Why Atomic Blonde filmmakers gender-swapped the love interest

Ben Bussey
UK Movies Writer
Charlize Theron and Sofia Boutella get physical in ‘Atomic Blonde’ (credit: Universal/Focus Features)

Charlie Theron’s eagerly-anticipated action movie ‘Atomic Blonde’ just opened in the US – and, aside from the eye-popping fights and stunts, one key aspect the film’s marketing has pushed heavily is a steamy romance between Theron and Sofia Boutella (‘Kingsman: The Secret Service,’ ‘The Mummy’).

However, in ‘The Coldest City’ – the graphic novel by Anthony Johnston and Sam Hart, on which ‘Atomic Blonde’ is based – Boutella’s character Delphine Lasalle was a male agent of French intelligence, seduced by MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, screenwriter Kurt Johnstad and director David Leitch have shed a little light on why this change was made.

The way Johnstad explains it, discussions on the matter with Theron (also a producer on ‘Atomic Blonde’) were pretty succinct: “I said, ‘I think it’s cool if we gender flip this and make it a woman’… [and] she was like, ‘That’s cool.'”

As to why Lasalle’s gender was changed, Johnstad remarks, “We were able to develop the characters a little more. It’s all there. We’re pushing the envelope. Maybe people watching it are comfortable with that or maybe it makes them uncomfortable. And that’s good.”

Credit: Universal/Focus Features

Director David Leitch (who’s gone straight from ‘Atomic Blonde’ to ‘Deadpool 2’) is in agreement:  “It was a great idea. You always have to find ways to contemporize these stories, reach bigger audiences and be provocative in your storytelling.

“We furthered that narrative between them and really tried to use her as a way to show Broughton’s humanity. The Lasalle character represents naivety and innocence that Lorraine has obviously lost. For a moment she cracks and shows humanity in a world of lies where you really can’t trust anyone. She was a really important part of the story so we expanded that a bit.”

At the time of writing, Box Office Mojo has ‘Atomic Blonde’s opening weekend take from US screens at $18.5 million – not a bad start, considering the film cost only $30 million to make. It’s going down pretty well with critics too, currently rated 75% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes.

‘Atomic Blonde’ opens in UK cinemas on 9 August.

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