Charlize Theron is 42 and says she has more to bring to the table now than she ever did in her 20s. In Hollywood and in society overall, she says, "It's so sad that we don't value women in their later years and celebrate their stories."
Her new film, Tully, focuses on one woman's midlife journey. She plays Marlo, a mother pregnant with her third child. "She really has to say goodbye to her past her in order to make room for this next chapter of her life," Theron explains.
To help Marlo get through the grueling newborn stage, her wealthy older brother hires Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a nanny who helps new moms with their babies overnight.
"This really beautiful, unique, relationship happens between her and this night nanny," Theron says. "And I guess it speaks metaphorically to that wish that I think we all had at some point — whether our kids were just born or going through their tantrums ages ... just to have somebody around who just gets it. And Tully gets it."
Theron spoke with us about her own parenting challenges, her physical transformation for the film, and why she thinks the #MeToo movement is just getting started.
On what drew her to the film
I read this script when I was myself just coming out of that dark tunnel of [motherhood] ... My second kid was around five or six months old. ... I'd just moved her out of my bedroom. ... She didn't need me every two hours and I felt like a person again. And so, reading this, it felt very familiar. I was like, wow, I just went through this.
On other people judging your parenting
I remember so vividly a parent really shaming me for raising my kids — who are both adopted — on formula. ... This script to me felt like such an honest conversation. ... A lot of times it's the non-parents who are so ready to give you advice. ... The world tells us that once you have a baby you just kind of naturally go into this state of knowing what to do. When you say anything honest about how messy it is, it tends to come with a lot of shame — and there shouldn't be any shame to attached to it. The more we kind of talk about it and share those experiences with each other, the less we feel alone.
On postpartum depression
I myself have never been pregnant. I adopted both of my children. But I have very closely experienced ... really good friends going through severe postpartum depression and it's a really brutal thing to witness. Even my friends who have great marriages ... just didn't know how to talk to their husbands about it. I think a lot of it has to do with that guilt of: If I feel anything other than that it's a blessing, and that this is the most beautiful experience of my life, that I'm not somehow getting it. ...
I dealt with depression for the first time in my life [while making Tully] and it was really frightening — really frightening — and I couldn't imagine what that felt like and having to take care of a newborn baby.
On the weight she gained for the part
This is something that women do all the time when they get pregnant — they gain a lot of weight. Their bodies become not theirs anymore. I gained close to 50 pounds for this film. ... It took me a year and a half to lose that weight. It was one of the hardest things that my body went through — and women do this every day. When I do it, people are like — "so brave" — and I'm like: No. Women do this all the time and we don't acknowledge it enough.
On the momentum of the #MeToo movement
I think it will sustain. I'm incredibly optimistic. I feel that there's something about this climate right now. ... For the first time it's a unified conversation and not a compartmentalized one. It's not a conversation about women in Hollywood. It's a conversation about women in this world. ... I think that eliminating that compartmentalized way of talking about it is what is making it so strong. It's given courage to every woman out there to share their story, to take ownership of their own pain.
Sarah Handel and Barrie Hardymon produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Beth Novey adapted it for the Web.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
In her new film "Tully," written by Diablo Cody, Charlize Theron is Marlo, a mom completely overwhelmed by the arrival of her third child until Tully, a night nanny, walks through the door.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TULLY")
MACKENZIE DAVIS: (As Tully) You seem like a great mom.
CHARLIZE THERON: (As Marlo) Great moms organize class parties and casino night. They bake cupcakes that look like Minions - all the things that I'm just too tired to do. Honestly, even getting dressed just feels exhausting. I open my closet and I just think, didn't I just do this?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tully, played by Mackenzie Davis, helps Marlo through the desperate, sleepless hours of breastfeeding, pumping, diapering and crying. It's a time Charlize Theron remembers well.
THERON: I read this script when I was myself just coming out of that dark tunnel of...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Early motherhood.
THERON: ...My second kid was around 5 or 6 months old when I read this. I just moved her out of my bedroom. And she was kind of sleeping through the night, and she didn't need me every two hours, and I felt like a person again. And so reading this, it felt very familiar. I was like, wow, I just went through this. And I think I connected with having those experiences where I have felt judged. I remember so vividly a parent really shaming me for raising my kids, who are both adopted, on formula. And wanting to share with another mother, like, just how hard it is to do this and that we don't all do it the same - and therefore, we should, you know, maybe help each other in that. And this script to me felt like such an honest conversation and the truth of all of that that I wanted to be a part of that.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the things that this movie touches on is postpartum depression, mental illness that can be triggered by childbirth. It's not only losing your body. It's sometimes losing your mind.
THERON: Yeah, you know, really I think was Diablo's need to overemphasize how we talk about pregnancy and not necessarily acknowledging what that's like for a woman to go through physically. I myself have never been pregnant. I adopted both of my children, but I have very closely experienced girlfriends that have been in my life for a really long time, really good friends, going through severe postpartum depression. And it's a really brutal thing to witness. And even my friends who have great marriages, who are really close to their husbands just didn't know how to talk to their husbands about it. And I think a lot of it has to do with that guilt of if I feel anything other than that it's a blessing and that this is the most beautiful experience of my life, that I'm not somehow getting it, that I'm somehow...
THERON: Yes. And, you know, for myself on this film, it's weird to talk about it because this is something that women do all the time when they get pregnant. They, you know, gain a lot of weight. Their bodies become not theirs anymore. I gained close to 50 pounds for this film, and I dealt with depression for the first time in my life, and it was really frightening - really frightening - and I couldn't imagine what that felt like and having to take care of a newborn baby.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you felt that depression, how did you bring yourself back from that?
THERON: It took a while after I wrapped the film. I think I was in it. And then when I wrapped the film, I almost went into it deeper because trying to lose the weight, I felt that pressure that a lot of women feel. You know, we see a lot of people just losing the weight so fast and proclaiming it on social media. It becomes somewhat, like - well, that's what it's supposed to look like. And it took me a year and a half to lose that weight. It was one of the hardest things that my body went through. And women do this every day. And when I do it, people are like, you're so brave. And I'm like, no, women do this all the time, and we don't acknowledge it enough.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You are obviously going to have a long career. And I want to ask what roles you see yourself playing as you get older when typically, there are less for women in later life. Do you think that there is more room for that now?
THERON: I do. I also know that I am living in a place and working in a place of extreme luxury. Not that I didn't have to work hard to get to that place, but I know that I'm definitely in a position where I get the opportunity to make those films more often than a lot of women in my industry. And I hope that changes. I want more women to kind of join me on this journey. And I do think that that is changing in our industry, and I think this movement that's happening right now is kind of catapulting all of that to happen even faster. It's so sad that we don't value women in their later years and celebrate their stories more because that is when we are - I mean, I know from myself, like - the way I feel at 42 and almost 43, I just feel like I have so much more to bring to the table than I ever did in my 20s and to kind of take that away from women or to not value that enough, which we don't in our - not only in our industry but in society - is just such a shame.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You mentioned this moment that we're in, which is, of course, #MeToo, and I feel like at this point, you know, whenever we have an opportunity to ask an actress, it's important to talk about it. Where are we at the moment in your view, and will it sustain?
THERON: I think it will sustain. I'm incredibly optimistic. I feel that this - there's something about this climate right now that feels like it's just not going to stop. And I think the reason why is because, for the first time, it's a unified conversation and not a compartmentalized one. It's not a conversation about women in Hollywood. It's a conversation about women in this world, where we fit and how we get invited to even sit at the table and how we have not been invited to sit at the table. And I think that eliminating that compartmentalized way of talking about it is what is making it so strong. It's given courage to every woman out there to share their story, to take ownership of their own pain and to make it theirs instead of it belonging in some secretive place filled with shame. And I think that's the thing that's making this incredibly powerful.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Charlize Theron's new film is "Tully." Thank you very much.
THERON: Thank you so much for having me.
(SOUNDBITE OF HYAKKEI'S "KAGEROU RAILWAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.