The “Old Guard” star has cemented herself as one of the foremost action stars around, but she long had to prove that she could run faster, kick harder and drive better than her male co-stars.
Take for instance, the 2003 remake of “The Italian Job,” for which Theron recently revealed she was scheduled to train for six weeks longer than her male co-stars, including Wahlberg, Jason Statham and Edward Norton.
“There was a real pressure to pull off those stunts with the actors. … There was a very unfair process that went with that,” Theron said in a Comic-Con at Home career retrospective Friday. “I was the only woman with a bunch of guys, and I remember vividly getting the schedule in our preproduction, and they had scheduled me for six weeks more car training than any of the guys. It was just so insulting.”
The discrepancy in their preproduction schedules “put a real fire under my ass,” Theron said, which made seeing her male co-stars struggle on-set that much more gratifying.
“I was, like, ‘All right, you guys want to play this game, let’s go,’” she recalled. “I made it a point to out-drive all of those guys. I vividly remember Mark Wahlberg, halfway through one of our training sessions, pulling over and throwing up because he was so nauseous from doing 360s.”
The heist thriller’s most memorable action set-pieces feature the cast as they drive a fleet of Mini Coopers through various global locales. Theron recalled being particularly proud of maneuvering the vehicle for one stunt in “a reverse 360 or maybe 180 in a warehouse with props everywhere.”
“I did that stunt completely on my own,” she said. “It was a huge moment for feeling, like, ‘Yeah, we can do all this stuff, and women are so unfairly thought of or treated in genre.’”
The experience filming “The Italian Job” helped Theron come to terms with the “misconception around women” in action films, propelling her to seek out and create roles in big-budget projects such as “Aeon Flux,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Atomic Blonde” in order to upset the norm.
“When I started my action career, it was so important to sell the authenticity of, ‘Yes, I can fight, and I can take this guy down, and I can survive this,’” Theron said. “There was such a level of wanting to prove that to audiences who for years said, ‘No, a woman could never fight a guy that size.’”
With the recent record-shattering release of Netflix’s “The Old Guard,” Theron has no plans to slow down anytime soon. She has already expressed interest in reprising her role in a sequel to the Gina Prince-Bythewood-directed film and recently teased that an “Atomic Blonde” follow-up is in development.
The Oscar-winner can also be seen in the next “Fast and Furious” film, which will now hit theaters in April 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.