CHARLIZE Theron is laughing about a memorable day she had on the set of her new comedy western A Million Ways To Die In The West.
It involved a particular scene with her co-star Liam Neeson, who plays her bullying outlaw husband Clinch Leatherwood. Theron was required to whack a trouser-less Neeson over the head and cheekily place a flower where the sun doesn’t shine.
“I said what any healthy woman would say,” recalls Theron, giggling. “’I get to see Liam Neeson’s butt.’ That’s what happened. I can think of so many worse jobs.”
Born in South Africa, Theron has been steadily working for the last two decades, famously arriving in the States aged 19 with just 400 dollars to her name and a boat-load of ambition to make it in Hollywood.
Yet, despite the plaudits for her performances in heavy-hitting dramas, particularly as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, for which she won a Best Actress Oscar, Theron’s isn’t the first name that springs to mind when it comes to comedy.
Fully aware of this fact, she says she “begged” Ted creator Seth MacFarlane, who helms and also stars in A Million Ways To Die In The West, to give her the role of mysterious gunslinger Anne.
“I’ve been interested in comedy for a while, but it’s been tricky because audiences know me so well doing something very different,” admits the 38-year-old.
“In fact, what also interests me is odd comedy. Those are very rare. The combination of this script and Seth directing was a slam dunk for me. I started begging instantly. I closed the script and started begging.”
Odd is a very good description of this film.
MacFarlane plays Albert, a sensitive sheep farmer who feels out of sorts with the hard times he lives in. When his girlfriend Louise, played by Amanda Seyfried, dumps him for the smug Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), he becomes friends with Anna - who advises him on how to win fickle Louise back, not realising Anna’s connection with her husband Clinch. There’s also a song about moustaches, urinating farm animals and plenty of toilet-humour gags.
While the jokes may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s clear that stepping away from serious drama was rather freeing for Theron.
“I loved watching this movie, because it felt like I was actually seeing myself,” explains the actress.
Going into the unknown could be daunting prospect for some, but Theron was quite clear in how she should approach the comedy script.
“The worst thing you could do is show up and think you’re going to be funny, because the universe doesn’t work that way,” says the star.
For Theron, the chance to play a version of herself, instead of someone completely alien, was a nice change.
“I think there’s an idea that actors have, where unless you’re completely transforming and disappearing into a character, you’re not really doing your job,” says the former model.
“There was something refreshing after 20 years of doing this; watching a movie, seeing and hearing myself and feeling like that was enough to tell that narrative - that there’s nothing wrong with that.”
• A Million Ways To Die In The West is in cinemas now