By Fred Topel | Image property of Warner Independent Pictures.
Charlize Theron plays another put upon working woman in In the Valley of Elah. The only female detective in a police precinct, her character, Det. Sanders, faces sexism and resistance from her colleagues and superiors. She colors her hair dark and wears long sleeves and pants to cover her fabulous curves, but it’s not about how she looks.
Charlize Theron In the Valley of Elah
“Paul [Haggis] and I talked a little bit when we started to talk about Sanders. I said to Paul, ‘People make such a big deal about it. The irony of it is when it comes to finding a character for me, it's just about the facts.’ You look at this woman, so it's not about how can we make me look different? I think the great thing about being an actor, it's not about that. It's about how do we get access to the truth. To me, that's always the biggest question whether it's where is the scene going or how do I physically look or how are we going to facilitate Paul in telling this story correctly.”
The well researched thespian did meet female officers to give her a sense of how to portray the profession on screen. “I met a woman in Albuquerque and she came and hung out with me in the trailer. It was really just more to kind of really understand my biggest concern was always the interrogation scenes. Remember, that's why I really wanted to meet somebody because you see those scenes on TV so much. It kind of becomes, which I'm not saying this is bad, but ‘You can't handle the truuuuuth!’ So I needed some help on that because also Paul had written it how it was edited, editorialized in the film. I'm talking and then you see it's somebody new. To do that in a way where it's truthful but it somehow escalates to what Paul had written. So I met with a woman who interrogates all the time, a detective.”
In the Valley of Elah
In the Valley of Elah
It turns out real life interrogations are not about tough guys strong arming the suspects. “She said it's actually very opposite from what is on television because you really don't want to antagonize them that much. But she said sometimes when it is something that kind of touches you, which is something that is really serious, you do get to a place where you have to push a little bit. But she said most of the time the best thing to do is to just play it very, very neutral. Towards the end, we went to that place of now I'm going to really just put you in that position. These are young boys. You try to get them to kind of get so angry and so passionate that they would say something that they wouldn't say if they were calm and collect.”
Though it addresses the aftermath of war and the crises current soldiers face, In the Valley of Elah is not an issue movie. “I think when you go into a war, it's pretty impossible to go through your life and not run into people and talk about it. I don't know how people could do that. It's part of what we're going through right now so of course, I think just in general there was a debate going on in this country. I'm interested in what other people have to say. It doesn't necessarily come from a South African point of view. I think it just comes from a human point of view. So it wasn't the basis of this film and I love that. I would have been scared of this movie if it was. I love that we always went back to these human beings and then the circumstances they were in. but I think just in general, of course people were talking about it a lot because it was happening and we had real soldiers around us. I wanted to know what that experience was like. I wasn't there so I was very interested to hear their point of views.”