Theron’s latest film, which premiered on Netflix in July, finds her playing Andy (short for Andromache of Scythia), the leader of a group of immortal mercenaries with special healing powers who’ve been showing up where their services are needed since the Crusades.
So, it was back to the gym to get into fighting shape.
“The biggest difference is just style,” Theron told the Los Angeles Times this summer. “I play a character that’s lived 6,000 years and she’s a martial arts expert, in all martial arts. It’s just humanly not possible to do that…If you break the movie down, at one point I am doing a move to represent that I can basically fight in all martial arts. So the technique was really hard on this one.
“It had to feel effortless. It had to feel like watching Baryshnikov dance. That’s really, really tough to do if you’re not a martial arts fighter. That was definitely the hardest thing. I think that’s the biggest feedback I kept getting: ‘Make it look easier.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, this is not easy.'”
One of the first sequences they shot was a hand-to-hand combat scene featuring her and co-star Kiki Layne, appearing in only her third substantial film role.
“I felt like it was important for me and Kiki to kick it off just because I wanted us both, not just her, I wanted us both to feel really confident going into this film,” Theron said. “I knew it was her first time [filming action scenes], but I was really nervous too. So it was good that it was something that the two of us could really nail and walk away from feeling super confident, and that is what happened.”
Director Gina Prince-Bythewood told the Times, “I talked to Kiki a lot about how her training for this film was going to be a big part of her rehearsal and building the character.. When you’re thrust into that unknown, training is so incredibly hard to do. And she was doing two-a-days, five days a week, for months. But the building of her body, the building of her swagger, her confidence, was absolutely part of her rehearsal. It was also in training with Charlize and having an example there of someone who has done it before, who knows what they’re doing, who can show you what it’s going to be like. And that dynamic, that actual veteran-rookie dynamic in training, absolutely translated to the screen.”
Incidentally, Theron, who’d been afraid of horses since an accident that occurred when she was a teenager, had to get over that and ride for this film. After they wrapped, she planned to adopt three horses and build her own stables.