We had a lot of our own African folklores that we tell. There’s so many of them that sometimes they run into each other. There was one about greed –a rabbit who wanted the Moon for himself – he didn’t want to share it with anyone else.
DD: What do you think is the enduring power of the story of Snow White?
Charlize Theron: I think it covers a lot of stuff. Not just the beauty stuff for women but this whole idea of destiny. It plays with very broad strokes with a lot of things thematically that a lot of people can relate to. The whole good versus evil thing is a big part but what we tried to explore a little more is that it’s not as simple as saying there’s good and there’s bad – it’s a lot more complicated than that.
DD: Does it have particular resonance as an actress working in Hollywood?
Charlize Theron: No, but as a woman in society I can really relate to it. Hollywood is just everything but with a big spotlight on it – that’s what it is. Women all over from any occupation will tell you that it’s harder to age in this society compared to men. In many ways I think we’ve done this to ourselves. It’s really a cautionary tale to say if you put your self-worth and value in your looks, it inevitably will be taken away from you. It’s something you cannot change – you will lead a very empty life.
DD: What intrigued you about Rupert Sander’s take on the story?
Charlize Theron: I thought he was incredibly visual so I was very excited to tell this emotional story that will connect with people in this very visual world. I liked that he was interested in shaking it up and turning it on its head.
DD: You’ve played Aileen Wuornos, Mavis Gary and now Queen Ravenna - what draws you to these unsympathetic roles?
Charlize Theron: I don’t necessarily think of them that way. I think women are way more complex than cinema has allowed us to be. I don’t believe in good and bad – I think we are all to a certain degree, a bit of everything. I find these people more real, more interesting and more human. The psychology of these conflicted women is something I’m fascinated with.
DD: You once said “I’m fascinated by people who are flawed” – was that part of the attraction to playing Queen Ravenna?
Charlize Theron: Yeah I relate more to these people – I’m incredibly flawed. My world with the people in it is very flawed. I often look at movies and I call them ‘movie people’ – like who are these people? I don’t know these people – I’ve never come into contact with them. These people are more real to me. I know it sounds ridiculous but when I look at the core of Ravenna and what drives her – I know so many women like that.
DD: How did you go about making such an iconic character not just a one-dimensional villain?
Charlize Theron: Like we were saying, you have to find the human, the core – no one is just bad. You have to look at the circumstance and work backwards and see where they come from and see where they got stuck in life.
DD: Did you have any words of advice for your co-star, Kristen Stewart?
Charlize Theron: From the first moment we met each other, we just really got along great. I don’t really want to go through my life with relationships that don’t just feel authentic. We’re just really good friends and as friends we inspire each other purely by living our lives the way we do. I look at her and the way she lives her life and I can see she’s doing it because she loves it. She’s not pretending to be this thing to please other people – probably for her it’s harder with all this success. So to watch her do that is really inspiring to me.
DD: How was it working with Colleen Atwood on the costumes?
Charlize Theron: We call her the Oscar Queen. She’s incredible. Costumes especially in a story like this are really informative and she likes to work from a place of character. So with her it’s this constant discovery of who is this person you’re playing. On top of that she has an incredible eye and her craftsmanship is amazing. She just loves dressing characters.
DD: How do you enjoy moving between the worlds of blockbuster films and indie films like ‘Young Adult’?
Charlize Theron: I don’t make decisions based on budget or genre – a good story is a good story. On a movie like this you have a lot more time and a lot more people! I like what’s happening with film right now where those two are bleeding into each other. It’s not so compartmentalised any more – I like that a lot.
DD: You’ve talked about how making ‘Monster’ was one of the greatest experiences of your career – have you found that again in some of your recent movies?
Charlize Theron: I think I said that because at the time that was the freshest thing. Because of the physical transformation, that movie really sticks in a lot of people’s heads. At the core the emotional work was just as challenging as what I did in ‘Young Adult’. With a movie like ‘Snow White’ it doesn’t just have that – it has so much more. But with movies like ‘Monster’ and ‘Young Adult’, it really relies on in-depth psychology and getting to the bare bones of it. As an actor that’s always challenging because you can’t rely on special effects. But the work on this was just as challenging because I don’t just want to work in that insular way. I want to explore the character on that level but in different worlds and using different techniques. I feel like the work I’ve done this last year, especially with the writers and directors, has really been a gift.