Charlize Theron on the Fight for Financing and Her Transformation for 'Bombshell'

Charlize Theron on the Fight for Financing and Her Bombshell Transformation-Split-H 2019
Noam Galai/Getty Images; Courtesy of Lionsgate

The actress, who will accept the American Cinematheque Award on Friday night, talks about morphing into Megyn Kelly for Jay Roach's film about the 2017 sexual harassment scandal at Fox News and the debate over whether #MeToo has gone too far.

From a desperate serial killer in Monster to a vengeful desert warrior in Mad Max: Fury Road to a dazed and depressed mother in Tully, Charlize Theron has built a career upon playing darkly fascinating women. Her latest role, as broadcaster Megyn Kelly in director Jay Roach's Bombshell, is yet another portrait of female complexity. Theron, who also produced the Lionsgate film under her production shingle, Denver and Delilah, stars opposite Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and John Lithgow in the timely drama about the 2017 sexual harassment scandal at Fox News. Ahead of receiving the American Cinematheque Award on Nov. 8, Oscar winner Theron, 44, discussed her uncanny transformation into Kelly, her last-minute scramble for financing and the debate over whether #MeToo has gone too far.

Your physical transformation into Megyn Kelly is quite striking. How was that achieved?

We worked with the greatest [special effects makeup artist], Kazu Hiro. It's really hard to get him to do new stuff. But I did a lot of begging and he came on and designed eight [prosthetic] pieces for me. Two of them basically covered my entire eyelids. It was very intricate work. Intricate work where you still need to be able to do what you need to do, like blink.

What do you feel is the larger truth of this story?

The story itself was very familiar and one that in the recent couple of years we've had so much attention brought to by movements like #MeToo and Time's Up. History has just repeated itself when it comes to women and their fight for equal rights, whether it's the pay gap, or not wanting to be abused by power, or being threatened that their ambition is going to be used against them. And then ultimately they'll lose their jobs. Women also don't always do the right thing. We tend to throw women under this general blanket when we tell these stories. It's black and white — they were victims and then they were heroes and that's the end of that story. These things are very complicated, and until we can actually look at the complexities of it, I don't think we'll ever really solve it.

Shortly before you were to go into production on Bombshell, your first studio, Annapurna, backed out. What did you do?

I panicked. That's the first thing I did. It was a very ambitious movie for Denver and Delilah. We only sent the script out to our top choices, and that was who ended up making the movie with us, which is such a freaking luxury to have, but what that does is that when you get people with the level of Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, you're tied to a lot of people's schedules. When our financing fell through, our greatest fear, it wasn't that we wouldn't get financing again — it was that if we pushed just one week, the whole movie would have fallen apart because of scheduling.

What was the period of time between when the backing fell through and when you found the solution to the problem?

Literally hours. I shared with Jay that I had a really great working experience with Bron [Bron Studios helped finance Tully], that they have great taste and I trust them. And he said, "Stop talking. Just send it to them." And so I called Aaron Gilbert up and I said, "I'm sending you a script and I need to know as soon …" And he came back to me six hours later and he said, "We're in." So we just started making a deal.

The Cinematheque honor will take in the breadth of your career, a broad mix of roles. What has motivated your choices?

There's something pure that happens when you read material that you know nothing about and something just clicks for you. It's not necessarily a switch that says, "Yes, I should do this." It's usually a switch that says, "What the fuck? This is scary. I don't know about this," and you can't stop thinking about it. The fear is really what drives it. I love that feeling. Most of my jobs have come to me that way. Now that I have kids, that other element of the logistics gets thrown in. Where is it shooting? What does that look like for my family?

Interview edited for length and clarity.


By Pamela McClintock

He's a marketer and strategist who has been a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, the CEO of a cruise line (Norwegian) and helped to turn Colorado's Vail Resorts into a luxury destination. Nearly four years after being named CEO of AMC Entertainment — owned by China's Wanda and the largest cinema chain in North America — Adam Aron, 65, will be honored with the American Cinematheque's Sid Grauman Award in recognition of AMC's "remarkable evolution of the theatergoing experience," says Cinematheque chairman Rick Nicita. Aron is only the fifth recipient of the tribute, which was created to honor pioneers in the exhibition and distribution business; previous awardees were Dolby Laboratories (2018), Richard Gelfond and Greg Foster of Imax (2017), Sue Kroll (2016) and Jeffrey Katzenberg (2015). 

This story first appeared in the Nov. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.