Charlize Theron won't reprise her iconic role of Furiosa in an upcoming Mad Max prequel – and she admits the recasting has been "heartbreaking" to deal with.

Theron won rave reviews for her leading role in 2015's Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road, playing the tough-as-nails Furiosa alongside Tom Hardy's Max.

The film was one of the biggest and most acclaimed big screen hits of 2015 – and five years later, a follow-up of sorts is finally in the works.

The next film in the Mad Max franchise will be a prequel focusing on Furiosa's origin story, and director George Miller is currently on the hunt for an actress in her 20s to take over the role.

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For Theron, 44, that decision is "a tough one to swallow".

Theron, 44, will be replaced by an actress in her 20s for the new Mad Max film. Photo / Getty Images
Theron, 44, will be replaced by an actress in her 20s for the new Mad Max film. Photo / Getty Images

"Listen, I fully respect George, if not more so in the aftermath of making Fury Road with him. He's a master, and I wish him nothing but the best," Theron told The Hollywood Reporter in a new interview.

"Yeah, it's a little heartbreaking, for sure. I really love that character, and I'm so grateful that I had a small part in creating her. She will forever be someone I think of and reflect on fondly. Obviously, I would love to see that story continue, and if he feels like he has to go about it this way, then I trust him in that manner. We get so hung up on the smaller details that we forget the thing that we emotionally tap into has nothing to do with that minute thing that we're focusing on."

Elsewhere in the Hollywood Reporter interview, Theron opens up about the difficulties she faced when her first foray into the action genre, the 2005 movie Aeon Flux, was a flop.

"A lot of women don't get a second chance, but when men make these movies and fail miserably, they get chance after chance after chance to go and explore that again. That doesn't necessarily happen for women," she said, describing the action genre as "not very forgiving when it comes to women."

In an "oral history" of the making of Fury Road published by the New York Times in May, many of the film's actors, including Theron and Hardy, candidly reflected on the difficulties they encountered as they filmed.

"There was a lot of tension, and a lot of different personalities and clashes at times," Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who played The Splendid Angharad in the film, told the outlet. "It was definitely interesting to sit in a truck for four months with Tom and Charlize, who have completely different approaches to their craft."

Theron, who was widely rumoured at the time of the film's release to have clashed with Hardy, admitted she may not have understood the pressures he felt taking over the iconic role of Mad Max.

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"In retrospect, I didn't have enough empathy to really, truly understand what he must have felt like to step into Mel Gibson's shoes. That is frightening!" she said.

"And I think because of my own fear, we were putting up walls to protect ourselves instead of saying to each other, 'This is scary for you, and it's scary for me, too. Let's be nice to each other.' In a weird way, we were functioning like our characters: Everything was about survival."