Charlize Theron recalls 'belittling' wardrobe experience with director: 'It was to do with my sexuality and how f***able they could make me'

Over two decades into her career, Charlize Theron is still passionate about her work in the entertainment industry, both in front of and behind the camera. But as a 47-year-old mother of two, the actress and producer admittedly sources her motivation from places she hadn't when she was younger.

Having had lots of experience as an actor working on sets prior to the #MeToo movement, Theron reflected on the uncomfortable work environments that she was often placed in. She told Harper's Bazaar how little control women in particular had in their work, even when it came to their appearance.

Theron appears on the October 2022 Process Issue of Harper's Bazaar. (Photo: Josh Olins)
Theron appears on the October 2022 issue of Harper's Bazaar. (Photo: Josh Olins)

"Having absolutely no control over what you’re wearing is a big one that really f***ing annoyed me for years. Having some guy make you have a fitting almost in front of them — stuff like that, it’s really belittling," she said. "When I started, there was no conversation around it. It was like, ‘This is what you’re wearing.’ And I remember one movie in particular, this male director who just kept bringing me in, fitting after fitting after fitting after … And it was just so obvious that it was to do with my sexuality and how f***able they could make me in the movie. And when I started out, that was just kind of the norm."

Even after she launched her production company in 2003, Theron experienced pressure from film financers to have her and other female actors portrayed in a sexualized manner. Now, protecting fellow women from that is a driving force behind all the projects she involves herself in.

"There’s a natural fight in me to want to create environments that feel like the things that I wish I had 30 years ago when I started," she said, noting that, as a producer, "I don't always get it right." After years of experience, however, she's confident that she's the person for the job. "I know what the f***'s going on," she said.

Her perspective on fame has evolved as well, which contributes to how she sees her role in Hollywood.

"I feel like I’m at a place where it is what it is,” she said. “Working more isn’t, I think, going to change my level of fame. It just has always been a mediocre ride. I’ve never been one of those people that’s at a Kim Kardashian level. But I feel like it’s just always been this thing."

She added, "I will say, back in the day, it used to be like, you want to have some of this fame so you can go make the shit that you really want to make. But now it’s like, I pitch shit all day long and people are like, 'No, thanks.' I’m like, 'I guess that’s not cash in the bank anymore.' And that’s nice. It’s nice that you’re making things on the merit of how good they are versus this idea of, like, 'Oh, you’re this thing, and we want to be in business with that thing.'"

As her daughters Jackson, 10, and August, 7, get older, Theron is also forced to confront her identity as a celebrity through their eyes. "Their friends are asking things like, 'Is your mom in a Marvel movie?’'" Even still, the single mother said that her girls are unfazed.

"They’ll see billboards of me sometimes, or we’re going through the airport and there’s a J’adore ad. They’ll pretend they’re so embarrassed. They’ll go, 'Oh God. Don’t look, Mom. There’s a huge picture of you,'" she said. Theron, admittedly, prefers it this way. "I don’t ever need them to be like, 'Oh, you’re in that movie.'"

All she hopes for her relationship with her children is that they appreciate how hard she's worked, both at home and through her advocacy in Hollywood and elsewhere.

"I think that’s more important than fame or anything like that," she said. "I saw my mom work hard, and I remember just my whole life thinking, nothing is going to get handed. You have to work harder than anybody else in the room."

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