Charlize Theron is the ultimate Cold War spy in the 1989-set action-thriller “Atomic Blonde”, throwing punches and using everything in her power – including a well-placed stiletto – to beat up bad guys.
“I didn’t just want to play a girly spy who depends on her flirty ways,” the actress tells W magazine. “It would be so boring to just be ‘the girl’ and wait for the guys to come in when there’s a fight. Instead, I thought about ‘Atomic Blonde’ the way I imagine men think about parts in action films. I was intrigued and challenged.”
The film, based on a series of graphic novels, sees Theron play Lorraine, an undercover MI6 agent who is in Berlin five days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, tasked with investigating the murder of a fellow agent and recovering a missing list of double agents. With a soundtrack full of 1980s tunes, Lorraine, the “Atomic Blonde” is a bad-a$$ glam-punk with a side of James Bond who more than holds her own against the men out to get her.
“Lorraine is a little bit like Bond,” Theron, 41, says, revealing she’s always been a fan of action movies. “I really like them. One of my first memories is of watching ‘Die Hard’ and just loving it. Maybe something’s wrong with me.”
While Theron has found herself in action films before, the stunt work in “Atomic Blonde” is unlike anything the actress has encountered. She tells the magazine the film’s choreographed stunts remind her of the years she spent training as a dancer, adding the intense discipline involved with ballet gave her a leg up on mastering the movie’s stunts.
“I grew up taking ballet. I love discipline. I function really well within the parameters of discipline and knowing what to do,” she explains, admitting she isn’t exactly a natural fighter. “I had only connected my fist with a girl’s face once in my entire life, so I had to do a lot of training for this film,” she says, giving the details of a bar fight she was in as a young model in Italy.
“I was working in Milan as a model, and this girl got very aggressive with me at a bar. She pushed me and started talking smack, and that was it. My body just took over, and I thought, I didn’t just do that, did I? It was not bad-a$$ like Lorraine at all,” Theron says.
Theron worked with director David Leitch, himself a former stuntman for Brad Pitt and Matt Damon and co-director of “John Wick”, to get Lorraine’s fighting style down.
“With Lorraine, we talked a lot about ‘What would it be like if a girl was really fighting these big guys?’ David Leitch was so specific about knowing that a girl would never punch with her wrist, or her wrist would break. She would use her elbows. Or her knees. He designed the fights around what my strengths would be. And we made sure that we showed the impact of the hits that she took. We wanted the audience to feel the pain,” she says.
Even with the choreographed stunts, Theron still ended up with a few battle wounds.
“I remember it was day two, my body was hurting, and my face was all bruised up, and my eye was swollen shut,” Theron told The New York Times in an earlier interview. “I remember thinking to myself, Really?”
Despite a few minor injuries, Theron says she’s proud of what she accomplishes on-screen in “Atomic Blonde”, including one of many scenes where she expertly handles a very large attacker with ease.
“I do, like, a wrestling move. It took me a while to get that right,” she reveals. “I was like, ‘We’re not throwing big dudes, right?’ But I did. I was pretty proud of myself.”
“Atomic Blonde” opens in theatres on July 28.