Charlize Theron reveals her funny side in new film

By Jake Coyle

AP Entertainment Writer


Jason Reitman was under the same impression many are of Charlize Theron. He knew she was a fiercely talented actress, prone to burying her stunning beauty behind gritty, intense performances like her Academy Award-winning one as a murderous prostitute in 2003’s “Monster.”

Then she told him a dirty joke.

Theron approached Reitman at last year’s Oscars to tell him how much she liked his then-recent film “Up in the Air” and that she’d love to work with him.

“I got a tap on the shoulder, and I turn around and it’s all 6 foot, 6 inches of Charlize Theron,” recalls Reitman, intentionally exaggerating Theron’s height by 8 inches. “I was really understandably intimated.”

But when Theron, already a few drinks into the night, revealed a more depraved sense of humor than her image would suggest, Reitman realized they had more in common than he expected: “I was like, ‘Oh! I like you.’” (Theron, for her part, doesn’t recall the joke, but, with a glimmer in her eye, acknowledged, “That sounds about correct.”)

The meeting was both fortuitous, in that it directly led to Theron starring in Reitman’s new film, “Young Adult,” and an early hint to the tone of their collaboration. In “Young Adult,” which was penned by Diablo Cody (“Juno”), Theron plays Mavis Gary, a teen-fiction ghost writer who returns to her hometown in rural Minnesota to lure her now-married former boyfriend. As a woman whose nostalgia has swelled to demented proportions, Theron is bitingly caustic and hilariously candid.

The performance not only reveals Theron’s comedic side, but shows more of her true nature than her previous work. Not that Theron is anything like Mavis’ more deplorable aspects, but she shares Mavis’ sharp elbows and sharper wit.

“Most people who know me who have seen the film are not that shocked,” Theron said in a recent interview during which she was self-deprecating, unguardedly foul-mouthed and thoughtful. “The film is way more my personality and closer to anything that I’ve done.”

After “Young Adult” — which is earning Theron her best reviews since “Monster” — she’ll be seen in Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” and the fantasy “Snow White & the Huntsman,” which also stars Kristen Stewart.

Theron, 36, grew up on a farm outside Johannesburg, South Africa. When she was 16, she became a model in Milan. She later moved to New York to train as a ballet dancer, but a knee injury pushed her out of dance and toward acting.