AFI Movie Club: MONSTER – American Film Institute

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AFI Movie Club: MONSTER

MONSTER, the harrowing story of real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos, was directed Patty Jenkins – an alum of the AFI Conservatory – and awarded an AFI AWARD in 2003, recognizing it as one of the 10 outstanding films deemed culturally and artistically representative of the year’s most significant achievements in the art of the moving image. 

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MONSTER – Reelgood

In this exclusive AFI Archive video, director and AFI alum Patty Jenkins talks about filming MONSTER:

Movie Trivia about TODAY’S FILM

DID YOU KNOW? 

Patty Jenkins, who wrote and directed MONSTER, obtained the rights to correspondences between Aileen Wuornos and close friend Dawn Botkins, written during the 12 years Wuornos spent on death row. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Patty Jenkins created the fictionalized character of Wuornos’ friend, Thomas, played by Bruce Dern in the film, to convey that Wuornos was more of a misanthrope than a man-hater. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Jenkins was inspired to cast Charlize Theron after seeing her performance in THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE and had to persuade the film’s financiers to hire her over Kate Winslet and Heather Graham. Theron, who cut her hair, gained 30 pounds and wore a prosthetic overbite to play Wuornos, also put her salary toward the finishing costs of the film. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Selby – portrayed by Christina Ricci – is based on Tyria Moore, Aileen Wuornos’ real-life girlfriend at the time of the murders. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

The film was shot in Daytona Beach, Port Orange, Winter Park, Kissimmee and Orlando, FL, the actual locations where Wuornos committed her crimes. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

MONSTER marks the feature directorial debut of AFI Conservatory alumna Patty Jenkins and Charlize Theron’s first credit as a producer.

DID YOU KNOW? 

The film struggled to find distribution due to its dark subject matter. According to Charlize Theron, she and Jenkins were “about to sign the contract for a straight-to-video [deal] with Blockbuster…because no distributor would pick it up” when they received a call from Newmarket Films President Bob Berney who was interested. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Charlize won the Academy Award® for her gritty portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Ironically, the date of the Oscar® ceremony when she received the award was Wuornos’ birthday. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Patty Jenkins directed her second feature, the box office hit WONDER WOMAN, in 2017 – which broke records as the biggest opening ever for a film directed by a woman. 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-Aileen Wuornos is a social outcast who turns to prostitution to survive. What do you think Patty Jenkins was trying to say about those that live on the fringes of society? 

-While the media went out of their way to depict Aileen Wuornos as a man-hating lesbian killer, how did Patty Jenkins tell her story with compassion, humanity and nuance? 

-What lengths did she go in her research to tell Aileen’s story authentically? 

-Do you believe Aileen Wuornos was a misandrist or is it more complicated than that? 

-Did you recognize Charlize Theron in the film? Were you stunned by her physical transformation? 

-How was she an unconventional choice for the role and why do you think she wanted to play the part? 

-What do you make of the media’s obsession with her gaining weight and altering her appearance for the gritty role? 

– What does the opening of the film reveal about Wuornos’ aspirations in life? How does that dovetail with what our society values? 

-Can you draw a through line between MONSTER and WONDER WOMAN? Do they share any feminist themes in common? 

-How would you rate MONSTER? 

New to AFI Movie Club? Want to learn more?

AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

Learn more in our FAQ section.

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