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Theron Steps Behind Lens in 'Sleepwalking'

By Victoria D. Sung, Crimson Staff Writer

When Oscar-winning actress Charlize

Theron came to Harvard on Feb. 7

to receive the Hasty Pudding Theatricals’

Woman of the Year Award, she joked,

“I hope you all know I’m a high school

dropout. I just thought I’d be clean with

you guys.” Though her demeanor was

playful throughout the Pudding roast,

she was more thoughtful and serious

when discussing her new movie, “Sleepwalking,”

in which she plays the dual role

of actor and producer.

“I don’t think of acting and producing

as separate,” she said in an interview

with The Crimson. “When I say ‘yes’ to

a film, I go and make a film. If I’m not

getting a producer credit, it doesn’t mean

that my job is to be only the actor. I like

to think of myself as a filmmaker.”

Theron sat in the producer’s chair for

the first time in the 2003 film “Monster.”

Producing, she said, has taught her to be

more fearless in committing to the projects

she takes on. “There’s a part of me

that’s very protective when I get attached

to material or somebody’s vision that

makes me realize that if I do step in as a

producer, the vow I’m making is, ‘We’re

going to set out on this road to tell this

story, and we’re going to go balls out,’”

she said.

“Monster” also garnered her a 2004

Oscar win for Best Actress. Her partnership

with Patty Jenkins, who wrote and

directed the film, reinforced Theron’s determination

to stick to her vision, despite

the hurdles that were thrown in her way.

“Patty and I agreed on a story and we

never veered. Even to the bitter end, when

no one wanted to buy the movie, which is

basically like people saying, ‘Guess what,

guys, you were wrong.’ Even then, we

didn’t buckle,” she said. “I love that partnership,

getting the circus together and

saying, ‘Yeah, we have four dollars, let’s

go make a movie,’ and staying true to the

story we set out to make.”

Unlike “Monster,” in which she played

the protagonist, Theron was faced with

the challenge of casting the principal

roles in “Sleepwalking.” Finding the right

actors was crucial to the project, particularly

for the part of Tara, the film’s main

character.

“I liked the material a lot, but we

needed to find the right girl because if we

didn’t, the story wouldn’t have held any

weight to it.”

Theron found the right person in 14-

year-old actress AnnaSophia Robb. “She

was the element that really made me

commit to the film,” Theron said.

Theron became Robb’s mentor during

production, balancing the roles of

nurturing the young actress and pushing

her to hone her craft. “I was very protective

of her,” Theron said, “but I also think

that at that age you’re still figuring out

your method, and I wish I had somebody

when I was 19 who was like, ‘Look, you

can deliver really good work and you

don’t have to be a tortured soul.’”

Robb rose to the challenge. “There

were days when she had to do really

tough stuff and we demanded a lot from

her,” Theron said. “I pushed her and was

like, ‘You’re going to thank me for this.

You’re going to hate me right now, but

you’re going to thank me for this,’ and I

think actors want that.”

In the movie, Theron plays the role

of Joleen, who abandons her daughter

(Robb) early in the film. Although it’s a

minor role, the actress says she had to dig

deep to connect with the character.

“I really liked the idea of playing

somebody who was a flawed mother,”

she said. “I think it was an uncomfortable

character, but very real. There are

mothers out there who just aren’t good

mothers, and that doesn’t mean we have

to judge them.”

Theron said she wanted to give a voice

to someone like Joleen, who is a type of

woman she feels is rarely featured on the

big screen. “We want women to be either

the Madonna or the whore: you’re either

the great nurturer or you’re the prostitute,”

she said. “Well, that’s not who we

are. We’re real people, we have flaws, and

we fuck up just like men, and somehow

we’re not comfortable showing that in

film.”

—Staff writer Victoria D. Sung can be

reached at vsung@fas.harvard.edu.

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