Charlize Theron as Furiosa - the one armed, shaven headed, warrior woman in this summer's high octane Mad Max: Fury Road - proved undoubtedly that the Oscar-winner can conquer the action genre. Fury road was packed with kick ass female characters equaling Max in both toughness and war rig handling; it also gave Theron a chance to re-enter the action genre with a smash (for the first time since the ill-fated Aeon Flux in 2005).
Fury Road has clearly given Theron a new taste for action, as she's now lined up to star in The Coldest City - a spy thriller form John Wick co-director David Leitch - as well as the assassin thriller, The Gray Man. The latter (as adapted from the novel by Mark Greaney) will include an unexpected gender switch of the story's protagonist, in order to bring Theron onboard.
The Gray Man follows an ex CIA assassin who must fight to survive after discovering he has become a target, all whilst protecting his two daughters that are unaware of his existence. The project wound up floating around for some time in that form, back when the rights were still held by New Regency - with James Gray as director and Brad Pitt in mind for the lead role.
This version of the project never came to fruition, instead passing to Sony - which had the screenplay reworked by Joe and Anthony Russo (directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier). The Russos were once expected to direct The Gray Man too, until Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming two Avengers installments diverted their attentions. Deadline is reporting that Theron is discussing taking on the action thriller, to star and produce alongside Joe Roth (Snow White and the Huntsman) with her Denver And Delilah label.
Swapping the gender of a lead protagonist in an action role is not an unprecedented move in film making. Many roles originally written for men have produced nuanced performances from actresses in this genre, proving it a strong device for creating authentic characters without the undermining of stereotyping. Angelina Jolie famously replaced Tom Cruise when he pulled out of Salt and notably both Jodie Foster's role in Flightplan and Sigourney Weaver's role in the Alien movies were originally written as male.
Theron has previously discussed the standard roles of women in action films - with THR having quoted her back in May 2015 as follows:
"I've always wanted to explore the genre a little bit more, especially because I think it's such a misconception that women don't like the genre, or that they don't want to go and see these movies....... I just feel like women have been so misrepresented in these films — why do we have to go and see the genre every single time with the girl in the back of the frame in a push-up bra? Why isn't there a girl that's standing on the same playing field with the guys?"
These opinions put Theron in good stead to play the fearsome Furiosa - showing she can add strong action leads to her diverse career successes. Sony apparently has a movie series in mind with The Gray Man; one that could rival the Bourne or Mission Impossible franchises, but now as a female fronted spy franchise instead. That would be a welcome and refreshing contribution to the genre - assuming that everything goes to plan, of course.
We will continue to update you with more details on The Gray Man (The Gray Woman?) as they are revealed.