Opposites attract

'Sleepwalking' stars Charlize Theron and Nick Stahl

by Rick Bentley

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

13 March 2008


Charlize Theron arrives at the premiere of “Sleepwalking” at the Directors Guild of America in West Hollywood, California, March 6, 2008. (Fitzroy Barrett/Landov/MCT)

It is hard to imagine how Charlize Theron and Nick Stahl could be more different.

The stars of “Sleepwalking,” who play siblings carrying the wounds of an abusive childhood, are seated only a few feet from each other on a dark gray couch in the presidential suite of the St. Regis Hotel. They are on a promotional tour to discuss what it was about the film that brought together two such opposites.

Theron, 32, is a statuesque former model and dancer from South Africa who earned an Academy Award in 2003 for the film “Monster.” For the promotional stop, Theron traveled 22 hours from South Africa, where she was shooting a commercial, to be here. She’s outgoing and charming.

Stahl’s a 28-year-old Texas native whose career has been built on a platform of small, independent films, with only an occasional blockbuster like “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” to his credit. Stahl took a far shorter plane trip from Los Angeles to talk about the movie. He’s quiet and borderline shy.

There’s nothing shy about Theron when she talks about why she got involved with the movie.

“I cannot help but read every script all the way through,” Theron says. “It is the scripts that I am thinking about the next day that I know I want to do. I was thinking about this script for days.”

She was so taken by Zac Stanford’s script that Theron agreed to be an executive producer for the project. That meant she had to split her focus between getting the movie made and creating the character of Joleen. Her Joleen is as a flawed mother who latches on to any man who pays attention to her.

Stahl, a man of few words, says his approach is different. There isn’t an exact moment when he reads a script when he knows he wants to be part of the film. He liked how his character, Joleen’s brother, ended up being both weak and strong. All he had to worry about was playing that character.

Stahl knew from a young age that he wanted to act. He tried sports, soccer for one, but realized that he was better at acting.

Theron was a dancer who had an injury that ended her dreams, and acting filled the passion she had for dance.

“It was in losing ballet that I discovered acting. It was through acting that I discovered why I loved ballet so much,” Theron says.

“When I had to find something to replace the loss, it was the storytelling, getting on the stage and pretending of acting that helped,” she says as she pulls a gray shawl tighter around her neck after a couple of sneezes, worried about possible adverse affects of her long flight.

Theron and Stahl both have appeared in quality television projects. Stahl starred in “Carnivale” for HBO. Theron made a guest appearance on the Fox series “Arrested Development.”

They got the shows in different ways.

“It was my favorite television show,” Theron says. “Patty Jenkins, who directed me in `Monster,’ directed an episode of `Arrested Development.’ We were having dinner and I asked her if she would tell them that I would like to be on the show.”

“I never wanted to do TV,” Stahl says. Doing movies was always my dream. But this series read like a film.”

“Carnivale” was difficult for Stahl, he says, because he had gotten spoiled by the slow tempo of filmmaking. He had only days to do an episode of the cable series, about a traveling band of mystical carnival workers.

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