'Human condition' drives Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron, up for an Academy Award for her moving portrayal of a Minnesota iron miner, says exploring the human condition is what drives her career—and that she couldn’t care less about celebrity.

On a visit to London to promote North Country, the South African-born actress laughed and joked easily, refusing to take herself seriously in a meeting with journalists and photographers at a five-star hotel.

At 30, she is one of the most visible stars in Hollywood today, having collected an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award and a Silver Bear in Berlin for best actress in 2003 and 2004 for playing a serial killer in Monster.

She is an Oscar nominee again this year for her role as Josey Aimes, a young mother who decided in the 1980s to work in an iron mine in her village in the northern American state of Minnesota, coping in a hostile man’s world.

North Country, directed by Niki Caro and Chris Menges, is based on a true story that led in the 1990s to the first collective sexual-harassment court case in the United States.

Part of North Country was filmed in Minnesota, in cooperation with the women who inspired the film, a point that Theron is proud to point out.

“They were such an incredible group of women and so open and honest with us,” she said. “They wanted their story to be told truthfully; they said, ‘I’m telling you things my family doesn’t even know.’”

Theron’s own childhood, in a small mining town in South Africa, helped her prepare for her role.

“I really recognised the people,” she said.
“They were very familiar to me. I felt very much at home.

“It was very similar to the little community that I was raised in, where it’s a harsh landscape and people don’t have the luxury of sitting on a couch and crying and feeling sorry for themselves.”

The human condition, “and sometimes its not so pleasant form, is what really gets me”, she added, explaining the kinds of films she prefers to do now that she is firmly on Hollywood’s A-list.

“I have no agenda. I don’t walk around with any specific story I’m dying to tell. My personal taste is anything that has any kind of basis of reality.”

Celebrity is never a driving force, she added.

“I grew up in a town where we didn’t have magazines or television ... That celebrity aspect of it, I never knew about that ... I didn’t grow up with that at all. I just thought actors had such a cool job,” she said.

“All that kind of attention stuff—if that’s why you wake up in the morning and get out of bed, I think you’re going to crash really hard.”

On the craft of acting, she said: “The job is to use your body as a vehicle to whatever extent it takes to tell the story. You’re only there to service the story as truthfully as I possibly could.”

Overall, Theron feels “incredibly blessed” with a wonderful life.

“My mother lives two minutes away from me [in Los Angeles], I’ve got an incredible partner who likes very similar things, and there is nothing better than going and doing a great film and a good job and packing a backpack and going and seeing the world and travelling.”

She admits, however, that camera-wielding paparazzi can be a headache.

“You deal with it, you make adjustments, you change certain things about your life,” she said. “You’re smart about it, you realise where not to go ... You make those adjustments and you go on with your life.”

Despite being showered with praise for North Country, she personally does not expect to be summoned to the stage to collect the best-actress Oscar when the Academy Awards are handed out on March 5 in Los Angeles.

Sizing up her fellow nominees, she said she feels “incredibly happy” for Walk the Line star Reese Witherspoon, and that Felicity Huffman in Transamerica is also a front-runner in her opinion.

Nor does Theron want anything more than what life has already given her already.

“Life is good, life is very good,” she said, bursting into a bright smile.—Sapa-AFP

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