It’s been described as Mary Poppins for millennials, but Charlize Theron’s new movie Tully is far better than that. Theron plays Marlo, who’s expecting her third child. Anticipating the impending sleeplessness and stress, her brother and his wife pay for a night nanny. She arrives in the form of Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a free-spirited 26-year-old. Directed by Jason Reitman (Young Adult, also starring Theron, Juno) and written by Diablo Cody (who wrote Juno and Young Adult), it’s full of spiky one-liners and telling-it-like-it-is attitude. But more importantly, it’s a sensitive and relatable look at parenthood and growing up. Here’s Theron on the role.
Parenthood has rarely been portrayed so realistically. Was this a story you felt needed to be told?
My youngest was around six months old when I read the script and, having raised two small kids in my life, it just felt familiar to me. It was refreshing for somebody to be telling the truth about what it feels like sometimes and not worrying about the stigma that comes when parents are being honest.
Diablo Cody’s dialogue is typically sharp. Were there any of her lines you particularly loved?
Oh yeah, she’s hilarious. I absolutely loved the line, “Girls don’t heal, if you look up close we’re all just covered in concealer”. It’s such quintessential Diablo. And I loved how she used all these things you hear mothers say about having kids, like “It’s a blessing” and “It’s the best thing ever”. I say those things all the time. For the first time I thought: why do I say that?
You went through a physical transformation for this film – gaining 50 pounds. Are you surprised that’s what people are focusing on?
Women gain that amount, if not more, every time they get pregnant. So it’s not that big of a deal. I was playing this woman and I wanted to get closer to her. I don’t think when an actress does that we have to get so focused on it.
What was it like working with newborns?
We had two sets of twins. One set shot with me throughout the movie so I got to know those babies pretty well. They were actually two boys, playing Mia, and they were super-sweet. They were so easy.
What reaction have you had to the movie so far?
It’s been really interesting to see young women who don’t have kids being incredibly moved by this story. Because there’s something of a Tully experience too. Younger women see this movie through the eyes of Tully: “What will my life be like? Who will I marry? Am I going to be happy?” Everybody can relate to that time where they have to say goodbye to a piece of themselves to make room for the next chapter. That’s ultimately what Marlo’s story is about.
Are there other films about parenthood you love?
Kramer vs Kramer was an interesting movie, because even though some people think that the mother was villainised in it, I don’t know that she was. There’s something beautiful in acknowledging that we can’t all be parents the way we think parents should be. And I think some people make horrible mistakes. That movie has always stayed with me.
Your character Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road is perhaps the best female action hero since Alien. Would you like to play her again?
Wow, that’s a really nice thing to say. Ripley is one of my favourite characters ever. Yeah, I’d love to. If George [Miller, Fury Road director] called me tomorrow I’d be totally on board. I absolutely loved working with him, and I loved that character. I spent a lot of time with her in the desert and I feel very attached to her. It would be great to revisit that if everything aligned.
Tully is out now in cinemas across Dubai.