Charlize Theron has graced our November cover and talks exclusively about her journey as a mother and why now is such an incredible time to be a woman.
Charlize Theron is one of the world’s most recognised actresses. She is known for being a strong, confident woman. An actress, businesswoman, philanthropist and mum, her life is far from quiet. A strong-minded woman, Theron left her home country of South Africa at the age of 19 to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. With a one-way plane ticket bought for her by her mother, Theron had no idea what to expect. After several months of auditions she managed to secure a role in an upcoming movie as a supporting actress in “2 Days in the Valley”. Luckily for Theron the film was met with great reviews and she went on to secure larger roles with her success quickly growing.
To date, she has starred in dozens of Hollywood movies including “Monster”, for which she won an Academy Award in 2003, “Mighty Joe Young”, “Mad Max: Fury Road”, “Atomic Blonde” and most recently, the 2017 film “Tully”. As well as being an internationally recognised actress, Theron has her own production company which has created many films including: “The Burning Plain”and “Dark Places”, which she also starred in.
Theron is a single mum to two young adopted children, August and Jackson. She is also an activist and a charity worker. The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project was created in 2007 in an effort to support young African youths in the fight against disease. Theron is now an ambassador for a number of charities, many of which are helping young women in her home continent of Africa. In 2007 she was named a UN Messenger of Peace and she has spoken openly of her passion for the subject of women’s rights and equality.
With all this going on it is perhaps surprising that Theron has had the time to build a close bond and partnership with Parfums Christian Dior as the face of the J’adore fragrance. Theron was appointed by the brand in 2005 as the spokeswoman and face of the J’adore advertising campaigns. The actress represents many of the same values as the fragrance and the Dior Maison, which has allowed the partnership to blossom over a 13-year period. This autumn Dior presents J’adore Absolu. A fresh composition of the classic scent. The campaign film was shot by renowned director Romain Gavras, and is a film that signifies a rebirth and sees Theron rise in a golden palace-like setting. In the film that was recently revealed on Dior’s social media platforms, the actress appears strong and fearless, yet feminine at the same time. The many connotations of the film, as well as her long career as an actress and the struggles of becoming a mum, are just some of the important threads we discussed during our regional exclusive interview with the actress.
What lessons have you learned about yourself since becoming a mum?
Human condition is something that for me, as an actress, has always been fascinating. The sense of wanting to observe and take meaning from human behaviour, is something that I’ve always thrived on, but it’s really unbelievable when you start watching it. A kid’s experience is a gift and I feel like I have this front row seat to watching a little human spirit develop.
I think I’ve just realised how much we lose of that as we get older, and now I’m watching my kids go through it, it’s definitely bringing me back and realising that there is so much we should try and hang on to, for as long as we possibly can. It has definitely shown me that the human spirit is unbelievable and so resilient.
On the subject of parenting, we saw your film Tully (which was amazing by the way), how did that compare to real life experiences you’ve had?
I think my experience is the reason why I wanted to tell the story. They sent me the script when my second baby was four months old, so I was an exhausted wreck! I was just starting to come out of the other side – she was just starting to get a little better at sleeping through the night, but at the same time I had a four year old who was needing me.
I remember reading the script and I was like “Oh, dear God! This is almost too fresh!” But I think that even though all of our stories as mothers will always have different circumstances and different things that come into play, there’s always going to be this thread that we all share. This process of just non-stop-ness.
Once you’re a parent it just doesn’t stop. It’s not like you can stop the clock and it’s done. It’s so consistent, there is something happening all the time and I feel like we all share that. Sometimes I don’t think we’re all very honest about what that really looks and feels like. This movie felt like there was a power in telling this story and maybe finding some solidarity and saying “listen it’s OK, were not alone. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it’s hard but sometimes it’s incredible.”
Was it a difficult role for you to play?
It was only difficult in that I gained a lot of weight for it, and I think because towards the end I ate a lot of sugar – I actually dealt with depression for the first time in my life. That was something that was very unexpected and in many ways threw me. It took me a long time to get out of it, until my body could actually equalise and function normally again.
It was just very hard to be that lethargic and that down and have to go and work with a set of twins and two kids under seven and then go home to my own baby and four year old – it was a lot. It was a lot of kids twenty four hours a day! And not having the physical strength or energy to take care of myself was really tough.
But it is also what I think a lot of mums face after giving birth, so in a weird way I think it was incredibly helpful for me.
Women’s empowerment is a term that’s getting used more and more – what does it really mean to you and do you think the phrase is becoming over used?
No I don’t think it’s overused. I think there’s been a lack of using it for a really long time and I don’t think that we should stop. I feel like we’re in the process of some real serious change and to stop now or to have anybody feel like we’re maybe being a little annoying or a little too much – I don’t think of it that way at all.
Now is an incredible time to be alive and to be a woman and of course I so wish that all of this would have been taken care of a long time ago, but it wasn’t and now we’re at this place and time and things are really changing. It’s also not going away – and I think that’s what makes me realise that it will actually be cemented and there will be a change that will stay. Because it’s not fading, and it’s not being passed off as just a moment in time, it really is feeling like it is a wave of something more serious and that makes me feel pretty excited about where we can take this finally.
What do you hope for in life?
Once you become a parent, all of your hopes first and foremost go towards your children. Firstly, of course I really hope my children will have a planet that they can live on! I hope that they can bring something back, something positive and bring kindness back into this world. And I hope that they can flourish in peace and safety.
You’ve been the face of J’adore for so many years – what’s your secret to the long term partnership?
I think we work really well together. They are a brand that likes to explore longevity with people and that’s something that they are known for. I think they like the evolution of what has happened to me in the last fourteen years and there’s an exploration process that we both are really enjoying. I think we work collaboratively and creatively very well together and we’re on the same page when it comes to what we think of what should be considered beauty or what is beautiful in this world. There’s a bravery and a boldness about how they approach everything that really goes in line with how I feel about those things.
What does the house of Dior mean to you after such a long time working with them?
The brand for me really represents a continual move forward, forward thinking, everchanging ideas of what a woman is and what she is in the world now, where she’s going and what the future is. I think that kind of modern and out of the box thinking is what I always consider the house of Dior to be very much part of.
Why do you think it is important for women to wear perfume?
I don’t think it’s necessarily important, I think it’s a free will and a choice. It is a beautiful choice to have and I think that fragrance is a luxury that most of us can have access to. We might not all be able to afford a couture dress but, there’s a level of luxury that comes with fragrance as it is something we can wear every single day and feel that extra bit special. I mean, you’re not going to die if you don’t wear it, but it might put a smile on your face at 4 o’clock when you’ve had a long day and you’ve just picked up your kids from school. It is a nice little gift to have.
Do you still remember the first fragrance you ever used?
Honestly no, but obviously it would have been one of my mums. I don’t remember what it was though.
How was the experience of filming the new campaign for J’adore?
It was pretty amazing. We were in Budapest for five days on a very large stage, where I actually shot Atomic Blonde; which was very strange. But they built that entire Turkish bath set piece, the craftmanship was just unbelievable. So we had this really large, beautifully designed and crafted space, with all the tactical smoke, water – everything is tactical and real; nothing was added in afterwards. It was really funny to be there for five days, and be surrounded by all of those beautiful, diverse girls and try to feel the essence of this new campaign that we were trying to shoot.
What about working with Romain Gavras – how was that?
He has a visual eye that is stunning. I’m a huge fan of his work. There’s something about his marriage to movement and music, the way he contradicts imagery with music. It’s also how he moves with his camera and where he places it. He has a really subtle way of storytelling. He tells very dense and layered stories – it’s epic how he gets that much emotion across. I’m a massive fan, I think he is the ultimate artist.
How does acting for a campaign video differ to film acting?
I don’t compartmentalise it too much. I think it’s a creative process and I treat it all that way. At the end of the day I like creating things, whether it’s on film, commercials or an art project, it’s still a creative process and that will never change for me.
The film signifies rebirth and hope – what does that mean to you?
I think it may have to do with constantly moving forward in this evolution of where we find ourselves right now and what it means to be a woman today. We want to change and there are things that we want to say. Understanding that we have to embrace ourselves with all of our conflicts and that’s what ultimately makes us who we are and we shouldn’t hide behind that anymore. So I feel like, in many ways these commercials are always chasing after that linear. Even though there’s a rebirth and strength behind this, there’s also this element of us walking in these beautiful gowns, but we contradict that by being barefoot. And there’s a sense of solidarity of us all walking out the door together and I think there is this tongue in cheek feeling at the end of it too – that suggests we are saying “we always knew we were going to do this, and finally everybody finally got on the same page.” And that to me is this virtual message of where we are with women right now.
By Lara Mansour Sawaya and Lindsay Judge
Photographer: Cass Bird for Parfums Christian Dior
Styling: Leslie Fremar
Hair: Enzo Angileri
Makeup Artist: Sabrina Bedrani using Dior Makeup
All clothing Christian Dior