HTLS | Not a fan of cancel culture: Charlize Theron talks about cinema, struggles
Charlize Theron was candid and engaging as she sat across from filmmaker Karan Johar on Day 5 of the Hindustan Leadership Summit.
From not being a fan of cancel culture to not feeling beautiful as a young girl, Charlize Theron was candid and engaging as she sat across from filmmaker Karan Johar and discussed cinema, struggles, nepotism and change at a session held as part of the ongoing Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (HTLS).
The South African actor-producer opened up about her early days in the US — first as a ballet dancer who suffered a career-ending knee injury, then as a struggling actor with no connections and little understanding of Hollywood.
Perhaps it’s a good thing, the Academy Award winner added, that “when I started going to auditions, I had a weird naive confidence. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m the one you want for this job!’”
“I feel like we overthink things,” Theron added. “Because as artists and storytellers seeking magic, it’s that thing you discover in the moment, not the thing you rehearse, that’s magical.”
It was her love for storytelling that led her into cinema, and her mother pointed to the new direction, she added. She told the young Theron that she had never really been the best dancer, Theron added laughing. But she had always been a convincing storyteller. Wasn’t there a movie industry in LA?
Born to parents in the business of building roads in South Africa, Theron has featured in films such as The Devil’s Advocate (1997), The Cider House Rules (1999), The Italian Job (2003), and Monster (2003; for which she won the Oscar), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Bombshell (2019).
As a child, she was not raised to believe she was beautiful, she said. Ailing as an infant, she had to be put on heavy doses of antibiotics and, as a result, lost her teeth. “So I remember being very insecure and shy about how I looked,” she said. In Hollywood, she found herself pushing against the notion that actors are defined by how they look. “ We make assumptions that when someone looks a certain way, they can’t be vulnerable or flawed, and it’s something we definitely need to fight against. I don’t know if this notion’s gone away,” she added.
Being beautiful became something she struggled with; something she cast off like a cloak in Monster, where she played a serial killer, in a story based on real life.
How a celebrity looks and what they do with their life is now shaping the way public discourse works and has contributed to cancel culture, Johar noted. It’s a culture that leaves no space for human mistakes and errors, Theron said. “A lot of times, I tell my own daughter, that… what you’re doing [on social media] is not written in pencil; you’re not going to be able to erase it. It scares her. And there’s a part of me that wants to tell her, ‘Go, make mistakes, learn from them and be better!’ We have to be able to make this space,” she said.