Charlize Theron Says a Producer Once Called Her at 3 a.m. to Say She Was "Fat and Ugly"
She learned to disregard unsolicited opinions early in her career.
As an actor, Charlize Theron's job is to disappear into a role. So, to hear that a producer saw her work in a film and took it upon himself to call her in the middle of the night to tell her that she looked "fat" and "ugly" is even more nonsensical than it is shocking.
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Theron opened up about her career as both a performer and a producer, including sharing a story about her negative experience with a financial backer in the early 2000s. At the time, Theron knew that the producer's words were uncalled for but also said that there was a part of her that still wondered if he was right. Read on to see what else the actor had to say and to find out what movie she was working on at the time.
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Theron transformed her appearance for a 2003 film.
Theron starred in the 2003 movie Monster as Aileen Wuornos, a real-life serial killer who was executed in 2002. Her transformation for the role included the actor gaining weight, wearing fake teeth and contacts, shaving her eyebrows, and wearing makeup that altered her look.
In an interview with The Advocate at the time, Theron was asked how it felt when she saw herself in character for the first time. "It's not the answer that people expect," she said. "I was very happy [laughs]. I was very happy because I was very concerned that it would become a joke. I didn't want it to become about makeup or about a caricature or anything like that. And so I was really nervous. So the first day that we did all of it and I looked in the mirror, I was like [gasps], OK, I'm feeling this—this feels very authentic to me and very real and it's not a joke. I was very happy."
A producer called to critique her looks.
In her new interview with THR, Theron said that a producer of the film called her after seeing footage from Monster and commented on the way she looked.
Theron explained that she and writer-director Patty Jenkins "were surrounded by older, white men," adding, [W]e knew the movie we were making, but they didn't."
She went on to say, "I remember one night, three weeks in, our financier calls. He had obviously tried Patty first, but I was stupid enough to pick up the phone at 3 a.m. He was like, 'I just got the dailies and you're so fat and so ugly and you never smile.'"
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Her director supported her.
While Theron knew that she was supposed to look a certain way for the role, she was still taken aback by the comment. She said that she told Jenkins, who immediately dismissed it.
"I was like, 'Oh my God.' And I called Patty and she goes, 'Don't [expletive] listen to that.' That was the first time I heard a woman go, '[Expletive] them,' and it was a rebellion that I never knew before. I was always the one kind of charging it, but in a way safer way than she was because there was a part of me that was almost like, 'Maybe he's right.'"
She thinks producers gravely misunderstood the movie.
Theron, who was also a producer for Monster, said in a producers roundtable conversation for THR in 2019 that some of the other producers—including the man who called her—didn't understand the movie.
"I think the financiers actually thought they were basically paying for a hot lesbian movie with me and Christina Ricci," she explained. "And knowing what Patty wanted to do with it, I knew that we were going to come up against things."
Theron shared a similar version of the phone call story.
"As soon as I started gaining weight, I had one of the financiers call me up," the star said. "Actually, his wife saw me, and she was like, 'Did you see Charlize? Have you seen what she looks like?' 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." Theron also said that he asked her, "What are you doing? You never smiled. You look so angry, you look horrible."
Theron said it was a lesson in sticking with what she believed in. "There is a part of you that second-guesses, right?" she continued. "And you are like, '[Expletive], well, maybe I did go too far with this.' Then you realize you have to stand that ground."
Theron went on to win an Oscar for Best Actress for the role, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe.