While looking back on her career as an action hero and being a woman in a male-dominated genre, Theron recalled feeling unfairly treated prepping for 2003’s The Italian Job. “I realized there was still so much misconception around women in the genre,” she told the moderator, IGN’s Terri Schwartz.
“The only good thing that came out of that experience was that there was a real pressure to pull off those stunts with the actors — and that was the first time I experienced anything like that,” Theron explained. “But 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 preproduction and they had scheduled me for six weeks more car training than any of the guys.”
“It was just so insulting, but it was also the thing that put a real fire under my ass and I was like, ‘All right, you guys want to play this game? Let’s go,'” she continued. I made it a point to out-drive 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.”
Theron followed The Italian Job with 2005’s Æon Flux, a box office flop she feared might stop her from getting another chance in the genre. “It was really harsh,” she said. “It wasn’t until Mad Max: Fury Road came my way, that experience and what happened with that film really changed the trajectory for me.”
Director George Miller’s 2015 post-apocalyptic opus — and eventual Best Picture nominee — starred Theron as Imperator Furiosa, now hailed as one of the most iconic action heroes in cinematic history. The anointment is only fair considering the blood, sweat and tears Theron put into bringing her to life.
“I don’t think I will ever recover from the making of that film,” Theron laughed, citing Furiosa as one of the roles she’s most proud of and hopes that, like Sigourney Weaver playin gRipley in Alien before her, seeing her in that role will inspire girls to know they could be an action hero too.
“There is a responsibility to hand that baton over, that it’s not just about you. Listen, it’s still disproportionate to our male counterparts out there, and we have to keep putting the pressure on our industry to change that,” Theron said. “I want my two young girls to grow up and not even think that this is weird or this is unusual or this is strange. I want this to be normalized.”