Why Charlize Theron Thinks She Will Never Recover From ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

When Charlize Theron became an action hero, Hollywood was a little surprised at the direction the Oscar-winner’s career took. Many of her fans were unsurprised, because of course, why couldn’t an Oscar-winning actor become an action hero? She’d appeared in Aeon Flux, The Italian Job and Hancock before, but it was Mad Max: Fury Road that really put Theron on the action map.

Mad Max: Fury Road Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

San Diego Comic-Con@Home honored Theron with a panel about her action movie career. During the panel, Theron discussed how Mad Max: Fury Road left a permanent mark on her life. 

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ had the most intense stunts Charlize Theron ever did

Theron became a martial arts fighter for Atomic Blonde and The Old Guard, but she says Mad Max: Fury Road was the hardest physical challenge. The reason was that other movies often assist her with wire teams sharing the heavy lifting. She was on her own in Fury Road.

Listen, I don’t think I will ever recover from the making of that film. It was a tremendous feat what we pulled off, all of us. It was very, very rare that [director] George [Miller] wanted the stunt team to rely on too much wirework. A lot of physical lifting in that movie was real. Holding your body up on a car, pulling yourself out of a car, getting over to another vehicle or action that was happening on driving vehicles consistently, it was incredibly tedious. But, that was the challenge in that.

Charlize Theron, San Diego Comic-Con@Home panel, 7/24/2020

Exhaustion worked for ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

Climbing on speeding apocalypse cars took a toll on Theron that you can see in the film. That’s kind of the point. Furiosa (Theron) is at the end of her rope when she leads the women out of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Bryne)’s citadel.

Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron | Getty Images/Getty Images for Global Citizen

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“The story of Mad Max is supposed to make you feel incredibly exhausted,” Theron said. “You’re supposed to be on a three day car chase and that is just exhausting. It was an exhausting shoot. He physically got us all to a place where none of that was being manufactured. It came from such a real place.”

It was worth it for Charlize Theron

Theron jokes that she’s still in recovery from Mad Max: Fury Road, but she wouldn’t trade it. It’s five years later and we’re still talking about Furiosa, and will be for some time.

Charlize Theron in The Old Guard
Charlize Theron in The Old Guard | Amy Spinks/Netflix

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“I’m incredibly proud of what we pulled off,” Theron said. “I really am. I’m really proud of that character. Furiosa is definitely one of, I think, the most important characters I’ve ever played. I saw the potential, I knew how special it was right from the beginning and I chased it really hard because of that. I saw something that I had never seen before as an opportunity for myself as an actor.”

The action hero who inspired Charlize Theron

Before women like Theron were thriving in action movies, female action heroes were fewer and further between. The one who most influenced Theron was Sigourney Weaver as Alien survivor Ripley.

“The closest moment in my own life that I could look back to is the first time I saw Sigourney Weaver play Ripley,” Theron said. “It just changed everything for me. It was like the world opened up and the possibilities were just endless. The amount of intelligence she brought to that role, she was completely in demand of it. She owned that role but it wasn’t forced, it wasn’t written and it wasn’t acted. It was just lived. She was just living in that world in such an authentic way.”

Theron hopes Furiosa can be a new generation’s Ripley.

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“Furiosa was the first time I felt like I couldn’t even look at her as a character,” Theron continued. “She felt so real to me. And, maybe it was because the shoot was so hard, the fact that we were there for so long, that we really did live in that environment for so long that made me feel that way about her. If that character can in a small part do what Ripley did for me as an actress, as a woman, that’s something I’m incredibly proud of.”