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By Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — Charlize Theron spent six months in the blistering heat and chilling cold of Africa and Australia to film director George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. The first thing she says when she walks into the film stage on Sunset Boulevard for interviews for the new action film: “Is anyone else freezing?”

A quick change of the thermostat and a borrowed jacket makes Theron more comfortable while talking about her latest leap into the action genre. She had numerous stunts in Aeon Flux, but nothing compared to the wall-to-wall battles and chase scenes in Fury Road. There’s so much action, Theron found herself during the early part of filming asking Miller if she could have something to say. Slowly, she became more comfortable with his Spartan approach.

Theron gives Miller a lot of credit for building an emotional arc for the characters without using a lot of dialogue. It made her think about how much she had come to rely on the written word.

“As actors, we were fighting that tooth and nail,” Theron says. “It was out of fear because language is a crutch. Dialogue is a crutch. It’s so easy to have a great writer write you a line. George was just so adamant about keeping this film on track. The understanding (was) that this world is so bare and language would be a luxury that these people would not have access to.”

To help her tell that story, Theron’s character of Imperator Furiosa has a robotic left arm and a shaved head. Both helped transform the actress from her past films and TV commercials. Theron went back to her training as a dancer, where she had to tell a story with her body. It’s been years since she performed as a dancer, but it all came back as she talked to Miller about the dance world.

“Once you made peace with that, it actually became very liberating,” Theron says. “I thought what was really interesting about the names the characters have is that the movie is so bare in its explanation of where these people come from and who they really are. I thought there was something very powerful about the name (of her character) that really set you up. You didn’t have to know anything about her. The name alone said it. Anything emotionally driving her was already represented in her name. That was helpful.”

Her character is a strong-willed tanker truck driver who helps a group of young women escape from a tyrant. Theron sees the role as more of an anti-hero than hero because she is driven by human flaws.

It’s a character she loves

“I realized over the past couple of days, talking about this movie, how fortunate I was to have George trust me with this role,” Theron says. “You really are only as good as the opportunities that are handed to you.”

Theron particularly liked getting to play a strong character. And, she is not the only strong female in the movie. She often is surrounded by women who can shoot and drive with great skill. Theron calls working with so many strong women “a breath of fresh air.”

“I knew instantly from understanding the project that George had an innate understanding of what women represent to society and he wanted that to reflect in a post-apocalyptic world in the most truthful way possible. People keep saying ‘strong women’ but we are actually just women. We had a filmmaker that understood the truth of women is powerful enough and we don’t want to be put on pedestals or made to be unnaturally strong.

“What we are capable of doing is really interesting and informs a story like this.”

(c)2015 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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