Charlize Theron likes the darkness. It calls to her. It’s a place where she’s come to feel comfortable over the years, thanks to her ferocious, starkly nuanced performances as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster (for which Theron won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2004), Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: FuryRoad, the wicked queen Ravenna in Snow White & the Huntsman, and the icily lethal MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton in Atomic Blonde. So if you’re surprised to learn that she’s playing the romantic lead in the latest Seth Rogen rom-com, Long Shot, you’re not alone. “I never thought I would be in a rom-com,” says Theron, laughing. “I don’t think I would know how to do justice to a straightforward rom-com.”
We’re at Milk Studios in Hollywood, where Theron, 43, has just finished her cover shoot for Marie Claire. Dressed in an aqua wool crew-neck sweater, long caramel-colored palazzo pants, and shearling-lined Birkenstocks, she looks casual but also decidedly regal, with her sable hair cropped in a pageboy and green eyes sizzling in the afternoon light. Theron was a serious ballet dancer in her teens, and you can see it in her straight-backed posture, with her shoulders thrust back and chin held high. She’s reserved at first but grows increasingly warm as our conversation progresses. You get the sense that Theron would be a great person to be friends with—and a terrible person to cross.