As part of her extraordinary range, Charlize Theron has cemented herself as one of today’s leading badass women action stars. But almost 15 years before she was outrunning a post-apocalyptic cult army in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” she was forced to prove that women can keep up with the guys to the filmmakers behind “The Italian Job,” she said during a Comic-Con@Home panel Friday.
Before the 2003 film was in production, “I realized there was still so much misconception around women and the genre. Even though in that film the action is really based on on cars, we had to physically do a lot of that stuff,” she said. “There was a real pressure to pull off those stunts with the actors … there was a very unfair process that went with that. I was the only woman with a bunch of guys and I remember vividly getting the schedule in our pre-production, and they had scheduled me for six weeks more hard training than any of the guys. It was just so insulting.”
Based on the 1969 British movie of the same name, “The Italian Job” starred Theron alongside Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Jason Statham, and Donald Sutherland as a band of thieves whose gold-stealing mission leads them zipping around Venice and Los Angeles in go-kart-like Mini Coopers.
Theron said the difference in the way she was treated compared to her male costars “put a real fire under my ass.”
“I was like, ‘All right, you guys want to play this game, let’s go,'” she said. “I made it a point to outdrive all of those guys. I vividly remember Mark Wahlberg, halfway through one of our training sessions, pulling over and throwing up because he was so nauseous from doing 360s.”
Along with her dramatic roles like serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster,” which earned her an Oscar, Theron’s career highlights that include intense action roles such as in “Æon Flux,” “Fury Road,” “Atomic Blonde,” and most recently Netflix’s “The Old Guard,” released earlier this year.
She said she approached her early action roles differently compared to “The Old Guard.”
“When I started my action career, it was so important to sell the authenticity of, ‘Yes, I can fight and I can take this guy down and I can survive this,'” she said. “There was such a level of wanting to prove that to audiences who for years said ‘No, a woman could never fight a guy that size.’”
With the new Netflix film, Theron said she worked extensively with fight coordinator Danny Hernandez to hone in on developing real-life martial arts skills.
“Trying to get that story across, to be very specific, we had four months and we had to really hone in on the things that I could really excel at. Those first couple of weeks, when you walk into the gym, you’re really trying to assess trying to see what you can excel at and what you shouldn’t even be wasting any time on,” she said.