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Cracking Hollywood's celluloid ceiling

  • Story Highlights
  • Theron says women must make their own success behind the camera
  • In her 15 years working in Hollywood, she has produced four films
  • She produced "Monster," for which she was awarded a Best Actress Oscar
  • Theron on being a woman working in Hollywood: "I try not to bitch and complain"
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By Mairi Mackay
CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- When it comes to bagging the best jobs behind the camera, Hollywood A-lister Charlize Theron says that women have to make their own luck.

Theron with Mexican screenwriter/director Guillermo Arriaga at the film's Paris premiere.

Charlize Theron in "The Burning Plain," which she both stars in and executive produces.

Indeed, the 33 year-old's career could be seen as a template for what women can achieve in the industry.

As an actress, Theron is famous for roles in films as diverse as serial killer biopic "Monster" and Will Smith superhero movie "Hancock," switching with apparent ease between small independent movies and big-budget blockbusters.

Theron also represents a small minority of women who work behind the camera in Hollywood.

During the 15 years she has worked in the U.S. film industry she has also produced four films. The latest is Guillermo Arriaga's "The Burning Plain," which she both stars in and executive produces.

At a time when women are picking up increasingly varied roles in front of the camera, statistics show they are failing to make the same headway behind the scenes.

Last year, women made up just 16 percent of all directors, producers, writers and cinematographers who worked on the 250 top grossing films in the U.S.

But, says Theron, there is no point in complaining about the tough time women have getting work behind the scenes in the movies.

Do you think breaking through through the glass ceiling is still an issue for women in Hollywood??

"I try not to kind of bitch and complain about what [women] don't have," Theron told CNN. "It's a tricky thing because, I think, if you want to find that lynchpin, you can, in anything.

"I look at the work that I've done and I feel incredibly proud that I've had the chance and the opportunity to work on the material that I have."

Originally born in South Africa, Theron is best-known for her harrowing depiction of prostitute turned serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster."

"Monster" was also the first film Theron produced, taking a huge risk on a low-budget project with a script penned by a first-time director -- and with no previous experience of producing herself.

Theron saw the film as an opportunity to move away from the lighter roles that are often thrown in the direction of a starlet with looks to spare.

"It's what I've been dying to do with my career," she told UK paper The Observer at the time. "The work I've been doing the last couple of years is not really what I wanted. If you're not careful, you get typecast. I was getting stuck."

She was awarded a Best Actress Oscar for her role in 2004 and "Monster," which was made for just $8 million went on to gross over $60 million worldwide.

It is unsurprising, then, that Theron's attitude towards women in Hollywood is one of stand-up-and-be-counted. Although, she says that she will only produce films she feels she can bring something to.

"The things that I've produced have been because I really feel like I can lend some kind of knowledge to making a certain film.

"When I meet a certain director and there's a certain amount of chemistry and we see the same film, and we just kind of feel like we want to set out and make a film together, it just kind of happens."

Like "Monster" -- and Theron's other producing credits, Cuban rap documentary "East of Havana," and indie drama "Sleepwalking" -- her latest film "The Burning Plain" is also by a first-time director.

The difference this time is that Arriaga is already a well-established, Oscar-nominated Hollywood screenwriter.

The Mexican filmmaker first came to prominence through his close relationship with fellow Mexican Alejandro González Iñárritu. Arriaga wrote the screenplays for "Amores Perros," Oscar-nominated "Babel" and "21 Grams," all of which were directed by Iñárritu.

Arriaga, famed for his nonlinear narrative style, also wrote the screenplay for "The Burning Plain," a project of such personal resonance for the writer that it was a natural progression for him to also direct the film.

Despite Theron's success in bringing Arriaga's vision to the big screen, Theron says she is not ready to move into producing bigger films yet.

"There's no way that I, right now, could produce a massive blockbuster," Theron told CNN. "I just don't feel prepared for that.

"I wouldn't produce something where I didn't feel like I had the skill."

However, Theron feels positive about not only her own position in Hollywood, but also that of her female peers in the industry, such as fellow Oscar winner Kate Winslet.

"I thought Kate Winslet did an amazing job. I do think that it's in our hands to make sure we keep working with the right people who want to go and explore those themes and want to push the envelope and want to tell great female stories."

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