Charlize Theron biography
Charlize Theron was born in Benoni, Transvaal Province, South Africa, on August 7, 1975. Theron first began appearing in films in the mid-1990s, establishing herself with roles in The Cider House Rules and The Devil's Advocate. She went on to give an Oscar-winning performance as serial killer Eileen Wuornos in Monster, and well-reviewed performances in North Country and Young Adult.
Actress, philanthropist. Born on August 7, 1975, in rural Benoni, South Africa, to co-owners of a road construction company, Charles and Gerda. The Afrikaans-speaking family lived on a working farm outside of Johannesburg, and although Theron's childhood chores included tending livestock, her passion for dance became evident early on. To foster her artistic leanings, Theron began ballet lessons at age six. Her parents encouraged her burgeoning talent, and by age 12, she was sent to a Johannesburg boarding school to study dance.
The Theron household was an unhappy one, and as Charles struggled with alcoholism, he became physically abusive. In 1991, when Theron was 15, her father violently attacked her and her mother. Theron watched as Gerda shot and killed Charles; the murder was deemed an act of self-defense, and Gerda was never charged with a crime. In the wake of the death, Gerda assumed ownership of the company, and Theron concocted the long-standing story that her father had been the victim of a lethal car accident.
At 16, Theron entered a Johannesburg modeling contest, which she won. She soon traveled to Italy, where she won the International New Model Today competition, and began a modeling career in earnest. After traveling to New York at the age of 18, she left high fashion to attempt a career in dance. Her studies with the Joffrey Ballet were curtailed by severe knee injuries, forcing her to abandon her first calling.
Making it in Hollywood
Theron decided to pursue acting instead, and moved to Los Angeles. She soon found, however, that her Afrikaner accent was a barrier in landing speaking roles. Watching hours of television, she strove to hide her South African roots with perfect American inflections.
In 1994, a destitute Theron argued with a bank teller, who refused to allow her to pull funds from a South African account. Theron's subsequent fit earned the attention of a fellow bank patron John Crosby, a Hollywood manager who represented talent including John Hurt and Rene Russo. He immediately offered to sign Theron and, within months, she made her acting debut in a small role in Children of the Corn III (1995). Soon after, larger parts followed in 2 Days in the Valley (1996) and That Thing You Do! (1996).
As Theron became more of a Hollywood presence, she was cast alongside Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves in The Devil's Advocate (1997). Her turn as Reeves' suicidal wife earned her another brief but memorable part in Woody Allen's Celebrity (1998), and a starring role in Disney's remake of Mighty Joe Young (1998).
In 1999, Theron landed a string of roles in notable films, including The Astronaut's Wife opposite Johnny Depp, and The Cider House Rules with Tobey Maguire. In 2001, she reteamed with Reeves for the tearjerker Sweet November, and two years later she starred opposite Mark Wahlberg in the heist thriller The Italian Job (2003). However, her performance in 2003's Monster—a biopic about serial killer Aileen Wuornos—earned her widespread respect. Theron gained close to 40 pounds for the role, and her gritty, gripping performance won her both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
After her turn as Britt Ekland in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004), Theron took on another strong drama, starring in 2005's North Country with Sissy Spacek and Frances McDormand. Her portrayal of a coal miner fighting sexual harassment in the work place earned her nominations at the Golden Globes and the Oscars. The same year, she starred in the big-screen adaptation of the MTV cult cartoon Aeon Flux, and made multiple guest appearances on the award-winning television comedy, Arrested Development.
With several other films under her belt, Theron returned to the superhero genre in 2008's Hancock with co-star Will Smith. In 2009, she will appear in the film version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
In addition to her film roles, Theron is also a philanthropist and social activist. In 2008, she was honored by the United Nations when she became the organization's tenth messenger of peace.
Theron currently resides in Los Angeles with her long-time companion, actor Stuart Townsend. Although the couple recognizes their union as a marriage, Theron and Townsend say they won't marry until same-sex couples are also able to have their relationships legally recognized.