Not only was “Monster” a critically acclaimed drama that marked the feature-film debut of “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, the film also brought star Charlize Theron the Best Actress Oscar at the 2004 Academy Awards.
“Monster” was also the first film on which Theron served as producer, and she opened up about fighting for the film’s integrity during a producers’ roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter.
“I started producing on Monster, and it just happened that I felt the need to protect a first-time director, who was really taking a huge risk,” said Theron, 44, admitting that the character she was playing — serial-killer prostitute Aileen Wuornos, who was executed in 2002 — was “very unusual.”
This led to some misunderstandings with the film’s financial backers about what kind of film they were paying for.
“And initially when we went in to get our financing, it became very clear to me that there was this need for me to step in,” Theron explained. “Because I think the financiers actually thought they were basically paying for a hot lesbian movie with me and Christina Ricci.”
Although this was her first experience as a producer, Theron was no Hollywood neophyte, and realized the filmmakers were going to “come up against things” — which did come to pass when she began gaining weight to play Wuornos.
“There were a lot of fights,” she admitted. “As soon as I started gaining weight, I had one of the financiers call me up. Actually, his wife saw me, and she was like, ‘Did you see Charlize? Have you seen what she looks like?'”
Theron wound up looking barely recognizable after shaving her eyebrows, wearing a set of prosthetic teeth and putting on 30-pounds for the role — which did not go over well with the people who were putting up the money.
“And I got that call, like, ‘What’s going on with that?’ This is back in the day when it took, like, three weeks for dailies to make it back here, and I got a call at 3 a.m. from the guy,” she said. “He was like, ‘What are you doing? You never smiled. You look so angry, you look horrible.'”
Due to those factors and the dark nature of “Monster”, the film had a tough time finding distribution. According to Theron, she and Jenkins were “about to sign the contract for a straight-to-video with Blockbuster on ‘Monster’ because no distributor would pick it up — literally, the lawyer was coming to the editing room — we got a call from [distributor] Bob Berney,” she said. “Those things happen where you stop trying, you almost give up and surrender. But then magic happens. It is a little bit like, we work in a business where we are trying to constantly capture that lightning in a bottle, right? And if it was all about just manufacturing it, then everybody would probably be able to do it.”
You can read the roundtable conversation — which also includes producers Peter Chernin, David Heyman, Dan Lin, Debra Martin Chase and Emma Tillinger Koskoff — in the latest edition of The Hollywood Reporter.