By Danielle DeSimone
Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron has trained in more than 30 different styles of martial arts for various film roles, has acquired numerous injuries in fight scenes and is known for doing her own stunts – but it’s the daily work of our nation’s men and women in uniform that she finds truly impressive.
“What we get to do is so silly,” Theron said. “You guys do the real thing, and we don’t ever want to take that for granted.”
That’s why Theron and her costar Kiki Layne from Netflix’s recently released film, “The Old Guard,” joined a Virtual USO Tour to give back to the military community. It was a chance for the actors to chat and connect directly with members of the military, but also to be a part of the USO’s mission of boosting the morale of service members and their families during an otherwise difficult time.
A New Kind of USO Entertainment
Life in the military is undeniably challenging. Service members and their families must navigate the stress of daily duties, deployments overseas and months – or sometimes even years – apart from loved ones.
In this past year, those challenges have become all the more apparent with the additional strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many members of the National Guard have been deployed straight to the front lines of the pandemic and military communities stationed overseas have withstood some of the world’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns. Other service members have missed weddings, births and other special moments due to extended deployments – all while their military spouses hold down the fort at home, alone.
This can all take its toll – which is why the USO created Virtual USO Tours. With COVID-19 restrictions limiting the USO’s ability to physically take celebrities across the globe to visit service members and their families, we’re instead delivering celebrities right to wherever they are – through their mobile devices and computer screens.
Theron and Layne joined this new wave of USO entertainment this week by participating in a video call to discuss their new film, “The Old Guard.” During the call they answered questions from military members stationed all around the world.
“Acknowledging how much you guys do for all of us, and not only you but [also] your families, and the sacrifices that you make – [I’m] just really, super grateful,” Theron said.
Service members who appeared on screen to ask the actors about their training for the film thanked Theron and Layne for taking the time to speak to them, but the actors responded by instead thanking the service members.
“For me, playing a Marine in this film … I’m very, very grateful to be here and to speak with you all,” Layne said. “Thank you for the real work that you do … I stepped into just a quarter of your shoes for these couple of months while shooting and it made me even more appreciative of what it is that you do.”
Theron and Layne Learn What It Means to Be a U.S. Service Member
Theron and Layne’s new action film follows the story of a group of immortal mercenaries who have been secretly fighting to protect humanity for centuries. Because many of the cast’s characters had a military background, Theron explained, the realities of military life today were often discussed on-set.
“We talked a lot about the incredible work that you guys do,” Theron said. “[We’re] very grateful, and just know that you had a huge creative influence on this film, and we thank you for that.”
Understanding what it means to be an American service member today was especially important to Layne, as she played a U.S. Marine in the film. Aside from the several military advisors who assisted in filming “The Old Guard,” Layne also had a personal Marine advisor who helped her prepare and train for the role so that she could portray her Marine character as authentically as possible.
“I took it very seriously because what you all do is so real, it’s so important, it’s something we’re so grateful for,” Layne said.
Layne was also especially excited to portray a female U.S. Marine, explaining that she feels that female service members are often underrepresented in Hollywood films.
“Women [are] out on the front lines, fighting and working just as hard and making the same sacrifices,” Layne said. “So, I was very grateful to be a part of bringing that to light and sharing more information about the female engagement teams that are very real, out there every day, making a huge difference.”
However, stepping into a Marine’s shoes – or rather, boots – required just as much internal preparation as it did physical training.
“I had to carry myself differently,” Layne said. “That was one of the things that the Marine advisor made very clear: there’s just a certain strength, inherent dignity and pride that – once you tap into it – seriously, it just changes you from the inside.”
This attempt at understanding military sacrifice and character was not only apparent in the film, but also in Theron and Layne’s words to service members and their families who were tuning into the video call from home.
“We can never understand exactly what it is that y’all experience and go through to serve our country and to make the world a better place for us here at home,” Layne said. “Whatever we can do here at home to lift you guys up and let you know that you are supported and appreciated – man, we are so happy to do that, and so happy that we can be here with you today.”
Theron agreed, and highlighted the importance of supporting our service members through organizations such as the USO.
“I think that it is our responsibility to do whatever we can on our side … to help in whatever means we can,” Theron said. “To reach out, to make sure that our service men and women out there are really getting the support, the tools, the resources, the things that they need to do this incredibly hard job – and I think you guys [the USO] do a great job at that.”
“There is never enough support,” Theron added. “So, we have to remember that.”
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