Charlize Theron plays an immortal mercenary in The Old Guard

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Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron is know for fearlessly toughing through grueling training and movie shoots, but there was one skill that still held her back.

The actress stars in Netflix's new action film The Old Guard as an immortal mercenary who leads and trains a group of fellow warriors. It's a perfect role for Theron, who's played a series of badass characters in movies like Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde, the Fast and Furious franchise and more.

In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actress, 44, admits the movie made her confront the one fear she'd been avoiding: riding horses. The actress used to be an avid rider until she was bucked off at horse when she was 12 and was knocked unconscious.

"For some reason on this film, I decided to finally address that fear," she told EW. "It was the thing I definitely gave the most time to, even though there was very little of it in the movie. I'm really grateful that I got to have that experience because it was a good one for me to get over. I love horses. I want my children to be around horses. But I always had this fear when I was on them that something could go terribly wrong at any instant. So it was like a metaphor for my life in a weird way, this movie. It was therapeutic for me."

THE OLD GUARD (L to R) KIKI LAYNE as NILE, LUCA MARINELLI as NICKY, CHARLIZE THERON as ANDY, MARWAN KENZARI as JOE in THE OLD GUARD
Charlize Theron in The Old Guard
| Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

One of Theron's most physical roles came in 2017's Atomic Blonde, in which she played MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton. She trained for two to three hours a day in all kinds of martial arts for six weeks before filming even started.

“The entire stunt team was very pleasantly surprised at her overall physical ability,” stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave previously told PEOPLE. “She was extremely tough; she did 95 percent of all of her own fighting.”

Theron was so good that they completely changed their filming plans. At first, Hargrave and director David Leitch expected to film her throwing a punch or two before yelling cut and resetting the scene.

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Atomic Blonde

“But she showed that she could do 10, 15, 20, 30 moves in succession without needing to cut or reset,” Hargrave said. “We were like, wow, this is special. This is unique. We need to take advantage of this.”

Hargrave chalked most of Theron’s abilities up to her intense dedication.

“A lot of it is natural, God-given talent that she was born with. She’s just a very coordinated and athletic person to begin with, but I can attest to the hard work that she put in, and that’s what separates the good ones from the great ones, in my opinion,” he says. “Hard work was one of the bedrocks of her training, and I think it really shows in the final product."

The Old Guard hits Netflix on July 10.