Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 14:41 UK

Theron embraces producing role

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, in Venice

Charlize Theron and Guillermo Arriaga
Theron worked alongside writer-director Guillermo Arriaga

Actress Charlize Theron has spoken of the satisfaction she derived serving as executive producer on her latest film, The Burning Plain.

But she joked that her role did not extend to securing herself a better salary for her work in front of the camera.

"I was negotiating with myself non-stop, and I'm still not happy with the outcome," she told reporters at the Venice Film Festival.

"I'm very disappointed with my executive producer skills when it comes to paying me as an actress."

On a more serious note, the South Africa-born star said one "shouldn't become a producer if you're thinking about how you can come out on top".

"No one sitting up here was thinking they'd come out rich. But we can all say we've done something we're incredibly proud with, which is something money can't buy," she added.

"You are kidding yourself if you think you'll be walking away with a multi-million dollar house."

Self-destructive behaviour

In The Burning Plain, one of five US films up for the Golden Lion award, the 33-year-old plays a sexually promiscuous restaurant manager with a tendency to self-harm.

The roots of her self-destructive behaviour are linked to the fate of her mother, played by Kim Basinger, in a series of flashbacks weaved together with the present-day action.

Jennifer Lawrence
Watching Kim act was like watching Monet paint
Jennifer Lawrence (pictured)

"It is an exploration of this mystery of a woman who has an emotional journey that takes her to extremes," explained writer-director Guillermo Arriaga.

"I wanted to explore how people can get so damaged."

Like the three films he wrote for fellow Mexican Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel - The Burning Plain utilises a jumbled chronology to tell its decade-straddling narrative.

"In real life we never tell stories in a linear way," said Arriaga.

"If I was to tell you how I became a director, I wouldn't go in a linear progression.

"Cinema is a very young medium that is only beginning to find its own language. Part of that involves the deconstruction of time."

'Nice and gracious'

Basinger was not present at Friday's press conference but received fulsome praise in her absence from on-screen daughter Theron.

"Kim has this left-over vulnerability from her 30s that's beautiful to watch," gushed the former Oscar-winner.

"There was one scene where her entire body was shaking, for real. You can't fake or manufacture that."

The Burning Plain cast
The Burning Plain is one of five US films up for the Golden Lion award

"Watching Kim act was like watching Monet paint," added Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the younger version of Theron's character.

"She was focused, smart, nice and gracious, She would stay late and be off camera for me so I'd have her in my eyeline. I have 100% respect for her."

Amid the genial back-slapping and mutual congratulations, Arriaga struck a more sombre note when asked why death figures so prominently in his work.

"I have always been obsessed with the weight of death on the living," he revealed.

"My identity is constructed by the people I love, so every time one of them dies a part of my identity is broken and lost.

"As a society we're obsessed with suppressing death," he continued.

"Plastic surgery, diet programmes - they are all ways of refusing death.

"A part of my job as a film-maker is to bring important things to life, and death is one of them."

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