Charlize Theron is back to being beautiful. In her first role since winning a Best Actress Oscar for Monster, she plays a bohemian heartbreaker named Gilda Bessé in the World War II epic Head in the Clouds (Sept. 17). Penélope Cruz and Theron’s real-life beau, Stuart Townsend, costar as two jilted sides of Gilda’s steamy, tortured love triangle.
Working with your boyfriendthat’s a risky choice.
People say it’s impossible to have [on-screen] chemistry with somebody you’re in a relationship with, but in this film, it’s really about destroying the relationship. The good thing about working with somebody [you’re with]is knowing how to push their buttons or how to rip their heart out. Which is a terrible thing to say, but it was very helpful in this story! [Laughs]
So how did you push Stuart’s buttons?
On close-ups where he had to react to something, I would be off camera — off script — and it would become more personal. There’s a lot of footage of my voice talking about things that nobody [else] would understand. [Laughs] I felt comfortable because I knew that that’s what we had to do for this to work.
In Monster, you kissed Christina Ricci and here you kiss — and bite — Penélope Cruz.
The kiss [with Penélope] wasn’t really sexual, it’s almost a slap in the face. It’s saying, You’ve betrayed me, you’re abandoning me, how dare you? It’s about a woman who wants to experience that ultimate friendship with another woman, but she doesn’t know how to go about it.
In this movie you speak English, German, Spanish, and French. Are you really such a polyglot? (Afrikaans is the South African’s first language.)
I had German as a third language in school in South Africa, but the other two I’m very foreign with. John [Duigan, the director] had this dream that I would speak French with a Parisian accent, and I was like, That’s like buying a Ferrari with two dollars, my friend. It’s never gonna happen!