Charlize Theron Talks About Mixing Work and Romance

09/19/2008 at 10:45 AM EDT

Charlize Theron Talks About Mixing Work and Romance
Dave Allocca/Startraks Photo
Charlize Theron says it was great to be directed by boyfriend Stuart Townsend in their new film Battle in Seattle – except when it wasn't.

"No matter what I say, people think I am biased because I sleep with him," Theron joked with reporters in New York City Sept. 17. "It was great. He loved directing and I've never seen him so happy – which hurts my feelings as his girlfriend!"

Townsend, 35, Theron's boyfriend of seven years, makes his writing and directorial debut with the drama about the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle and protesters who brought the city's streets to a standstill.

Theron, 33, says Townsend spent five years writing and preparing for his labor of love. "We would go on vacation to Fiji," she says, "and I would be like, 'Romance time!' But he would have a pile of research and I would be like, 'Oh my God, this is so not sexy!' But that passion paid off."

For the Irish actor turned director, working with his real-life leading lady was fun, and occasionally embarrassing. "She called me by my pet name a couple of times," Townsend says. "The crew then started to call me by my pet name and I said to them, 'That's not cool. I'm trying to be a serious director here.'"

And what exactly is that pet name? "I can't tell you," says Townsend.

2004: Charlize stars in love story with Stuart
Take a peek at Charlize's orange tan!

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