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​Charlize Theron’s Passion Play: From Films to Changing Lives in South Africa

Dec 01, 2016

A string of labels typically surround Charlize Theron’s name in print; Oscar winner, mother, activist, actor. In her 41 years she has also built a remarkable relationship with Dior, becoming the face – and many more would argue the soul of – the brand’s J’adore fragrance. She spoke exclusively to #legend about her life on and off the red carpet.

In your movie career, you have portrayed extreme characters. As a brand spokesperson you represent glamour itself. In which role are you most comfortable?

I think that women are all those things at once. It is a real mistake to believe that anyone can be a single “character”.

Would you be interested in playing a wishy-washy role in a film?

If I love a script, a director and a project, I’m open to any role as an actor, as long as it works.

Being a woman means being everything at once: powerful yet sensitive, romantic yet fiercely independent. Is that a dilemma for you?

I think all women, all people, are complicated. I don’t struggle with being myself. I am who I am.

A great number of causes seem important to you: combating AIDS and sexual violence in Africa, defending women’s rights and same-sex marriage. Where does that inspiration come from?

I grew up in South Africa and that is my home. I started the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project in an effort to help solve the AIDS crisis happening in my country. I feel that I am fortunate to do this sort of work.

Does being a mother motivate you to do more and engage with good causes?

Of course. As a mother you feel a real responsibility to your children’s future.

While we’re on the subject, are you concerned by the ecological challenges the world faces and, in particular, the notion of sustainable development?

Sure. We need to take care of our world. Without it, we have nothing.

Growing up in Africa, are you particularly touched by a connection with the natural world?

Yes. The sun, the wind, heat, the earth: all these natural elements are represented. The J’adore woman has gone from all this luxury to absolute simplicity, to what I, as a South African, believe is true beauty, and her character makes one with the elements to explore real emotions.

A new campaign for J’adore has just been released and in it we see another side to you. You’re quite athletic.

I like physical activity, always, especially hiking, biking and jet skiing. But I’m not sure I always stay healthy, but I try. With two children and work, staying healthy does give me more energy.

Your athleticism is another side to the characters you have created with Dior. The J’adore woman remains calm, serene and in control of her emotions. Is that message a conscious decision?

Yes, that certainly is one of the messages. As a woman, I was lucky to have a strong female figure in my life: my mother. From my earliest childhood she taught me to have self-confidence and not to be afraid.

What will be the lasting image from these campaigns? Hollywood icon? Universal woman?

The J’adore woman is multifaceted. She has elegance and is bold. I like to think that as a woman I recognise my own strengths, and these help make me feel beautiful on a daily basis. This is how I have always conceived the J’adore woman, by giving the best of myself and hoping that my interpretation will be as clear as possible for other women.

The latest campaign evokes the necessity, and the enjoyment, of getting back to the basics, back to the roots.

Absolutely. I know that for the director Jean-Baptiste Mondino, water is very symbolic, since it expresses an ecological message. He considers it a treasure to be preserved, and the strength of the film also resides in the life-giving image of water.

Dior J'Adore

In the work you have done for Dior, the characters are clearly very thoughtful. Each character chooses a different path. What holds the work together?

Each film has a real metaphorical power, an image that expresses a strong message and leaves a lasting impression. The J’adore woman is always challenging herself; she dares to contradict herself by seeking simplicity and by rejecting vanity; and then, in the following opus, she finds herself in the opulence of Versailles.

But, in my view, this does not mean that she is flighty. She is simply on a mission and she leaves no rock unturned. This image is interesting because that is just what courageous people do in life: they take nothing for granted and know how to call things, and themselves, into question.

A lot of actors have made it clear they want more power over their careers in Hollywood, particularly women. They want to affect change. Do you have the same desires?

Women should have equal rights. It’s a simple concept.

What’s next for Charlize Theron? What are your current projects?

I have three films coming next year: The Coldest City, Fast 8 and Tully.

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