Charlize Theron (born August 7, 1975) is a South African and American actress and fashion model who rose to fame in the late 1990s following roles in the films The Devil's Advocate (1997), Mighty Joe Young (1998), and The Cider House Rules (1999).
Theron received critical acclaim for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003), for which she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama, the Screen Actors Guild Award, the Silver Bear, and even the Academy Award for Best Actress, among several other accolades, becoming the first South African to win an Academy Award in a major acting category. In recent years she has also moved into the field of producing, both in television and film.
She received further Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for her performance in North Country in 2005, and a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Young Adult in 2011. In 2012 she appeared in Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus, both of which were box office successes. Theron became a US citizen in 2007, while retaining her South African citizenship.
Theron was born on August 7, 1975 in Benoni, in the then-Transvaal Province of South Africa, the only child of Gerda (née Maritz; who has also called herself Gerta) and Charles Theron (born November 27, 1947). Second Boer War figure Danie Theron was her great-great-uncle. Her ancestry includes French, German, and Dutch; her French forebears were early Huguenot settlers in South Africa. "Theron" is an Occitan surname (originally spelled Théron) pronounced in Afrikaans as [tron], although she has said that the way she pronounces it in South Africa is [θron]. She changed the pronunciation when she moved to the U.S. to give it a more "American" sound.
She grew up on her parents' farm in Benoni, near Johannesburg. Her father was lawfully killed by her mother with a firearm on 21 June 1991. Theron's father, an alcoholic, physically attacked her mother and threatened both her mother and her while drunk. The shooting was legally adjudged to have been self-defense and her mother faced no charges.
Theron attended Putfontein Primary School (Laerskool Putfontein), a period she later characterised as not "fitting in." At 13, Theron was sent to boarding school and began her studies at the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg. Although Theron is fluent in English, her first language is Afrikaans.
Although seeing herself as a dancer, Theron at 16 won a one-year modeling contract at a local competition in Salerno and with her mother moved to Milan, Italy. After Theron spent a year modeling throughout Europe, she and her mother moved to New York City and Miami, Florida. In New York, she attended the Joffrey Ballet School, where she trained as a ballet dancer until a knee injury closed this career path. As Theron recalled in 2008,
- I went to New York for three days to model, and then I spent a winter in New York in a friend's windowless basement apartment. I was broke, I was taking class at the Joffrey Ballet, and my knees gave out. I realized I couldn’t dance anymore, and I went into a major depression. My mom came over from South Africa and said, "Either you figure out what to do next or you come home, because you can sulk in South Africa."
At 19, Theron flew to Los Angeles, California, on a one-way ticket her mother bought her, intending now to work in the movie industry. During her early months there, she went to a Hollywood Boulevard bank to cash a check her mother had sent her to help with the rent. When the teller refused to cash it, Theron engaged in a shouting match with him. Upon seeing this, talent agent John Crosby, in line behind her, handed her his business card and subsequently introduced her to casting agents and also an acting school. She later fired him as her manager after he kept sending her scripts for films similar to Showgirls and Species. After several months in the city, she was cast in her first film part, a non-speaking role in the direct-to-video film Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995). Her first speaking role was a supporting but significant and attention-garnering part as a hitwoman in 2 Days in the Valley (1996). Larger roles in widely released Hollywood films followed, and her career expanded in the late 1990s with box-office successes like The Devil's Advocate (1997), Mighty Joe Young (1998), and The Cider House Rules (1999). She was on the cover of the January 1999 issue of Vanity Fair as the "White Hot Venus." She also appeared on the cover of the May 1999 issue of Playboy magazine. However, the nude photos inside the issue had been taken several years earlier before she became famous and Theron unsuccessfully sued the magazine for publishing the photos without her consent. She starred in four films in 2000 - Reindeer Games, The Yards, The Legend of Bagger Vance, and Men of Honor - and was briefly considered a new It girl. Theron has said of this period in her career that, "I kept finding myself in a place where directors would back me but studios didn't. [I began] a love affair with directors, the ones I really, truly admired. I found myself making really bad movies, too. Reindeer Games was not a good movie, but I did it because I loved John Frankenheimer."
After appearing in other films, Theron starred as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003). Film critic Roger Ebert called it "one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema". For this role, Theron won the Academy Award for Best Actress at the 76th Academy Awards in February 2004, as well as the SAG Award and the Golden Globe Award. She is the first South African to win an Oscar for Best Actress. The Oscar win pushed her to The Hollywood Reporter's 2006 list of highest-paid actresses in Hollywood; earning US$10 million for both her subsequent films, North Country and Æon Flux, she ranked seventh, behind Halle Berry, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Renée Zellweger, Reese Witherspoon, and Nicole Kidman. AskMen also named her the number one most desirable woman of 2003.
In 2005 Theron portrayed Rita Leeds, Michael Bluth's (Jason Bateman) love interest, on the third season of FoxFox's critically acclaimed television series Arrested Development. She also received Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for her role of Britt Ekland in the 2004 HBO film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. On September 30, Theron received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions in motion pictures. In the same year, she starred in the financially unsuccessful science fiction thriller Æon Flux. She also received the 2005 Spike Video Game Award for Best Performance by a Human Female for her voiceover work in the Æon Flux video game.
Theron received Best Actress Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for her lead performance in the drama North Country. Ms. magazine also honoured her for this performance with a feature article in its Fall 2005 issue. She was supposed to star in the screen adaption of the short story The Ice at the Bottom of the World by Mark Richard, and it was to be directed by Kimberly Peirce and produced by Theron's company Denver and Delilah Films (Theron's two dog's names). Theron has owned the rights for many years. She was also supposed to star in a movie adaption of the graphic novel Jinx, but neither project has been produced yet.
In 2008, Theron was named the Hasty Pudding Theatricals Woman of the Year. That year she also starred with Will Smith in the superhero comedy film Hancock, and in late 2008 she was asked to be a United Nations Messengers of Peace by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
On December 4, 2009, Theron co-presented the draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, accompanied by several other celebrities of South African nationality or ancestry. During rehearsals she drew an Ireland ball instead of France as a joke at the expense of FIFA, referring to Thierry Henry's handball controversy in the play off match between France and Ireland. The stunt alarmed FIFA enough for it to fear she might do it again in front of a live global audience.
Following a three-year hiatus from the big screen, Theron returned to the spotlight in 2011 with Young Adult. Directed by Jason Reitman, the film earned critical acclaim especially for Theron's performance. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and several other high profile awards. Theron played the Wicked Queen in the film Snow White & the Huntsman, which began production in 2011 and was released in 2012. She described her process for becoming the characters in her film:
- When I'm figuring out a character, for me it's easy, since once I say yes to something, I become super-obsessed about it - and I have an obsessive nature in general. How I want to play it starts at that moment. It's a very lonely, internal experience. I think about [the character] all the time - I observe things, I see things and file things [in my head], everything geared to what I'm going to do. I'm obsessed with the human condition. You read the script and become obsessed with [a character's] nature, her habits. When the camera rolls, it's time to do my job, to do the honest truth. You can't do that part of the [character-creation] work when you're [in the middle of] making the film. At least I can't.
In 2012, she starred in Ridley Scott's science fiction film Prometheus. On 7 February 2013 it was announced that Theron was cast as Libby Day, the lead character in the film adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel Dark Places. The film is to be directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, and Theron will also have a producer credit.
In the mid-1990s, Theron had a two-year relationship with actor Craig Bierko. From 1997 to 2001, she dated Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins. Theron then began a relationship with Irish actor Stuart Townsend, with whom she starred in Trapped (2002) and Head in the Clouds (2004). Theron and Townsend separated in January 2010 after nearly nine years together.
In March 2012, Theron announced that she has adopted a son named Jackson.
She currently lives in Los Angeles, California. Theron became a naturalised citizen of the United States in May 2007, while retaining her South African citizenship.
The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP) was created in 2007 by Charlize Theron, Academy Award winning actor and UN Messenger of Peace, in an effort to support African youth in the fight against HIV/AIDS. CTAOP’s mission is to help keep African youth safe from HIV/AIDS. The Project is committed to supporting community-engaged organizations that address the key drivers of the disease. Although the geographic scope of CTAOP is Sub-Saharan Africa, the primary concentration has mostly been Charlize’s home country of South Africa. CTAOP's approach is based on the belief that community-based organizations on the ground understand the social and structural relationships of their communities better than anyone. By supporting these organizations through grant giving, networking, and spotlighting their work, CTAOP enables communities to mobilize and empower themselves to prevent HIV.
In December 2009, CTAOP and Toms Shoes partnered to create a limited edition unisex shoe. The shoe was made from vegan materials and inspired by the African baobab tree, the silhouette of which was embroidered on blue and orange canvas. Ten-thousand pairs were given to destitute children, and a portion of the proceeds went to CTAOP.
Theron is involved in women's rights organisations, and has marched in pro-choice rallies. Theron also is a supporter of animal rights and active member of PETA. She appeared in a PETA ad for its anti-fur campaign.
Theron is a supporter of same-sex marriage and attended a march to support that in Fresno, California, on 30 May 2009. Theron is also a gay rights activist and refuses to get married until same sex marriage is legal in the United States.
- I don't want to get married because right now the institution of marriage feels very one-sided, and I want to live in a country where we all have equal rights...
...I think it would be exactly the same if we were married, but for me to go through that kind of ceremony, because I have so many friends who are gays and lesbians who would so badly want to get married, that I wouldn't be able to sleep with myself.
In a June 2011 interview on Piers Morgan Tonight, she stated
- When government starts to tell us who can love and what is good love... I do have a problem with that. I do have a problem with the fact that our government hasn’t stepped up enough to make this federal, to make [gay marriage] legal. I think everybody has that right.