It’s 5.50am on a Tuesday and I’m sitting in front of my laptop, ready to talk to Charlize Theron. In terms of Hollywood A-listers, Theron is at the top of her game so I want everything to be perfect for the 6am call.
At exactly 5.59am two things happen. The first: one of Theron’s people informs me that “Charlize needs five minutes” (obviously totally fine). The second: my three-year-old son wakes up and his cries for mummy waft down the hall.
It’s one of those moments where you know you must act, while simultaneously realising that whatever you do things are almost certainly about to go pear-shaped. There is no time, so I get my son out of his bed, plonk him on the couch and give him some milk.
I sit back down in front of the computer just as Theron is coming on the line. It’s all going to be fine I tell myself, only vaguely believing it. Theron tells me I don’t need to have the camera on if I don’t want to. It’s so early. But I want it on. I know Charlize Theron’s beautiful face so well, as we all do, so it seems polite somehow to let her know mine in return.
We have barely finished saying hello when my son walks over to me, his hands looking for help to get onto my lap. He sits in front of the computer and peers in. “I’m so sorry, my child just woke up,” I say. “It’s really early here. I’m really, really sorry.” I’m smiling but I’m mortified inside.
Theron jumps to my rescue. “No, oh my God, you just made me feel so much better because I’m late to talk to you because my kid was hungry,” she says. “I quickly had to get her something. So we’re in exactly the same position.”
Theron goes on to ask me if I need a moment to get things sorted. Imagine: Charlize Theron waiting for me. The thought is almost surreal but the situation is so honest and real that I almost forget I’m speaking to one of Hollywood’s highest paid actors.
In that moment I am a mother speaking to another mother. “Sometimes I think in motherhood you feel so alone,” says Theron honestly. “Like I was [thinking], ‘I’m not gonna even explain to everybody on the Zoom why I have to go right now because I have a [hungry] kid.” I get it. She gets it. So, like every working parent has to do on a near daily basis, we plough on.
Adopting daughters Jackson and August in 2012 and 2015, Theron says being a parent is one of the most rewarding and challenging things she has done.
“Children really change you,” she says as we start swapping stories like I would with my girlfriends over lattes. “I think with children you get a new perspective. They push you in ways that nobody else can. Children come into your life to really point out things that you don’t want to hear. [But] I really love that that’s my [life] when I’m not on camera.”
As Theron watches my own juggle play out in real time, I ask how she manages to keep it all together as a working mother. “I think it’s the same as it is for everybody,” she says. “When you’re working and you’re trying to raise your kids and be a present parent, you’re constantly weighing up your priorities. It’s really hard in the sense that you have to constantly kind of check in and make sure that you are putting the focus in the right place.”
There is something very old Hollywood about Theron. Her statuesque beauty, those incredible cheekbones and her flawless skin have a timelessness about them that gives her enduring star power.
Christian Dior certainly thinks so: Theron has been the face of the brand’s much-loved J’adore fragrance for 20 years. “It’s been an honour,” she says of the partnership. “There’s not a lot of iconic brands that have created space with one person [with such] longevity. I’m very aware of that and I am very grateful that they’re bold enough to have the House of Dior grow with me. It says a lot about who they are and how they appreciate women.”
A new iteration of J’adore launches this month, and Theron will again be the face of the campaign. Developed by Dior’s new in-house perfume creation director, Francis Kurkdjian, the inspiration for L’Or de J’adore is gold – fitting for a partnership with an Academy Award-winning actor. “L’Or de J’adore definitely feels like its own thing,” says Theron. “It’s very intoxicating.”
Of course, fragrance campaigns are not the only thing on Theron’s plate. We are speaking a month before the Screen Actors Guild joins the Writers Guild of America in industrial strikes and Theron tells me she’s in post-production for The Old Guard 2, having shot the superhero film in 2022.
“I packed up the girls and we went to Rome for four months to shoot it,” she says of the Victoria Mahoney directed sequel, which releases on Netflix in 2024.
In the past two decades, Theron has cemented herself as a bona-fide action-movie star with films such as Aeon Flux (2005), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Atomic Blonde (2017) and three Fast & Furious movies. Now, The Old Guard 2 has audiences excited after the success of the first film in 2020.
“It’s a big movie,” says Theron, who returns to her role as team leader Andy and leads a strong female cast, including Uma Thurman, Kiki Layne and Veronica Ngo. Working on the film, Theron says, has given her insight into navigating an environment where the lines are shifting. “I am very inspired by this next generation coming up behind us,” she says. “I worked with Kiki Layne … and I just love the way she talks about really knowing her power and where she stands and the stuff that she just will not stand for. It makes me feel that we have set up a generation that can really – not just change – but actually live in change.”
Theron has produced most of her own work through her production company, Denver and Delilah, which she says partly came from a desire to have autonomy over the work she does and also to help manage her time, especially now that she has children.
Ultimately it’s also given her an opportunity to tell stories that otherwise may not have been told.
“We’ve made some really great strides in the past two years,” says Theron. “Lack of representation of women in my industry especially – but also in the world – is [an area where] we have a lot of work to do.
If you can have representation then automatically that will allow for an environment where females will be in a position to make decisions. Ultimately that’s the thing that will change the storytelling in general.”
The shift, says Theron, is positive for everyone. “It doesn’t mean that it’s not a story that men can enjoy; that’s a huge misconception. I think women make some of the most successful male-audience-filled movies.” Theron names Patty Jenkins, who directed her in the film Monster. “[That movie] seated way more men than women,” she says. “I think we are moving in the right direction, but we can always do more. I always say, ‘It’s good but let’s not get complacent,’ you know?”
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