Anatomy of a Monster: From Charlize Theron to Aileen Wuornous

Anatomy of a Monster: From Charlize Theron to Aileen Wuornous

(Above from left: Aileen Wuornos, Charlize Theron as Aileen, Charlize the model)

Charlize Theron is riding high. In the movie 'Monster', she plays executed serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, who, in between 1989-90, admitted killing 6 men in Florida, USA. The role meant Charlize would have to undergo a dramatic physical transformation. It resulted in her winning over 14 many Best Actress awards, including the 2004 Best Actress Academy Award and Golden Globe.

One of the Producers of 'Monster', Clark Peterson tells the story of the first time he saw Theron in character as Aileen Wuornos : "The first day of camera tests, a woman walked past everyone who we thought was the stand-in for Charlize. And I remember thinking, 'Huh, she really looks like Aileen.' And it was only after a while that I realized it was Charlize. The contact lenses, the hair, somehow she assumed this character so thoroughly that it just consumed her body language and speech and bearing. It was truly remarkable to witness."

In order to play Wuornos, Theron gained between twenty-five - thirty pounds, adding to the remarkable physical transformation thanks to the efforts of make-up artist Toni G, who had previously worked on movies such as Ron Howards' 'Dr Suess' How The Grinch Stole Christmas' and Tim Burton's 'Planet Of The Apes'. Toni G. used the talents of a sculptor, Art Sakamoto and two sets of teeth were constructed. "The teeth were the most constricting structure we designed because Charlize had to learn to speak with them just as someone would have to adjust their speech if they were wearing a retainer or dentures; there's a different speech pattern, and even during rehearsal, she'd want her teeth." Another area that was altered was the effect on Theron's eyes - gelatin that created weight on her eyelids, causing them to drop and making her look tired. "Everything else was paints," explains Toni G. "Our goal was to keep it very clean and natural looking. But there were a lot of layers there. It all became all about taking her beautiful, creamy skin and building textures, adding dimension to it."

Once shooting began, the humid Florida weather and many of Monster's emotional scenes - moments which called for blood, sweat and tears - proved challenging. "Toni G. is a miracle worker," gushes Theron. "The most important thing was we didn't want to make it a caricature. I remember Toni showed up in my kitchen one day to measure my teeth and a few weeks later were in Florida doing the first makeup and hair test I looked in the mirror and said 'How did this happen?'"

Producer Mark Damon summarises the startling physical transmogrification on par with Robert DeNiro in 'Raging Bull' and Daniel Day-Lewis in 'My Left Foot'. "There are many actors who are willing to gain weight or change their appearance for a role. But ultimately it's the performance, not the physical transformation, that's memorable."

'Monster' is released in cinemas nationally in Australia, March 25 2004.

- Christina Bruce


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