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Vulnerable Monster

Charlize Theron speaks to MetroPlus about how she pulled it off

Charlize Theron: Almost unrecognisable as Aileen Wuornos

CHARLIZE THERON won the Oscar for her role in the movie Monster, based on the true-life story of Aileen Wuornos. The beauteous Theron — who has had her share of tragedy when her mother shot dead her alcoholic father — gained 30 pounds and wore two sets of dentures to play the killer prostitute. Wuornos — victim of a tragic, abusive upbringing — commits her first murder in self-defence against one of her clients, who turns violent. Subsequently she kills six more.

Director Patty Jenkins shot the film on the actual locations of the crimes, and the story follows Wuornos till her execution by lethal injection on October 9, 2002. Material was sourced from letters she and her best friend wrote each other while she was on death row.

HEMANGINI GUPTA e-mailed Charlize Theron about her role.

Why did you accept the role?

When I first heard the script, I was mesmerised. The story itself was frightening. And it was hard 'coz I have never had to play a real-life character before. In fiction, one can take the liability to create and go as far as one can as an actor, but here I had to act against the story of a woman who was real, who was splashed all over the media. It was challenging, having to pull myself back all the time instead of letting myself go.

Were you ever nervous about being able to pull it off?

No never. I never really thought much about it, I just knew that I wanted to go all the way with this film. More than anything else, I had a feeling of responsibility. While shooting for the film, everyday it became a little clearer.

Were you sympathetic to the real-life character of Aileen Wuornos? Did you get involved in the morality of her acts or did you try to keep away from a personal position, which might reflect in your interpretation?

We spent hours studying Aileen's letters, which she wrote for 12 years on death row, watching various documentaries made on her, reading her court testimonials, etc. What I took away from it all in the end was that Aileen was an incredible victim. I feel sympathy and admiration for her. She was a true survivor and the thing that I admired about her the most was that she never wanted pity; she took full responsibility for her actions and for, whatever was going on, she never fell into a self-loathing trap. She had the strength and so many times she was so lost in an innocent, child-like way.

I didn't get involved in the morality of her story; well, it was her life story, it was for real and I tried to essay it in the most honest way I could.

Would it have been easier or harder if you had got to meet Wuornos?

I would have loved to meet the phenomenal woman that she was. In fact when Patty was working on the movie, the idea had been that we would eventually meet her and discuss the film with her. I think it would have certainly been easier if I had had the chance to met that person, absorb her being.

How much did you draw on your own personal experiences during the filming?

Aileen's and my situation were completely different. I think she went through much, much more than what I have ever gone through. And the film was about her, it was her story. So while the commitment to the movie was personal, I tried to be pure to her emotions and not let my personal emotions affect my acting.

* * *

`I hate her'

CHRISTINA RICCI is Wuornos's lesbian partner in Monster. She talks about her role.

You probably had a range of roles to choose from when Monster was offered to you. What made you accept the role of Selby where you'd necessarily have a supportive kind of presence?

Well, Selby is the most androgynous, opportunistic woman I have come across. And it was interesting to play the kind of person I have always hated. This grey area really attracted me. All the characters that I have played till date are all doers — take-charge-people — around whom all the action revolved... so it was refreshing and liberating to do a passive role.

Did you sympathise with Selby? How did you relate to her?

She is a really weak human being; who so badly wants her life to be better, but won't really do anything about it. If someone comes along, promises something, they are like, `yeah sure'. But the second it starts to fall apart, they just crawl into a little ball and do whatever's gonna be easiest. I feel very conflicted and my instincts are so different from Selby's and its more difficult 'coz I don't even feel sympathetic towards her.


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