Charlize Theron © Magnolia Pictures
Charlize Theron © Magnolia Pictures

Academy Award winning actress Charlize Theron, has taken on the job of Executive Producer with her movie The Burning Plain. The film by Guillermo Arriaga, internationally acclaimed writer of Babel and 21 Grams, tells the story of a number of disparate characters, all of whom are grappling for their own romantic destinies. Theron plays Sylvia, a beautiful restaurant manager who is confronted by a stranger from Mexico about her mysterious past, which launches her on a journey through space and time.

What was it about this character that resonated for you and made you want to make this film?

It was Guillermo Arriaga. I’m a massive fan, obviously, of his writing and when he called and said ‘I’d like you to read this and I’d like for you to play Sylvia’, there was an instant excitement because I was a fan and I feel like his voice is authentic to kind of what I like, so the script didn’t disappoint.  Then I thought, ‘I’m probably gonna meet him and he’s gonna be a real asshole’ (she laughs).  And, then we met and he wasn’t an asshole.  He was just really clear on what he wanted to do with this.  He really believed that the success of trying to make a good film is really chemistry and that’s chemistry with the director as well and I felt like we had the right chemistry; that we would take each other’s hand and jump off the cliff and really set out to try and make the same movie.

You tend to go toward the darker roles, the very character-driven roles. Do you want to lighten up any time soon?  Is there a romantic comedy in your future?

The Burning Plain - Charlize Theron and John Corbett
Charlize Theron and John Corbett © Magnolia Pictures

I’m not saying that this is how it is but I don’t really think of them as dark roles. Obviously, I like conflicted women because I feel like we get so little of that. I guess I like picking people up at kind of a crossroads. You find my characters at a place where they could make a choice that could work out okay for them or it’s really gonna be not good. My God, I think every director that works with me always comments on the fact that it is quite ironic that I haven’t done comedy because there is zero drama about me. I think the sense of humor is a very personal thing and I don’t know if I am talented enough to do romantic comedies. I don’t think I could do the justice that a lot of other really great actresses who get that genre (could do). I don’t know if my comedic skills and timing would be good for that. But I do know that I love what the Coen Brothers do.  I love that kind of character wit; what Gus Van Sant does with comedy. I would love to do something like that. Spread the word.

What was the process you went through developing the character?

I can’t really talk about it because it’s really hard for me to articulate it, because, my process is a bit of everything. I think I’ve learned, over the years, that you don’t really have the luxury of relying on just one way of doing it. So, for me, if I’m emotionally tapping into something and I feel like I have a great partner and feel like they’re gonna be truthful and direct me, I rely on a lot of things and you have to because, some days it’s 16-hour days and thinking about your own drama and your own life might not affect you. I think acting is really fully adapting to your surroundings, to your emotions, to the people that you’re working with, to being tired, to wanting to go home, to being lonely, to being happy.  It’s adapting.  For me, it is anyway. And trusting.  Adapting and trusting.  That’s my format right there.

You’ve now successfully segued into the role of executive producer on a couple of films. What do you find the most challenging aspect of being an executive producer?

The Burning Plain - Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron © Magnolia Pictures

I think at the end of the day I don’t really compartmentalize the job too much. From the first day I walk onto a set, there has always been a fascination that I’ve had with making a film and I think that’s just kind of grown and I feel really lucky that I’ve worked with producers who’ve always encouraged that, and some of them have become great mentors to me and are great friends. There’s something about that circus life that I really love and there’s also a business side of me that is really fascinated with how this industry really functions and survives as a business and how you can, as efficiently as possible, go make a film. And, at the end of the day, you’re just trying to do what you need to do or can do to make the best film that you can possibly can. That’s about it. And then, knock on wood.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.