Keanu Reeves Took Mercy On Charlize Theron While Training For John Wick 2

It's been fascinating to see how Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron have become legitimate action stars since the two actors starred opposite each other in the demonic thriller "The Devil's Advocate." Reeves picked up the mantle first with "The Matrix" franchise which helped redefine U.S. action films. At 57 years old, Reeves has done the majority of his own stunts through four entries of the "John Wick" series, and if the latest "John Wick 4" trailer is any indication, the actor shows no signs of slowing down. 

With powerhouse performances in "Mad Max: Fury Road," "Atomic Blonde," and "The Old Guard," Theron has carved out an onscreen action presence of her own as well. During production on "Atomic Blonde," Theron was training in the same airport hanger that Reeves occupied as he began gearing up for "John Wick: Chapter 2." Since Theron's fighting style incorporated more elbow and knee strikes to make her battles a little more realistic, the two A-listers didn't train directly together very often, but that didn't stop them from trading a few friendly barbs with each other. 

Theron confessed to Yahoo! that there were times when she would daydream about taking out Reeves in an actual fight. "In my head, I think I totally won the fight that we had in my brain," Theron admitted. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely for now that audiences will get a chance to see them battle it out for real, so action fans will have to continue to debate who would win in actual hand-to-hand combat. 

Just a little 'good-natured smack talk'

From Theron's comments on the heels of the release of "Atomic Blonde," her newfound dedication to hands-on action even inspired Reeves to dig a little deeper during training for "John Wick: Chapter 2." "We had a lot of like, you know, smack talk. We did a lot of that," she admitted. Anyone who has trained in martial arts before can attest to the fact that, sometimes, it's hard to turn that part of your brain off. Everyone becomes a target, in a sense. 

To inspire herself to push the limits, it sounds like Theron couldn't help imagining how she would be able to defeat the "John Wick" star. "I would have stupid moments where I would think I could actually tackle him and pin him down," she recalled. "He would just try to, in a very sweet way, entertain my complete stupidity and allow me to kind of pin him down."

It sounds like it was a smart decision to have Theron and Reeves subtly spurring each other on with a little friendly competition. "Charlize would look over, and Keanu would look over, and they'd train a little bit harder to push themselves," said Sam Hargrave, the second-unit director and stunt coordinator for "Atomic Blonde." Theron's efforts paid off in a big way, especially in the unforgettable one-take staircase brawl in "Atomic Blonde" that's now considered one of the best action sequences of the last decade. With Theron poised to keep her own immortal franchise going with Netflix's "The Old Guard 2," it may be some time before we ever see Reeves and Theron facing off against each other. However, Uma Thurman has joined the cast of "The Old Guard 2," so maybe The Bride from "Kill Bill" will trade a few punches with Theron if we're lucky.

Charlize Theron's worst film injury may surprise you

Shockingly, Theron's worst injury didn't happen on location in Namibia during "Mad Max: Fury Road" or on the set of "Atomic Blonde" during one of the numerous knockdown fights featured in the film. For the role of a struggling suburbanite pregnant with her third child, Theron gained 50 pounds to play a Mom at the end of her rope in Jason Reitman's dark comedy "Tully." Theron wound up with a herniated disc in her lower back because of the added weight, she told the "Smartless" podcast last November. Reitman wanted the fake belly Theron wore to be as authentic as possible, which added another 45 pounds to Theron's frame. 

The offer to play an out-of-shape mother in "Tully" came just after Theron had finished with "Atomic Blonde" when she was basically in the greatest shape of her life until she got the call from Reitman. "I said everything that you did for 'Atomic Blonde' I want you to do the opposite," Reitman told Mercury News. Winning an Oscar for Best Actress for portraying serial killer Aileen Wuornos, Theron is no stranger to undergoing a complete transformation for the sake of a great role. She's also virtually unrecognizable as Megyn Kelly in "Bombshell." Whether Theron has to train with Keanu Reeves and some of the best fight choreographers in the business or do the exact opposite to convincingly play the character of Marlo in "Tully," it's clear she will do whatever it takes to be believable on screen. 

See Theron continue her bid to become one of the greatest action stars in the world when "The Old Guard 2" debuts on Netflix later on in 2023.