Charlize Theron on playing ugly, going home again, and “Young Adult” – AWARDS ALLEY
By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Early buzz on Paramount’s “Young Adult” swirled in from all different directions. The dark comedy marked the reunion of “Juno” collaborators Jason Reitman (Oscar nominee) and Diablo Cody (Oscar winner). It reportedly featured an out-of-character dramatic turn by comedian Patton Oswalt, playing a small-town loser wrestling with a glut of personal demons.
And while all of those subplots are important, it’s Charlize Theron’s performance as the driving force of Cody and Reitman’s narrative that I’m still chewing over weeks after screening “Young Adult” in New York City. Theron’s ugly-on-the-inside character, Mavis Gary, is one of the most fascinatingly honest “villains” I’ve seen on screen this year. And Theron’s go-for-broke portrayal – as well as Reitman and Cody’s insistence that she work without the usual safety net of motion picture conventions – ensures that “Young Adult” is a film we should be talking about during the awards season early next year.
With the film preparing to open on Dec. 9 (before going wider a week later), I was lucky enough to sit down with Theron to talk about Mavis, the director’s approach to the material, her co-stars and her unique hometown. Here’s Charlize Theron:
HollywoodNews.com: I’m going through this whole sort of strange thing over here because I relate too much to Mavis, and I’m feeling pretty bad about it.
Charlize Theron: [Laughs] God bless you for being honest. And don’t feel bad. We discover our problems, and we fix them through truth. So you are acknowledging the truth. Really, that’s where we start.
HollywoodNews.com: Yes, but where do we go from there? That’s where the therapy begins, I assume. I’d love to hear about Mavis from your perspective, because Jason [Reitman] called her a mirror, and I think it’s a good way to put it …
I love when he says that.
HollywoodNews.com: But for you, when trying to figure her out as someone on which we cold project ourselves, how do you see her?
I just saw a lot of real attributes in her that I’ve seen in other people, and in myself, if we’re being honest. In the broad strokes, she does very despicable things. And you can look at her and go, “I don’t like that woman. I don’t want that woman close to my husband.” She’s just so crass, and doesn’t have great social skills. But I really saw truth about her that made me realize that if I think she’s real, people will tap into that.
HollywoodNews.com: As an actor, when you met people who were like Mavis – even long before you knew you were going to do the role – did you judge them, or did you file it away and hope you could one day find a role that would let you use those characteristics?
I do, definitely, do that little filing thing. It’s a little bit of my compulsive disorder where I sit back and observe people. I have all of these files of things that I want to do for characters on film. I think when I was younger, I was more judgmental. The older I’ve gotten, I’ve made a conscious effort not to be that way. The “mirror” thing that Jason talks about … when I see people being judgmental, I don’t like it, so I’ve tried to really work on that for myself.
HollywoodNews.com: So much of “Young Adult” hinges on going back to your hometown and judging where you came from. You hail from such a unique area. Do you have those same feelings when you go back to South Africa? Do you get back often?
I do go back. I’ve actually gone back to my hometown and seen the house that I grew up in. Quite a bit, actually. I also stay in touch with one of my close high school friends, and we BBM each other all of the time. So it’s not too much of a devastating experience for me. I mean, I don’t want to go back and live there. I’m very happy with where I am. But I don’t go back and have a negative tone. It’s just a normal pang of nostalgia, I guess.
HollywoodNews.com: I’d also love for you to tell me what you picked up and filed away about your co-star, Patton Oswalt.
I just think that I really struck gold to be the first leading lady to work with an actor that’s going to have an amazing career.
Jason Reitman’s “Young Adult,” starring Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt, opens in theaters on Dec. 9.
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