How Charlize Theron Commanded that Insane ‘Atomic Blonde’ Fight Scene

Charlize Theron fights two men in a kitchen

Charlize Theron fighting in Atomic Blonde | Focus Features

The spy thriller is a celebrated and arguably oversaturated genre. That being said, there’s one thing it’s been missing — a female lead. Enter Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde.

This summer blockbuster had a dynamite first night at the box office bringing in $1.5 million, according to Variety. The estimated total to be brought in this weekend sits at around $20 million.

In the film, Theron plays a British spy. But unlike her Arrested Development character, Lorraine Broughton has a sharp mind and remarkable physical prowess. In fact, a particular fight scene is what has everyone talking.

Setting the scene, Lorraine is on assignment in Berlin in 1989, on the precipice of the Berlin Wall’s collapse. In what appears to be (but is not) a single shot that takes place in the staircase of an apartment building, the agent defeats numerous KGB attackers. As the LA Times’ Justin Chang writes, “[i]t’s a literally jaw-dropping scene.”

The shot was a risky one, according to director David Leitch. “I’d presented it to my stunt team before, and everyone’s always kind of like cautious and hesitant, because [they asked] are you really going to be able to stay in it?” Leitch told Inverse. “Is it going to be compelling? Are you going to want to cut away for energy?”

But if anyone could make it happen, it’s Leitch. He began his career as a stunt coordinator, and his directorial debut was 2014’s John Wick. He’s also directing the upcoming Deadpool sequel.

Of course, Theron deserves most of the credit, says Leitch. “There are a few details where you just can’t risk slamming your actress ten times into a breakaway cabinet, so we found a way to graft in a stunt performer. But all the fighting, all the brutality in that fighting and the selling of fighting, it’s all her.”

It took a lot for Theron to get to where she could command such a scene. “[S]he didn’t have a martial arts background, and went in at ground zero. She had the will to want to be great right off the bat,” he told The New York Times.

What led Theron to this remarkably feminist role? The actress, who also serves as a producer on the film, was at the helm of bringing the film to fruition. She told The New York Times, “I became very aware of women in certain circumstances not being allowed to play by the same rules guys get to play by. I was actively looking for a protagonist that could break those rules.”

By placing the importance of the film on such a dynamic scene, Theron clearly knew what message she wanted to share with Atomic Blonde. This is evidenced by the fact that it appears to be the most-talked about the film, even rising above the love scene she performed with another woman.

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