Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron
"It's a great excuse to cut your hair off and change it," Theron says about transforming her looks for movies. "If it doesn't look good, you can always say, 'Well, it's for a part.' "

09/10/2004 AT 06:00 AM EDT

Right before she was injured Aug. 30 on the set of her upcoming movie Aeon Flux, it seemed the most dangerous stunt Oscar winner Charlize Theron attempted was costarring in a film with her real-life boyfriend, Stuart Townsend. Still, the South African-born actress (who's on the mend after injuring her neck while performing stunts for Flux) brushed off any fears of Bennifer-style repercussions from playing opposite Townsend in the steamy new World War II romance Head in the Clouds (opening Sept. 17). Then there's her other Clouds love interest: Theron also shares a bed and locks lips onscreen with Penelope Cruz. Before her accident, Theron, 29, talked about balancing real-life and fictional romance.

How much time did you and Stuart work separately on this film?
Not that much. We kind of dived into that together. Rehearsals, we were always together.

Is it easier to be intimate with someone onscreen if you're involved in real life?
The reason that I thought Stuart and I could bring something with our relationship to this material was because it's not just a relationship about love. It's really about the opposite – the deconstructing. She's the manipulator in many ways. I found myself having to get him to a place where he was truly affected, to have his heart completely ripped out of his chest. Being his girlfriend, I have that power. I had to kind of abuse it a little bit in this movie.

Why is it often difficult for a film to star real-life couples?
I think it's sometimes hard for people to get around when they watch a movie and they know that you're in a relationship. There's the fear of it becoming the people that you know as celebrities onscreen.

So, are you and Stuart looking to work together again soon?
No. I think that this came very organically. It wasn't planned. It was something that he was going to do and then there was a shot for me to do it. I love working with him. Putting aside that I'm biased and he's my boyfriend, I think that he's a phenomenal actor, and I'm always up for working with great actors.

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You both also have a passionate onscreen relationship with Penelope Cruz. How was it working with her?
Amazing. Amazing. If she called me tomorrow, I'd do anything with her. She's an incredible actor. Most of the time you only have to deal with the fact that there's one love interest. In this, it was so important for the three of us to have a great chemistry with each other.
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