It’s easy to dismiss Mad Max: Fury Road as your conventional action movie offering. But beneath all that testoscular-charged premise of fast cars and furious war sequences, lies a showcase of female strength.
This couldn’t have been more obvious than in the character of Imperator Furiosa, played to brutal perfection by Charlize Theron.
In a post-apocalyptic world where women are enslaved, Furiosa is a walking contradiction – a supreme warrior in a battlefield otherwise dominated by men.
And director George Miller couldn’t have found a better fit to play the non-conformist character than the Academy Award-winning actress.
“Charlize is a very strong woman, not just physically but also in spirit. At the same time, you recognise her vulnerability. It’s not a mask,” he says in the Mad Max: Fury Road production notes. The movie is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.
Miller says Furiosa is a character that makes no concession about being a woman.
So, was this underlying feminist tone the deciding factor that drew the South African actress to the role?
“It’s the truth really. Furiosa felt very truthful to me. She’s strong because of her circumstances,” Theron says before a room of international journalists at Siren Studios in Los Angeles, recently.
“There’s a misconception that women just want to be strong. We are … but we are also so many other things. We are conflicted, dark and interesting,” she adds.
As an elite female warrior, Furiosa commands the War Rig, an automobile war machine and the most prized vehicle to Immortan Joe, the film’s villain.
Forcefully torn from her family and home at a young age, Furiosa has always held a grudge against the ruthless warlord. She finally claimed vengeance when she smuggled Immortan Joe’s five wives out of Citadel.
For Theron, it’s a refreshing experience playing a female character who is moulded by her circumstances.
“She’s strong, determined and furious. Furiosa is all of these things because of the world she lives in. It’s a do-or-die scenario and her objective is to not die physically or emotionally,” the 39-year-old beauty explains.
But perhaps what’s more interesting is the fact that a female lead isn’t utilised as a potential romantic interest in Fury Road.
“The material allowed for two characters who don’t fall for each other, or even become friends, because there is no room for relationships in this place,” Theron says.
What there’s room for though, is a great canvas for the actress to explore a dynamic character.
“What resonated with me is the emotional drive of the story. It’s not explained in the movie, but it was information for us to work on,” she offers.
Above all, Theron loves the anti-hero premise of the film.
“There’s nothing heroic about this movie. The characters are driven by things that are personal,” she says.
“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘It’s so great that you’re saving those women from a horrible life’. And then I’ve had others who say, ‘You really hate that Immortan Joe guy, huh? You’re really just trying to f*** with him by taking those wives from him’,” she says.
“Sometimes the things that drive you the most is not the most attractive human attribute and not the most heroic. It’s just so in your nature to want to set it right for yourself. I really love it when movies do that.”