Long Shot star Charlize Theron: I wanted to feel like I could bring something to the table
Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen star in new romcom Long Shot, set in the world of politics. They tell Laura Harding how it reflects real-life issues and of finding fun in political turmoil
Charlize Theron was nervous to make a romantic comedy. While she is a proven force to be reckoned with in drama, having bagged an Oscar for Monster, and a charming presence in comedies such as A Million Ways To Die In The West and even TV series Arrested Development, she was unsure about adding an emotional element into the mix.
"I just wanted to make sure that we would have two characters that felt modern and that we would focus on a relationship that felt real," she says as she leans forward in her chair in a London hotel room.
"I struggle with that sometimes in romantic comedies. I feel like I'm the only loser who has never experienced the third act of most romantic comedies and it just makes me feel very bitter.
"So I just wanted to feel like I could bring something to the table and I think it's hard for me to do that kind of fantasy love stuff."
Seth Rogen is more blunt about his own concerns.
"They are usually bad, that was my fear."
But luckily their new film together is a different kind of romantic comedy. In Long Shot, Theron (43) plays Charlotte Field, a US secretary of state forced to kowtow to an egomaniacal president who got elected after playing the commander in chief on a TV show.
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Rogen (37) plays Fred Flarsky, the idealistic journalist she hires to work on her speeches when she decides to run for the top job.
The American political arena might not seem like a rich environment for laughs at the moment but Rogen was convinced this was not the case.
"If anything, as people who make comedy, it was a really great opportunity to be able to make a very current, timely film," he says.
"I think we are the first people to even attempt to make a comedy that is remotely reflective of the times that we live in, at least as a movie.
"It was mostly just a fun backdrop that gave us a lot of chances to make jokes that we thought the audience would really appreciate and enjoy, and it gave us a good way to show off the characters and to create situations where their chemistry could work well."
The film includes playful parodies of familiar figures, such as a billionaire media mogul, Fox News hosts, and even a handsome Canadian prime minister, and the double standards imposed on women in the public eye and the work they are obliged to put in to seem composed and calm at all times.
"We always looked at it as, 'Is this a fact?'" Theron says.
"Which party you belong to doesn't really matter - it's just factual, this is really happening.
"It is a cold, hard fact that women, not just in politics, but in a lot of workplaces, they have to endure way more scrutiny than their male counterparts.
"So it would have been impossible to tell this story and not address that and it was nice to be able to touch upon things I think people are really responding to.
"It feels reflective, it feels modern and of this time and I think women look at it and it's refreshing to hear a character acknowledge that and not feel sorry for herself but just be aware of it.
"And I love how matter-of-fact she is about it, especially to Fred when he's writing her stuff."
Rogen, who has been married to actress, writer and director Lauren Miller since 2011, nods in agreement.
"Yeah, and he doesn't get it," Rogen says. "I've had those conversations in real life. I've been married a long time to a woman who is also in the entertainment industry and I've seen first hand the insane double standards that exist but I still need constant explanation all the time.
"And I welcome it and I'm more than happy to have the women in my life explain to me how I don't understand anything."
The other notable element of art imitating life is that of a president, played in the film by Breaking Bad's Bob Odenkirk, who got famous on TV.
In the movie, he is a vain idiot who watches episodes of his old show in the Oval Office and decides he won't seek re-election because he wants to move on to bigger and better things - movies.
"That definitely evolved to reflect the modern political situation and just society," Rogen says.
"I think very quickly the lines between politics and celebrity have been heavily blurred and I think that became a fun thing to point out."
And this won't be Theron's last foray into this area.
Later this year, she will be seen in an as-yet unnamed film about Fox News boss Roger Ailes, starring alongside Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman and Alice Eve.
Theron will play news anchor Megyn Kelly, who famously clashed with presidential candidate Donald Trump when he said she had "blood coming out of her wherever" during a Republican debate in 2015.
"It's very different," Theron insists. "This is a romantic comedy and I think we always knew what hanger we are hanging this story on and what our focus was and I think we never really struggled with any of that.
"We just knew what this movie was and the untitled film is tonally a different film and we are trying to tell a factual story and you have to do your homework and be specific with it."
Long Shot is in cinemas now