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The Oscar Winner For Whom Fame Is Worth Nothing

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Outspoken and fearless. Those are the principal character traits that define Charlize Theron, the South African amazon whose brazen attitude towards life is every bit a match for her striking beauty. The Oscar-winning (for Monster) actress is an independent woman who could take on any man, and tends to swear like one, too.

Directors and co-stars have described the 39-year-old Theron as a “ballsy” woman but one with enormous talent and sensitivity as anyone who would have seen her performances in films like The Burning Plane or Young Adult would attest.

Theron is about to achieve another career milestone with Mad Max: Fury Road, director George Miller’s retake of his own original 1979 Mad Max film and cult classic that helped propel Mel Gibson to Hollywood stardom. This time out, British actor Tom Hardy takes on the iconic role while Theron plays the female desert warrior who joins Hardy’s Max Rockatansky in an epic road war in their joint effort to cross the wasteland. For Theron, the film gave her the chance to throw herself into the kind of supercharged powerful role that suits her fiercer, feminist side.

“The original Mad Max created such a vivid world…George [Miller] really created a female character that I’ve never read anything like [before],” Theron declared with respect to her taking on the role of Imperator Furiosa.

“It’s a really challenging piece of material. Originally…I was like, ‘Uh, I’m not going to play the f*****g girl for ‘Mad Max’.’ Then I read it and I was like, ‘Oh, Mad Max, I feel sorry for you.’ [Laughs] That rarely happens…It’s two great characters. It’s not the original ‘Mad Max’. It’s the revamped ‘Mad Max’. It’s Tom Hardy, who’s incredible. So, the whole thing is just exciting, very, very exciting.”

Theron’s naturally self-confident and assertive personality explains why her boyfriend Sean Penn may well be the ideal man for her. He’s a notorious bad boy whose previous relationships with Robin Wright and Madonna were known for being as torrid as they were tumultuous.

Theron and Penn’s romance first heated up when they vacationed together in Hawaii over a year ago over New Year’s – since then they’ve been virtually inseparable, attending various awards functions and other events as a couple.

In her most serious comment regarding their relationship, Theron gushed: “It just kind of naturally happened, and before I knew it, I was in something that was making my life better – the people who really love me can see the effect it has had on me.”

 

On Mad Max: Fury Road

One of the key early moments in Mad Max: Fury Road comes when Max (Hardy) and Furiosa (Theron) battle it out in the dirt before she is willing to join forces with him.

“This is not just two people standing there punching each other,” explained writer-director George Miller.

“This is a question of which one of them is going to survive….I remember thinking [when Theron was driving the war rig back to base camp during the production and he was sitting behind her]: ‘She IS the Imperator, and if this was a real wasteland and we were at war, I’d be really happy she’s on our side.”

Added Miller: “I can’t really think of another character in cinema quite like her. I’m sure that other people might find connections, but just the way the character was conceived, and how Charlize took it on and transformed herself and played it, she did it with such authority. There have been great female action characters, but there’s just been nothing quite like this.”

 

On female empowerment

Theron has long been known for her determined advocacy for women’s rights and specifically for greater opportunities for women in Hollywood. Never married, she has openly dismissed the idea of “the white dress” and is a committed spokesperson on gender and age equality. She also disdains the prevailing climate of discrimination against older women.

Declared Theron: “Women find their strength and power in their sexuality, in their sensuality within, [through] getting older and being secure within that. It’s ironic that we’ve built the beauty world around 20-year-olds, when they have no f*****g concept about wisdom, what life is about, having a few relationships below [their] belt and feeling hardships, to grow into [their] skin and feel confident within [themselves] and to feel the value of who [they] are, not because of a man or because of something like that. And I think that’s such a beautiful thing.

“That’s why I think people say women come into their prime in their 40s. And then for some reason our society just wants to go…it’s like a dead flower. It’s like we wilt for some reason. And men are like fine wines — the older they get, the better they get. It’s such a misconception, and it’s such a lost opportunity because that’s when I think women are really in the true moment of their sensuality.”

As proof of practicing what she preaches in terms of standing up to Hollywood’s patriarchal studio system, Theron recently negotiated a $10 million paycheck for her work in the upcoming film The Huntsman after last November’s Sony hack revealed that top Hollywood actresses were receiving less pay than their male co-stars.

Even veteran industry observers were shocked to learn that Jennifer Lawrence was paid less than her male costars in the Oscar-nominated American Hustle despite being arguably the hottest and highest-profile cast member.

Theron will now earn the same salary as co-star Chris Hemsworth in The Huntsman, a prequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman.

 

On motherhood

Theron’s personal life underwent an upheaval five years ago when she split with actor Stuart Townshend after a nine year relationship. She didn’t work for nearly three years around the time of her breakup before resuming her career with films like The Burning Plain and Young Adult. It was during that time that she adopted a four-month-old baby boy in 2012 from Kenya whom she subsequently named Jackson. Sean Penn recently filed papers to become the three-year-old boy’s adoptive father.

Stated Theron: “I’m so happy to be a mother…It’s so amazing to finally reach this point in my life and be able to enjoy this incredible experience. I’m overjoyed!”

She added: “But the thing that caught me totally unprepared was the impact and intensity of this change in my life. Being a mother has struck me at a very deep level. I mean, to hold a young child that grows slowly and then starts talking and looking at the world around him is something absolutely incredible.”

“I want to be that example for my son. I want him to grow up with a mom that he could see and look at her life with all the mistakes and with all the failures and all the flaws and say, ‘My mom lived an authentic life. That was the life she wanted to live’.”

Theron is also adamant that being a mother does not affect her screen choices:

“I don’t look at material and go, ‘This is too dark, I have a kid now’, because my interests still are my interests. That doesn’t make me a bad mother. I think that makes me a really good mother, because when I go and creatively satisfy myself and those interests, I come home satisfied. And I can be a really good mother to him because I’m happy.”

 

On her powerful bond with her mother Gerda

Theron, an only child, grew up on a farm in South Africa with a father she has characterized as an abusive alcoholic. In 1991, Gerda, her mother, fatally shot him after he came home in a drunken rage and threatened to kill her and the then-15-year-old Theron. Authorities ruled the slaying was self-defense, and Gerda was never prosecuted. Theron has remained close to her mother during her time in Hollywood and has never lost sight of her mother’s courage and profound influence on her:

“She has taught me to stand up for myself and be courageous. I’m not someone who indulges in self-pity and I hate it if I ever start feeling sorry for myself. I was raised in a way that I should never allow myself to be the victim, but to take responsibility for my decisions and my actions and live as boldly as possible.”

“My mother has given me a lot of guidance on that level. She’s someone who believes in not dwelling on the past and getting on with your life. I’m trying to live on those terms. I want to live the way I want to and not think back 50 years from now why I didn’t live my life when I had the chance. You have to be willing to go through the highs and lows and keep moving forward.”

When Theron was struggling to find good acting parts in her 20s she often dealt with the perception that she was a former model (though never a particularly successful one) and too pretty and striking for most roles.

But when 2 Days in the Valley (1996) earned her immediate recognition, leading to subsequent roles in Devils’ Advocate (opposite Keanu Reeves) in 1997 and Woody Allen’s Celebrity the year after, Theron was on her way.  She credits her mother with giving her both moral and financial support to help her hang in there before her career took off.

“I may have been insecure in finding myself as a teenager, or early-20s person, but I always had a very strong sense of what I felt was inside me,” she says. “My mom always used to tell me, ‘You have a foundation, and the foundation is there because of who you are, not because of what people think you are’. And it’s the kernel of that truth, of your truth — of knowing who you are, deep down — that lets you not pay that much attention to what people perceive in you.”

 

On her sense of independence

“Sean [Penn] is very close to his children. But I was not looking for a baby-sitter, I was looking for a partner. I can pay for a babysitter! [Laughs]

“I have lots of friends who wanted to get married, for whom marriage was a major milestone. It never meant anything to me, I’ve tried a different way.”

“I don’t like [sympathy] for myself. Sometimes sympathy can feel like you’re trying to kind of victimize someone. I don’t know, maybe it’s just my own [stuff] that I have to deal with, but I think that, more than anything, people just want to be understood, you know?

“I grew up in a house with an alcoholic (father). And I experienced a lot of people being overly sympathetic, and for me, sympathy and pity — there’s a very, very fine line between the two. Maybe I was being ultra-sensitive, but the way I was treated then, the way people looked at me, it made me feel weak. And I was not a fan of that feeling at all. I’m still not.

“[There’s this misconception that] I’m a dark and bitchy kind of woman. [Laughs] I’ve played dark people in the past…and I’m nothing like that although I can be a bitch if I need to be. [Laughs]

“Most directors are constantly surprised when they meet me and get a chance to hang out with me for a while. I have a reputation for having a very raw sense of humor and I kind of use that to my advantage. I’ve always used humor as a refuge and as a way of overcoming or getting past a lot of the darker, sadder things that life can throw at you.”

 

On fame and happiness

“For me, fame has no value. I never read anything into it than what it is. I don’t even know what it really means…In my position, you can’t manage it all, much less being able to control the media and that sort of thing. Life is never as rational as you would like it.

“I’m well aware of those less privileged than me [Theron works for numerous African charities] and how ambitions and expectations are dashed every day in life. In my case the pressure of media attention is a small downside that I simply need to ignore. It cannot and should not in any way affect my choices. The only priority that I have is my happiness and my son.

“I don’t think that life is that happy in general. It’s always going to be a struggle and you have to hang on to those moments where the world seems wonderful rather than grim. And even when things look bad, you shouldn’t let yourself get caught up in that because it won’t help you deal with things. You need to be able to pick yourself up off the floor and get on with things. That’s the attitude and life philosophy I’ve picked up from my mother.

“I’m not sure that happiness is [the] goal. It’s not the kind of state of being that you can necessarily control. You try to do the things in life which please you and the best you can hope for is that you’re going to be happy on some general level. Life takes you in many different directions and not all of them are going to be good. You’re going to have to deal with very tough times and sad moments because that’s just inevitable and life is like that.  You have to find the strength and determination to move past the difficult times and stay positive so that you can enjoy all the good moments. I’m feeling good about things now and I’m open and looking forward to the future.”

Arts

Talking African Writing in London

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Africa Writes, the Royal African Society’s annual literature festival, dwelt on Afrofuturism and where black British artists see themselves in the burgeoning new aesthetic.

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Glitz And Glam At The South African Fashion Week

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The 33rd edition of the South African fashion week kicked off with a bang this year. Celebrating fashion from the spring and summer collection, we had a look at what some of our local designers brought this year. Forbes Africa’s Karen Mwendera filed this report.

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‘Black Panther’: All The Box Office Records It Broke (And Almost Broke) In Its $235M Debut

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The numbers are in and Black Panther is a monster hit. More than that, it has already earned a place in the box office history books in just its first three-to-four days of release. The movie earned a $201.8 million Fri-Sun weekend and will earn an estimated $235m over the Fri-Mon holiday. So, without further ado, I wanted to take a moment to note the copious big ways that the Ryan Coogler-directed/Chadwick Boseman-starring superhero spectacular has already planted its flag in the sand. Please enjoy eight box office records that Black Panther has already broken and ten more where it came awfully close to the top of the mountain. Let’s put “All the Stars” or “Opps” on your music device of choice, open up that Box Office Mojo tab and dive in!

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Ayo (Florence Kasumba) and Okoye (Danai Gurira)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018

Biggest February opening weekend:

The previous high-water mark for a February opening weekend was Deadpool with $132 million over the Fri-Sun frame and $152m over the Fri-Mon Presidents Day weekend. While Black Panther lacked the Valentine’s Day advantage (Feb. 14 fell on a Saturday that year), it also played in 3D and had a PG-13 rating. Either way, it earned around 52% more than Deadpool and 148% more than Fifty Shades of Grey (which also had a Valentine’s Day Saturday advantage).

Point being, February has a new king of the box office. Oh, and it still had a terrific 2.66x weekend multiplier (The Avengers had a 2.58x multiplier without a Monday holiday), which makes sense given the A+ Cinemascore. It’s not the highest multiplier for an MCU opener, but it’s near the top of the food chain alongside their big November openers (Thor 2, Thor 3 and Doctor Strange).

Biggest non-sequel opening weekend:

Unless you want to count The Avengers as a non-sequel (which you should not, since it literally plays as a sequel to Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger), then Black Panther has the second-biggest non-sequel debut of all time. But absent that, Black Panther (an almost entirely stand-alone movie) has the new record for the biggest Fri-Sun launch for a non-sequel/prequel, displacing The Hunger Games which opened with $152m in March of 2012 (in 2D). And yes, it took this record even when accounting for inflation.

Biggest solo superhero launch of all time:

Since it opened above the $174 million opening weekend of Iron Man 3, Black Panther has the new milestone for a solo superhero Fri-Sun debut. Yes, I count Captain America: Civil War as an ensemble film (or at the very least a Captain America/Iron Man two-hander), but since Black Panther topped that film’s $179m Fri-Sun debut that’s somewhat trivial.

The only other bigger comic book superhero launch is The Avengers. If you want to play the inflation game, which is fair, the solo Black Panther adventure would be in fourth-place just behind The Dark Knight ($158 million in 2008 sans 3D, $202.5m adjusted for inflation), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($191m/$203.9m and The Avengers ($207m/$234m). By the way, if Black Panther ends up as frontloaded as Spider-Man 3 ($151m debut in 2007, which could be $201m today, for an eventual $336m domestic cume), it still gets to $445m domestic.

Biggest Fri-Sun opening weekend for a long holiday debut:

This is another one it swiped from Deadpool, as the MCU flick has now earned more money in its Fri-Sun frame than any movie ever that had an extra day before or after its conventional Fri-Sun opening weekend. It goes without saying that the Fri-Sun figure may have been even bigger without Presidents Day soaking up some of the demand. But I think all parties will find a way to cope, and Presidents Day weekend has a long history (Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Kingsman, Deadpool) of comic book movies breaking out.

Biggest long holiday opening weekend:

In terms of all “long weekend openings,” be they four days or six days, Black Panther’s estimated $235 million four-day launch (which could go up) is ahead of the $200 million Wed-Sun debut of Paramount/Viacom Inc.’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the $180 million six-day Independence Day weekend openings for Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Spider-Man 2 (the latter in 2D way back in 2004), the $158 million Thurs-Sun opening of Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, the $156 million Fri-Mon Memorial debut of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, the $156 million Tuesday-to-Sunday Independence Day weekend debut of the original Transformers and the $152m Fri-Mon opening of Deadpool (in 2D and with an R-rating).

Biggest opening weekend ever for any movie not directed by a white guy:

There is going to be a lot of talk about how the blow-out domestic and international box office triumph disproves conventional wisdom about what kind of folks must be the leads in big movies to make big bucks, but we should have already known that for years now (12 Years a Slave and Moonlight both made more overseas than in North America).

But Black Panther’s boffo opening is the biggest opening ever for any movie not helmed by a white guy, displacing James Wan’s Furious 7 (which earned $1.5 billion worldwide despite/because of a diverse cast). Although I’m sure they are all rooting for each other, I’d like to think that Wan or Patty Jenkins is sitting in a swivel chair right now petting an (evil) cat and plotting his or her revenge.

By the way, since The Force Awakens was sold as a Daisy Ridley/John Boyega two-hander, I would argue that said Star Wars story still counts as the biggest opening for a movie starring a minority actor.

Biggest-grossing movie (in North America) directed by a black filmmaker:

With at least $235 million in four days, it has already passed the (2D) domestic total of F. Gary Gray’s Fate of the Furious. Sure, it has some work to go to catch up with Fate of the Furious’ $1.1 billion global total, but after this weekend, with a $404m+ worldwide launch, that pie-in-the-sky scenario isn’t entirely implausible.

Biggest pre-summer opening weekend:

Black Panther has the fifth-biggest Fri-Sun debut of all time. And since two of the bigger ones were Star Wars movies in mid-December and the other two were summer flicks (Avengers and Jurassic World), Black Panther has dethroned Batman v Superman ($166 million) as the biggest pre-summer opener of all time.

2nd-Biggest comic book superhero opening weekend:

Among all comic book superhero movie opening weekends, the Fri-Sun frame stands behind only The Avengers ($207 million). It snagged a bigger opening weekend than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($166m), making it “bigger” than any DC movie ever (sans inflation). Heck, if you want to be a jerk about it, Black Panther has already outgrossed Justice League ($228m) in North America.

If we play the inflation card, then Black Panther is just over/under the likes of Spider-Man 3 ($201.6m adjusted), The Dark Knight ($202.5m adjusted) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($203.9m adjusted). Sure, it’s behind The Avengers ($234.5m adjusted), but it only needed four days to gross that amount, and those flicks didn’t have an extra holiday messing with the Fri-Sun total.

2nd-biggest Sunday gross:

With the final estimates now counted for the Fri-Sun frame, Black Panther’s $60.096 million Sunday gross is down just -8% from Saturday and $9.5m more than the “pure” $50.6m Friday gross. It is the 33rd-biggest single-day gross. But it’s also the second-biggest Sunday gross of all time, behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($60.5m). If you want to play the inflation card, it is the fourth-biggest Sunday behind The Avengers, The Force Awakens and Jurassic World.

3rd-biggest four-day gross:

With at least $235 million in four days, it sits behind only The Last Jedi ($241m) and The Force Awakens ($288m) among the biggest four-day totals. Again, if you play the inflation card, we’re still looking at the fifth spot on this list, with The Dark Knight sneaking past the Black Panther. We’re hearing rumblings of a bigger-than-anticipated Monday, one that could push the MCU movie past The Last Jedi, but I can update quickly enough if the occasion arises.

3rd-biggest non-summer opening weekend:

As of now, Black Panther’s Fri-Sun frame is the fifth-biggest overall launch of all time. And of those four bigger debuts, only two of them (The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi) opened outside of the core summer season. And yeah, if you account for inflation, Black Panther remains the third-biggest non-summer opening weekend of all time and the biggest pre-summer debut of all time.

4th-biggest Saturday gross:

After its boffo opening day, Black Panther earned $65.8 million on Saturday. That was a mere 13% drop from opening day or a 31% jump if you take out the Thursday previews. It’s also the 24th-biggest single-day gross of all time and the fourth-biggest Saturday figure, between Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($63m) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($68.2m), The Avengers ($69.5m) and Jurassic World ($69.4m). If you count inflation, it’s still in eighth place.

5th-biggest opening weekend of all time:

This one pretty much speaks for itself. With a $201.8 million Fri-Sun frame, it sits behind only The Avengers ($207m), Jurassic World ($208m), Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($220m) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($248m).

If you adjust for inflation, Black Panther will end up in seventh place behind only The Dark Knight ($202.3m adjusted), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($203.9m), The Last Jedi ($220m), Jurassic World ($232m), The Avengers ($234m) and The Force Awakens ($261m).

8th-biggest Friday and 8th-biggest single-day gross:

Among single-day grosses, Friday grosses and opening day grosses, Black Panther’s $75.8 million Friday sits behind only The Avengers ($80.8m), Batman v Superman ($81.5m), Jurassic World ($81.9m), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($91m), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($91m), The Last Jedi ($104.6m) and The Force Awakens ($119.1m).

8th-biggest Monday gross:

The estimates could change tomorrow, but as of now, Black Panther has earned $33.2 million on its fourth day of release. That is the 179th-biggest single day ever, just ahead of Justice League’s initial Saturday gross.

And, as of this writing, it is the ninth-biggest Monday gross, behind The Force Awakens ($42.3m), Spider-Man 2 ($40.8m), The Lost World: Jurassic Park ($36m), Shrek 2 ($34.6m on its 13th day of release), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($34.2m) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($33.5m) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($33.45m).But that could go away up once the finals are in. Even an extra $2.8m will make it the third-biggest Monday of all time.

25th-biggest comic book movie of all time:

In just four days, its estimated $235 million gross already makes it the 25th-biggest comic book adaptation of all time, just ahead of X-Men: Days of Future Past ($233.9m) and X-Men: The Last Stand ($234.3m). It will be shooting up said chart every day for the next week or so. By Tuesday or Wednesday, it’ll be past the likes of Men in Black ($250m), Batman ($251m), Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($259m) and The Amazing Spider-Man ($262m).

26th-biggest superhero movie of all time:

In just four days, its estimated $235 million gross already makes it the 26th-biggest superhero movie of all time. Yes, I’m counting The Matrix Reloaded ($271m in 2003) and The Incredibles ($262m in 2004), but that won’t matter in a few days. It will be shooting up said chart every day for the next week or so, which will give me plenty of fodder for daily updates. Just by Tuesday or Wednesday, it’ll be past the (unadjusted) domestic grosses of Men in Black ($250m), Batman ($251m), Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($259m), The Incredibles ($261m) and The Amazing Spider-Man ($262m).

I am sure there are other arbitrary milestones that I left off, such as “fifth-fastest to $200 million domestic alongside the other did-it-in-three-days openers” or “biggest-grossing movie for Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan” or what-have-you. Oh, and it had the fourth-biggest IMAX domestic debut ever behind Jurassic World, The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens. But this is long enough already, and even if that Monday number is underestimated and skews the results even higher, I think you’ve got a pretty clear picture of just how huge this movie turned out to be straight out of the gate. There are going to be plenty more milestones over the next two weeks, so watch this space for daily updates, give or take a fluke on my schedule.

If you like what you’re reading, follow @ScottMendelson on Twitter, and “like” The Ticket Booth on Facebook. Also, check out my archives for older work HERE.

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