If I were brainstorming about the imaginary pop culture diet of fictional Mavis Gary, the self-absorbed alcoholic YA novelist at the cool heart of Young Adult I'd put this forth: She's never watched the Oscars but flips absently through fashion roundups in the magazines the day after every year. (Her beauty is only skin deep and her thought processes even shallower.) Her creators director Jason Reitman, screenwriter Diablo Cody and actress Charlize Theron, on the other hand all have a lot going on upstairs and are also intimately familiar with Hollywood's big event. If Academy voters widen their range a little to notice the brilliance of this smart acerbic comedy, who knows? They could be invited back again.
Not that any of this seems to concern Charlize Theron, who calls me herself on the night of our interview, to discuss her new role. As a producer on the film, she seems less concerned with statues and acclaim and more about finding the right audience for such a tricky unique film. "It's not a quintessential Jason Reitman film and it's not a quintessential Charlize Theron film," she says, matter of factly. Anyone expecting another Juno or Monster will be thrown. They planned carefully with pop up screenings and key theater appearances and a quick but not instantaneous wide release. Smart. Young Adult feels like just the kind of film that will grow its audience slowly (we're definitely already on board) and it's easy to imagine a Mavis cult gathering over time.
"You have to celebrate the spirit of the movie you're making and release it into the world in that way." she says speaking like a producer. Though of course we know her first and foremost as an actress, a great one. And she's an enjoyable conversationalist in that regard, too, though she knows when to keep a secret about her films and her process.
Nathaniel R: When did you first feel you understood Mavis while reading the script. Did you have a moment of "I know this character?"
CHARLIZE THERON: It wasn't something specifically but I guess just an overall feeling. Otherwise i don't think i could have said yes to the film. She felt human to me. She felt real. This overwhelming need and want to be loved and this kind of loneliness and the horrible tool set that she has to go about getting those things. I guess those things all kind of resonated with me?
Nathaniel: If we were to look at your script: Is it pristine? do you write a lot of notes? How do you prepare?
CHARLIZE: How do I prepare? You know, it's a little bit like asking a magician 'How did you pull a rabbit from the hat?' I don't know if people really want to know that stuff. I think what we're trying to do ultimately is have people forget about that stuff. On top of that I don't have anything that's concrete. Every time is different. I know that I have a very obsessive compulsive mind. So when I know I'm doing something I think everything in my daily life i'm observing and filing and knowing that I might be able to use it.
From the moment I say yes it's breathing and living under my skin. I'm constantly thinking about it. And conversations with my director are sometimes important. But I don't talk about things too much. For me it's a very intimate experience and an "alone" experience. I have to go through it myself.
That's interesting since Mavis is so solitary. And writing is, too.
Diablo and Jason who are both writers know that world really well. I'm not a writer so I didn't realize how great they were at capturing that until writers came up to me and said "oh my god that's exactly my life." Everything kind of stops and disappears. There is no outside world. So, I have to give them credit for really nailing that.
Beauty is such an important issue to Young Adult but in your most famous role, Monster, your own beauty doesn't factor in. Do you think about your own beauty when playing roles like this?