The Making of a Monster: For Charlize Theron, the Love Scenes with Christina Ricci Were the Easy Part. Every Other Aspect of Playing Homeless Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos in the Film Monster Was "Extremely Hard." Just Days from a Likely Oscar Win, She Opens Up about Her Journey with Aileen, Nearly Breaking Down on the Set, and What Her Mother Thought

By Steele, Bruce C. | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), March 2, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Making of a Monster: For Charlize Theron, the Love Scenes with Christina Ricci Were the Easy Part. Every Other Aspect of Playing Homeless Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos in the Film Monster Was "Extremely Hard." Just Days from a Likely Oscar Win, She Opens Up about Her Journey with Aileen, Nearly Breaking Down on the Set, and What Her Mother Thought


Steele, Bruce C., The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


Charlize Theron is not what she appears. A tall, slim blond whose Olympian beauty has served her well in an evolution from small own South African girl to Jeffrey Bailer dancer to fashion model to Oscar nominee, Theron is more big sister than scheming ice princess. Her bubbling, nearly goofy acceptance speech when she won the Golden Globe in January for playing prostitute and seven-time murderer Aileen Wuornos in the brutal, brilliant film Monster was the real deal: In her mind, she's just one of the guys, anxious for people to see through the glossy surface and find the thoughtful, congenial young woman underneath.

That's how she seems sitting at a garden table at the Chateau Marmont hotel in West Hollywood, Calif.: drinking coffee, smoking Winstons, and sharing stories of the month she spent filming Monster in Florida, re-creating both Wuornos's intense love affair with a lesbian named Selby (Christina Ricci) and her gruesome murders of seven johns. "Every (lay was a challenge," Theron says. "Usually, you pick three moments in a script, and you wait for those three days to come and really stretch your acting muscles. But in this case, every scene was that scene."

As an Alexander McQueen fashion show unfolds inside the lobby--an ironic and unexpected counterpoint that has conveniently emptied out the hotel's garden--Theron seems to use the interview to continue the long, therapeutic process of analyzing exactly what happened to her during the making of Monster. Having had it comparatively easy in lead roles in more than a dozen slick, appealingly packaged movies, including The Devil's Advocate, The Cider House Rules, and The Italian Job, Theron poured every ounce of her emotional strength into this indie project, written and directed by first-timer Patty Jenkins. As she tells it, the work brought her to the verge of a breakdown.

Both Theron and Jenkins were determined to humanize Aileen, a complicated, tortured, volatile roadside sex worker who was executed by the state of Florida in October 2002. Both knew that Theron's physical transformation--the convincing makeup to weather her skin, the dentures an contact lenses, the 30-pound weight gain--would be powerless without Theron's ability to feel what Wuornos felt. And that meant getting both the homicidal rage mid the heartbreaking lesbian love just fight.

While both actor and director were intrigued by "how somebody good crosses the line and becomes somebody bad," Theron says that Monster is not so much about a descent into evil as it is "about love, the need and the willingness and the eagerness and the hunger and the survival of wanting to be loved by somebody, anybody."

Putting down her coffee cup, Theron recalls one little-known fact about Wuornos: She was born in a leap year, on February 29. The day the Academy Awards will be given out this year would have been her 48th birthday.

The actual events of the movie take place in 1989--you would have been 14, still growing up in South Africa. When do you first remember hearing about Aileen Wournos? When I read the script.

Really?

Yeah. My manager sent it to me and said, "I really love this script--it's an independent, just read it for about 20 pages--you have to look at it." When I was reading it, I didn't even know it was based on a real person. It was only after I loved the script and I called [my manager] J.J. and said "I really like this" that she said, "Well, maybe you should cheek out this Nick Broomfield documentary [Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer]." He was kind enough to send me a rough cut of [the second Wuornos documentary, Aileen: The Life, and Death of a Serial Killer,] that he was working on at the time. I saw the other one; I saw the A&E biography on videotapes and all of that--that was really when the whole story came to me.

Was the script illuminating in a way the documentaries weren't?

Completely. …

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The Making of a Monster: For Charlize Theron, the Love Scenes with Christina Ricci Were the Easy Part. Every Other Aspect of Playing Homeless Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos in the Film Monster Was "Extremely Hard." Just Days from a Likely Oscar Win, She Opens Up about Her Journey with Aileen, Nearly Breaking Down on the Set, and What Her Mother Thought
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