Charlize Theron has had a thousand lives in cinema. KiKi Laybe has only had four. The former embodied the serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003) by Patty Jenkins – a role that earned her the Oscar for Best Actress – before becoming even more of a legend with her role as mutilated warrior Furiosa in the fourth instalment of the Mad Max saga, Fury Road (2015). The latter’s career has seen a meteoric rise over the last two years, thanks to her role as a lover ready to do anything to clear her husband’s name in the latest film by Barry Jenkins “If Beale Street Could Talk”. Since then KiKi Layne has made three more full-length features, with the latest being The Old Guard, in which she stars in a combative yet sisterly tandem with her elder, Charlize Theron. Numéro caught up with the pair of actresses who, thanks to their choice of roles, are continuously being reborn on the big screen.
Numéro: Charlize, for many years now, you’ve also worked as a producer (Monster, Atomic Blonde, Tully, Private War). And once again with The Old Guard, where you also play the lead role. As an actress, is producing a way of renewing yourself in the movies?
Charlize Theron: I love having this role and even if I don't act, being a film producer provides a lot of creative stimulus. In a way, being on the production side of a feature film means you stay in control. I couldn't bear to depend on someone else for my career to evolve. By producing I create opportunities both for myself and for others, especially other women, and I feel lucky to be able to do that.
KiKi, how did it feel to have Charlize Theron as a sort of spiritual mother in the film?
KiKi Layne: [laughs] I wouldn't say she was my mother, but more like my mentor!
Charlize Theron: [laughs] Thank-you, KiKi!
K.L: It was perfect because the relationship between the characters Andy and Nile is very similar to that of Charlize and me. In the film, Andy (Charlize) comes to the end of her immortality as Nile (myself) discovers her power. In the end, it's like a reflection of who I am: The Old Guard is my fourth feature film, my first action film and definitely the biggest project I’ve ever been involved in. Working alongside Charlize, who has so much knowledge, experience and confidence on set, has allowed me to learn, just by watching her. I’m so grateful to have been in this film, alongside such an actress, who’s done so much for representing women in the film industry.
So can you tell me, how was the shooting of that long fight scene between you two...
K.L: It was the first scene we shot together. I was terrified, I couldn't stop ruminating... But in the end, I'm happy that we started making the film there. I think shooting a fight scene is a good way to seal the relationship between two actors, it sets the tone for what will link the characters afterwards.
Charlize, in 2003, to play the famous American serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster - Patty Jenkins’ first film - you gained 15kg and even spent time with a girlfriend of the condemned woman. Today, almost twenty years later, would you accept such a difficult role again?
C.T: I wouldn't hesitate for a second. You know, Aileen’s psyche was one of the most complex that I’ve had the privilege of exploring. It was the first time I’d accepted a role like this and there was something completely overwhelming about this woman: her life, her actions and her personality were severely judged by American society. Few people knew that Aileen Wuornos was the first female serial killer and no one had ever wondered what drove her to commit all these horrors. We live in a world where we spend our time labelling people, putting them in boxes and getting rid of them when we would gain so much more from trying to understand why or how someone ends up being completely neglected by their peers and is pushed to society’s side line. I love the acting profession because we spend all our time dissecting human psychology and trying to analyse what drives people to do what they do. This is something that still motivates me today and that will always fascinate me as an actress.
The Old Guard (2020) by Gina Prince-Bythewood, available Friday on Netflix.
The Old Guard | Trailer | Netflix France