Charlize Theron is back in action for The Old Guard
The South African actress does not shy away from physically demanding roles - her latest sees her playing an Amazon in The Old Guard
Playing kick-ass action heroines is completely in Charlize Theron's wheelhouse, coming off Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road and the title character in Atomic Blonde.
It looks like she will continue fighting the good fight - even though she had three surgeries after filming action-packed Netflix film The Old Guard.
In it, the 44-year-old South African actress plays Andromache, an Amazon of Scythia and a 6,000-year-old immortal warrior who leads others like her and is sworn to protect the human race, but has lost her mojo and her faith in humanity.
That is until she learns of another immortal who has emerged - US Marine Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne) who was killed in action but did not die.
Meanwhile, the secret of their immortality has been discovered by a CIA operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and a mad pharma executive (Harry Melling) who wants to harvest their DNA to create an army of supersoldiers.
Premiering on July 10 and rated R21, The Old Guard is based on a graphic novel by Greg Rucka and is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood.
Theron attributes her affinity for such physically demanding parts - she goes head to head with co-star Layne, 28 - to her years of dance training as a girl.
She said via teleconference from her home in Los Angeles: "There's an awareness and connection that I've always had to my body. I understand it and I listen to it.
"I have always lived a life of fitness. There definitely is hard work and there has to be a certain amount of discipline to be able to embrace doing these kinds of movies.
"And yes, it hurts for sure, but you just have to be smart about it. I know that I have to condition, strength train, eat well and rest.
"But outside of that, I don't feel like anything is holding me back from somebody Kiki's age."
Theron had a freak accident in the middle of the shoot - she tore the ligaments in her thumb when her hand got caught in a performer's wardrobe and he moved abruptly.
"I didn't know the injury was that bad. I think I was in denial because we still had three weeks of shooting and we had two big action sequences to finish.
"So I rode and fought on all of those horses with my thumb just absolutely like floating in the air and it was incredibly painful.
"When I came back to LA, I saw a doctor. And because I waited so long to fix the injury, there was some nerve damage in my hand and some carpal tunnel in my wrist. I had a pinched nerve in my elbow. This doctor said, 'Let's just fix all three tomorrow'."
Theron, who also produced The Old Guard, said the representation of so many minority actors in the story, as well as a gay storyline, attracted her to the project.
She said: "I am always grateful when I see source material like that, where you don't have to enhance any of that stuff, you don't have to make a real point in casting it more global or creating relationships that feel a mirror to what our society represents today.
"So I am really grateful to Greg. He always wrote Nile as a young black girl in the military. And we had all these other nationalities. It makes you feel like people want to just enrich these stories by making them feel reflected and represented."
That The Old Guard's director is a black woman is testament to Theron's previous avowals of wanting to share opportunities with talent of colour.
When asked how she explains the Black Lives Matter protests to her two adopted black daughters, she said the subject is a complicated one because her kids are so young, but the conversations have started anyway.
"I think as a parent you are always hoping that you can protect your kids from anything that's as heartbreaking as this, but I feel like my children need to know. It is heartbreaking in the sense that I feel like I took a moment of innocence away from my very, very small children in explaining to them what happened to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and all the countless black bodies that have just unnecessarily died.
"It's a complicated thing to try to explain to a four-year-old and an eight-year-old what their ancestors have endured.
" But it is their narrative and it is their story. I do believe being silent right now is really dangerous and I want my children to have an awareness."
Fortunately, the girls have responded well to their mum's explanations.
"They have become very proactive. They have signs in the car that they have made. Every time we go to the grocery store, they put their signs out the window. And so there is a sense of them feeling like they are a part of something at what capacity they can understand at this age right now."
And what is the first thing she is looking forward to once the lockdown is lifted? "I am going to be really excited, when everything is safe, to send my kids to school," she said with a laugh.
"I don't want to homeschool anymore. I have such a new appreciation for teachers out there. I mean I always did, but this is on a whole new level. I am a terrible math teacher, apparently. I can't wait to not have that responsibility anymore."
The writer is the chair of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.
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