This Actor Inspired Charlize Theron To Do Her Own Stunts

Charlize Theron might have been considered an unlikely action star once upon a time, but her performances in films like "Atomic Blonde" and "The Old Guard" went a long way in proving her credibility. In the former, the actress did nearly all her own stunts, conceding to her double only for more dangerous work. But "The Old Guard" saw Theron doing even more of the work herself, powering through fight scenes despite several on-set injuries.

It's this dedication that has earned the actress comparisons to Keanu Reeves, who's famously done the bulk of his own stunts as far back as "The Matrix." Both Theron and Reeves have been training with the same stunt teams — and working with "John Wick" directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski — for years, but the two have been good friends for even longer. In fact, it was Reeves who inspired Theron to take a more hands-on approach to her stunt work.

Keanu Reeves' impact

The action cinema community is, according to Theron, a "small, insular world" — and in the course of 20 years, Reeves has definitely become a legend in it. For the "Matrix" films, Reeves helped set a standard that would follow him throughout his career. The actor performed as many of his stunts and fight choreography as physically (and legally) possible, with the film's stunt team helping to accommodate his level of skill.

"Keanu was trained specifically to do his own martial arts," said Chad Stahelski, who worked as Reeves' stunt double in "The Matrix" (and later went on to direct him in the "John Wick" franchise). "If there's anything really, really technical, a super hard piece of wire choreography that required above-average [experience], or it's painful or tricky or there's a probability of injury, then yes, a double would step in and try to make that move fit to what Keanu could do."

Even now, at 57, Reeves still performs about 90% of his stunts, short of any dangerous work that insurance won't allow. The actor told Today that this commitment was more to keep audiences connected to the action than for any personal thrill — and it's a commitment he shares with Stahelski. "My background's martial art choreography, so obviously I like to see human beings doing the stuff," the filmmaker told /Film's Jack Giroux. "Right off the bat, that connects that gap in your mind: Keanu Reeves and John Wick are the same guy. They're doing it. This is real, because of that."

Returning the favor

Reeves may have opened the door for A-listers to train harder than they were able to before, but Theron has since pushed herself to an even more intense standard. "I'd put her in the top one percent of actors who do action," said Sam Hargrave, the second-unit director and stunt coordinator for "Atomic Blonde." Theron's "off the charts" work ethic was instrumental to carrying out the film's unforgettable one-take brawl, Hargrave told IndieWire.

Theron's work ethic even managed to inspire Reeves in 2017, when he was training for the second "John Wick" film, and she for "Atomic Blonde." Since their respective directors are longtime collaborators, the actors often trained in the same gym.

Though they trained separately, that didn't stop Theron from spurring Reeves on now and again. "[I was] the annoying one who's like, 'Yeah, come on, let's do it,'" Theron told USA Today. "And he's like, 'Oh God, here we go again.'"

"Charlize would look over, and Keanu would look over, and they'd train a little bit harder to push themselves," Hargrave added. "It always helps to have a training partner."