Cape Town – Before she even knew that the badass character of Lorraine Broughton existed, Charlize Theron was looking for a "strong, unapologetic female character".
She put out her feelers and stumbled upon Antony Johnston and Sam Hart's 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City before it was even published by Oni Press.
In a recent interview with Oni publisher and Atomic Blonde executive producer Joe Nozemack, Willamette Week’s Jay Horton found out that Theron and her production company, Denver and Delilah Productions, came across the material before the book was even done.
Kicking stereotypes to the curb
According to Nozemack, Theron was looking for a property. “Her production guys went through our catalog. We had this graphic novel in development that sounded like something she'd like. So, we sent her the script for the book, and it was exactly what she was looking for. Then, we just worked together to develop it for a film,” he told Willamette Week.
Charlize was specifically looking for a female character that would kick any stereotypes to the curb. And that’s exactly what she’s managed to do if the reviews are anything to go by.
New York Observer’s Thelma Adams writes: “Can a woman step into James Bond’s shoes? Duh, says Charlize Theron as she performs the cold-as-ice secret agent shtick backwards, and in red patent-leather stilettos, in the hugely engaging spy-vs-spy thriller Atomic Blonde.”
And Forbes’ Scott Mendelson seems to echo this sentiment as he writes: “At its best, the film combines the jaw-dropping action of a 007 movie with the real-world cynicism and amorality of a Bourne picture. Yes, we get the usual “What the hell were we fighting for?” thing that understandably has popped up in nearly every post-Cold War spy thriller, but the mayhem is more-than-worth the occasional naval-gazing.”
Going in ‘gender-blind’
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Director David Leitch reveals exactly how he managed to kick dust in the face of the preconceived ideas moviegoers have when it comes to female action stars. According to Leitch he took a "gender-blind" approach: "It was totally important, and I think we approached the choreography and the design of the action like we would have approached it if it were male or female."
Charlize also wanted her character, an undercover MI6 agent who is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents, to be realistic. "I want to see reality, I want to see when somebody gets hit, they get hurt. I want to feel the pain and the punches," the South African born actress told Leitch.
And physically Theron was ready to deliver. The film took five years to complete and during that time Theron had eight personal trainers to help her master her intensely physical performance. She also trained with Keanu Reeves who was preparing for John Wick: Chapter 2.
In fact Theron’s fighting skills impressed Leitch so much that he decided to incorporate a one-take scene that he’d waited years to shoot whilst looking for an actor capable of pulling it off.
In an interview with Business Insider Leitch explains how he pitched the idea to Theron after being blown away with her skills level: “When I pitched it to her we were already a couple of weeks into shooting and I walked into the makeup trailer and I was like, 'I didn't want to tell you this before because I didn't want to freak you out, but that stairwell fight, I'm planning to make it all one shot.'
“And she's like, 'Ah, what?' I said, 'There will be some tricks and some movie magic, but it's going to be hard work and a lot of long takes.' And she was like, 'Has it been done before?' And I said, 'Not like this.' And she said, 'Let's do it.'"
The fight scene, which is seen in the film, ended up being eight-minutes long and takes place in the stairwell of an old apartment building in Berlin. It is undoubtedly one of the highlights of Atomic Blonde.
Not just the pretty wife
But the hardcore character of Lorraine Broughton is nothing new for the 42-year-old actress. Her most recent castings include the furious Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, The villainous Cipher in The Fate of the Furious, the evil queen in Snow White and the Huntsman and of course the murderous Aileen Wuornos in Monster.
This is a far cry and deliberate move away from her earlier roles where she used the play “the pretty wife” in films like The Astronaut's Wife (Jillian Armacost) and Men of Honor (Gwen Sunday).
Charlize has made a conscious decision to go out and find the kind of female characters that we aren’t seeing on the big screen and bring them to life, and so far fans and critics alike are enjoying every minute of it.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
Atomic Blonde is currently showing in IMAX cinemas and will open nationally on Friday, 25 August.