The Action Sci-Fi Flop That Almost Left Charlize Theron Paralyzed

In what Theron called a “freak accident,” the actress landed on her neck while filming an intense action sequence.

Charlize Theron has become a bonafide action star over the years, racking up roles in films including Mad Max: Fury Road and The Old Guard. A large part of this is due to her commitment to physical needs for these roles — Theron’s Atomic Blonde stunt double Monique Ganderton would be the first to tell anyone this. “Charlize is tough. She knows she’s going to get tagged, but also when to keep her distance. If something goes wrong in a film, she has the confidence to pull it back together,” Ganderton told ELLE UK. But when she filmed Aeon FluxTheron was nearly paralyzed when a stunt went horribly wrong.

Aeon Flux is based on the MTV animated series of the same name, with Theron playing the titular secret agent. She is tasked with toppling the city state of Bregna and assassinating its leader, Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas). But Aeon learns that she is connected to Trevor, both in terms of romance as well as their shared past. This connection leads her into conflict with her rebel group, the Monicans, as they want to tear down Bregna and start anew. Then there’s the fact that the Monicans are hiding more than a few things from Aeon, which leads to further conflict.

Not only does Aeon Flux attempt to replicate the futuristic elements of the animated series — down to pulling off a perfect replication of the bizarrely surreal opening sequence — it also aims for the high-octane action that fueled the animated series. One of these action sequences saw Theron landing on her neck, which she admitted was very severe during an interview with


“I was a centimetre away from being completely paralysed for the rest of my life. It definitely woke me up to, OK, you have to be prepared. It was nobody’s fault, but it was just a freak accident where I landed on my neck. I had eight years of pain management, where I just couldn’t get rid of the spasms and the nerve damage.”

The experience didn’t put Theron off stunt work, as she credits her years of dance training with preparing her for action roles. “I love storytelling through the physical; I think it’s the ballerina in me, the fact that I started as a dancer. I’m not interested in doing stupid things, but I am interested in learning new things. It’s different to getting on a motorcycle and doing something stupid — it’s precise,” she said. Watching Aeon Flux, as well as other action-oriented roles, proves that Theron is more than capable of delivering some brutal beatdowns worth the price of admission.

‘Aeon Flux’ Failed To Live up to Its Source Material

Charlize Theron as Aeon Flux leans against a stark white wall and glares at the camera.

Charlize Theron as Aeon Flux points a gun at something off-camera.

Charlize Theron as Aeon Flux reaches for a gun on her back on the Aeon Flux poster.

Charlize Theron fighting outside in Aeon Flux

Charlize Theron wearing all black and crouching in the grass in Aeon Flux

Aeon Flux would ultimately turn out to be a critical and commercial failure, with most of the criticism citing that the film lacked the cutting edge of the animated series. Its problems also extend to how the screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi mistakes being convoluted for being clever — plot twists pile up to the point where viewers will have to take notes just to keep track of what’s going on. The cast also feels out of sync with the material, whether it’s Theron or the supporting cast, which includes Frances McDormand, Jonny Lee Miller, and the late great Pete Postlethwaite. It’s a feeling of malaise that extends to the cast and crew. “I just don’t think we really knew how to execute it,” Theron told Variety.

The most damning criticism came from Aeon Flux creator Peter Chung, who said that the final film made him feel “helpless, humiliated, and sad.” “Ms. Flux does not actually appear in the movie,” he said in a lengthy interview.

Despite Aeon Flux‘s failure, the cast and creators went on to better projects. Theron, of course, carved out a successful career as an action star. Hay and Manfredi co-created the lovely but short-lived series The Mysterious Benedict Society for Disney+. Director Karyn Kusama has turned out plenty of cult hits, including Destroyer and Jennifer’s Body. As for Aeon FluxTeen Wolf‘s Jeff Davis is aiming to reboot the series for Paramount; hopefully he takes notes from the Theron incident and utilizes proper safety protocols during the stunts.

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