'Arrested Development' Saved Charlize Theron's Career After 'Aeon Flux'

'Arrested Development' Saved Charlize Theron's Career After 'Aeon Flux'

Imagine being an Oscar-winning, world famous movie star and making an action movie so bad that you have to spend a season on a sitcom pretending to be intellectually disabled to save your career. 

That is exactly the situation in which Charlize Theron found herself on the eve of the flop of Aeon Flux in 2005. According to comments from her profanity-laden interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Theron signed on for five episodes of the beloved sitcom Arrested Development immediately following the filming of the critically crucified and commercially unsuccessful sci-fi film. 

Theron took the role of Michael Bluth’s intellectually disabled would-be fiance Rita Leeds in Arrested Development to save her career, going directly against the now-insensitive advice of Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder.

When Theron joined Arrested Development in 2005, the South African-American star was barely two years removed from her performance in Monster, which won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. However, Theron had just wrapped filming on Aeon Flux, a movie adaptation of an animated sci-fi TV show from the ‘90s that Theron knew would go down as one of the worst films of her career. “Aeon Flux was going to be a f—ing flop. I knew it from the beginning,” said Theron, adding, “I don’t know if I had the answers for how to (fix it), but I definitely knew we were in trouble.”

Her prediction was right – Aeon Flux film earned a 9 percent on RottenTomatoes and failed to recoup its $60 million budget. Adding insult to injury, the original series’ creator, Peter Chung, spoke out a month after the movie’s release to trash the film as well as the filmmakers responsible for the travesty, saying, “I was unhappy when I read the script four years ago; seeing it projected larger than life in a crowded theater made me feel helpless, humiliated, and sad.”

With the writing on the wall for Aeon Flux, Theron was desperate to do damage control on her marketability because she feared that one bad film would be enough to erase any actress’ opportunities, even one with an Oscar on her resume. Arrested Development offered Theron a rebrand from her usual self-serious roles – plus, she was already a massive fan. Said Theron of her pivot, ““I just f—ing loved (Arrested Development), and this is going to sound so ‘poor me,’ but I do feel like sometimes, as women, we get one shot … that’s why I did Arrested Development.”

By the time Aeon Flux premiered to a resolving “no thank you” from critics and audiences alike, Theron was already known as the mysterious “MR F” by Arrested Development fans. Theron’s comedy chops impressed American audiences enough to preserve her star power following the flop of Aeon Flux, and, even though the plotline of an able-minded man accidentally falling in love with an intellectually disabled woman hasn’t aged gracefully, it’s a good thing that Arrested Development extended her time in the spotlight, otherwise we may not have seen her in hits like Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde, and Prometheus.

Maybe Rita Leeds could have taught Theron’s character in Prometheus how to run away from things – we hear she was in the Olympics.

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