Date of Birth
7 August 1975, Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa
5' 9½" (1.77 m)
Charlize Theron grew up on a farm outside Benoni, South Africa, as the only child. She got an education as a ballet dancer and has danced both the "Swan Lake" and the "Nutcracker Suite". There wasn't much for a young actress or dancer to do in South Africa, so she soon traveled to Europe and United States of America, where she got job at the Joffrey Ballet in New York. She was also able to work as a photo model. However, an injured knee put a halt to her dancing career.
At the age of 18, her mother made her go to Los Angeles to try a career in the movie industry. She came to Los Angeles without knowing anyone in the city but after two weeks when she was standing in line on Hollywood Boulevard an agent gave her his card. After eight months in Los Angeles she got her first part. Since then, she has taken acting lessons and her career has skyrocketed, most lately in The Devil's Advocate (1997).
Charlize Theron was born in Benoni, a city in the greater Johannesburg-area, South Africa on August 7th, 1975. Her mother, Gerda Theron, is German, while her late father, Charles, was French (she was named after him).
Charlize began her modeling career in 1991 aged 16 when she won a local modeling contest. She started modeling in Europe and came to New York a year later. She didn't like being a model though, and decided to try her luck with ballet, which had been her biggest passion as a child. Unfortunately, a knee injury prevented her from dancing. Her mother bought her a one-way ticket to Los Angeles in 1994 and Charlize started visiting all of the agents on Hollywood Boulevard but without any luck. She went to the bank to cash a check for $500 she'd got from her mother and became furious when she learned that the bank could not cash her check because it was an out-state check. She made a scene and an agent gave her his card, in exchange that she learn the language, which she did by watching soap operas on TV. Her first role was as a young mother in a park in a B-film in 1995, but it was a non-speaking role with three seconds of screen time. Her next role was as "Helga" in 2 Days in the Valley (1996), which landed her the role of "Tina" in That Thing You Do! (1996). Since then, she has starred in movies like The Devil's Advocate (1997); Mighty Joe Young (1998); The Cider House Rules (1999); The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) and The Italian Job (2003). An important day in her life was February 29th, 2004 when she was awarded with her first Academy Award for her performance in Monster (2003).
When she was 15 her father attacked her mother, and her mother shot him in self-defense. He died, but her mother was not charged in the incident.
First language is Afrikaans, English is spoken as her second language.
Appeared in the May 1999 issue of Playboy Magazine.
Became a fashion model at age 14.
Named one of "People" magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People. (2000).
Turned down the female lead in Pearl Harbor (2001) to star alongside Keanu Reeves in Sweet November (2001).
Auditioned for the female lead of Nomi Malone in Showgirls (1995).
Was ranked #4 in the 100 Sexiest Women list by FHM Taiwan (2001).
Placed #1 on Beautiful People Internet Poll, narrowly beating Cameron Diaz in #2 and Kate Beckinsale in #3. The photo featured on the site was the famous 'Diving Board' photo.
Both her parents are Africans, born and raised in South Africa. However her father is of French descent and her mother of German descent.
Voted #12 Sexiest Female Movie Star in the Australian Empire Magazine (September 2002).
Measurements: 36B-24-36 (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine).
Used hypnotherapy as an aid to quit smoking.
Is the only child of Charles, whom she was named after, and Gerda Theron.
She gained 30 pounds to play Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003).
On the show, "Shootout" (2003), it was revealed that her manager discovered her in a Hollywood bank after he witnessed her yelling at a bank teller for refusing to cash her check.
Won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Aileen Wuornos on what would have been Aileen's 48th birthday: 29 February 2004.
After winning her Oscar, she returned to great celebrations in her native South Africa, and she even met former South African President Nelson Mandela. When he praised her for putting their country on the map and gave her a hug, Theron broke into tears (she was guest of honor at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg on March 11th 2004).
Has said her favorite actor is Tom Hanks.
In 2004, injured her neck while filming Æon Flux (2005). Luckily, the injury wasn't serious enough to put her in the hospital, but it did shut down production for several weeks.
As a teenager in her native South Africa, she learned English by watching American TV.
At the 2005 Golden Globes she was sporting a new dark hair color. She is a now a member of the celebrities who have dyed their hair from blonde to brown, or black. They include, among others: Mary-Kate Olsen; Nicky Hilton; Mandy Moore; Renée Zellweger; Christina Aguilera, Melinda Messenger and Ashlee Simpson.
She was the first person to sign on to be a presenter at the 77th Annual Academy Awards.
Second actress (the first was Kim Basinger) to win an Oscar after appearing naked in Playboy magazine.
She is the second South African-born person to win an Academy Award. The South African-born cinematographer Ted Moore was the first. South African-born actor Basil Rathbone was the first South African-born actor to be nominated, followed by Cecil Kellaway. Theron was the first South African-born woman to win an Oscar.
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (September 29, 2005).
Named #15 on the Maxim magazine Hot 100 women of 2005 list.
Was listed as a potential nominee on the 2006 Razzie Award nominating ballot. She was listed as a suggestion in the Worst Actress category for her performance in the film Æon Flux (2005). However, she failed to receive a nomination. (Had she gotten the nomination, she would have been the first person to be nominated for both Leading Actress awards at the Oscars, for North Country (2005), and the Razzies.)
Named #4 in FHM's "100 Sexiest Women in the World 2005" special supplement (2005).
Studied acting with Ivana Chubbuck.
Named #15 in FHM magazine's "100 Sexiest Women in the World 2006" supplement. (2006).
Dyed her hair black for Æon Flux (2005).
Trained as a ballet dancer at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City, and performed in both "Swan Lake" and "The Nutcracker". Her dancing career ended after a knee injury.
One of the first movies she ever went to see at the theater was Splash (1984). She confessed that after watching the movie, she felt jealous of Daryl Hannah and developed a crush on Tom Hanks. She even said to herself that she could have played the role of Madison better than Hannah.
Shares the same background as actor Daniel Bonjour who also left South Africa as a teenage actor and traveled to Europe and then America. Both their parents are of European background. Also, both actors have found it easier to simply use an American accent in their work.
Chosen by Femme Fatales magazine as one of the "50 sexiest women on the planet". [February 2006]
Esquire magazine's Sexiest Woman Alive in 2007.
Entertainment Weekly predicted her Oscar win for Monster (2003) eleven months before she won it.
She earns $2 million per year endorsing Dior's J'Adore fragrance as well as $2.5 million per year endorsing Swiss Watch-maker, Raymond Weil.
At 16, she won a modeling competition to go to Milan and work on the catwalks and at 18, she won a scholarship to study ballet at the Joffrey School in New York. She turned to acting only because she injured both knees.
Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year for 2008.
Announced on "Late Show with David Letterman" (1993) that she is now a United States citizen (March 12, 2008).
Ranked #11 on the Maxim magazine Hot 100 of 2008 list.
Was considered for the role of Vickie Kittrie in Mercy (2000).
She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Was in consideration for the part of Satine in Moulin Rouge! (2001) but Nicole Kidman, who went on to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance, was cast instead.
Replaced Angelina Jolie in the role Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged: Part I (2011) before being replaced by Taylor Schilling.
Was originally cast as Greta Wegener in The Danish Girl (2012) but after dropping out of the project when production was delayed she was replaced by Gwyneth Paltrow, who in turn was replaced by Marion Cotillard.
Good friends with her North Country (2005) costar Jeremy Renner.
Lives in Los Angeles and Malibu, California.
Was in consideration for the role of Helen Gandy in J. Edgar (2011), but Naomi Watts was cast instead.
Named the "Sexiest Woman Alive" by Esquire Magazine (2007).
Received the "Decade of Hotness" award from Spike TV (Guy's Choice).
Voted #24 in the 2007 Askmen Australia "top 99 most desirable women" list. She was voted #6 the previous year in 2006.
Voted #3 in the 2005 Askmen "top 99 most desirable women" list.
Voted #1 in the 2003 Askmen "top 99 most desirable women" list.
Ranked #20 in the 2011 FHM Australia list of "100 Sexiest Women in the World".
Always speaks Afrikaan with her mother who lives 2 minutes from her in L.A.
[on the revelation that her mother shot and killed her father while he was in a drunken rage, which was ruled self-defense] I was always Mama's girl, and I always felt like her protector.
Women have conquered the world. And with everything we go through, it's about time we had a female president. I don't think we're that far away, but it should have happened already. I wouldn't be surprised if Hillary Rodham Clinton runs - I really admire her.
I've always been very proud to be a South African and I've always been very honest to people about that. And whatever I can do in my power I promise you I will do. I don't think it's too much pressure. I think it's our duty as citizens of this country. You don't have to win an Oscar to do something good for your country. We all can do that. If I can be an encouragement for that I'll be glad to be that.
I'm 50-50 on glamour stuff. I'd rather put on a pair of jeans and get on my Harley and act like a guy.
I think of myself as a highly sexual creature. I have to use that. I have no choice. I like it. I didn't grow up with a mother telling me what was under my clothes was bad or evil.
[on the importance of the Toronto Film Festival for smaller films] If people, critics respond to the film there, it starts a nice little wave of chat, which for a movie like North Country (2005) is really important. It's one of those films that travels by word of mouth.
[on marriage] I'm happy for people who want to get married, but it's not my thing. I'm extremely happy in my relationship and I would love to have kids.
[on accents] At first I found it really hard using three different English accents: South African, faking the American, faking the accent required by the job. I decided to make it easier for myself and just do one. I haven't lost my culture, just my accent.
[on bad habits and guilty pleasures] Anything fried I'll take. Are you kidding me? I will fry my shoe and eat it.
Looks alone won't get you that far. It may get you in the door, but there's always somebody younger, somebody prettier. You have to rely on something else.
What kind of stories can you tell with glamor? There are very few stories of conflict you can tell, right? I look for good stories; I'm not driven by anything other than good filmmakers and good stories. And then my job as an actor is to service those stories as well as I possibly can. The physical is the last thing that drives me.
I live a very simple life. I don't have to make those giant movies. I don't have a yacht or a private plane. As long as I can maintain this life, which is pretty low-maintenance and simple, then all of a sudden you don't have to worry about all that stuff. I don't have to take a job to pay a mortgage on a house I can't afford.
I've always said that I worry about being with a man who doesn't flirt.
[on a possible biopic of her life] God, I hope not. I've been working harder than anything in my life to try and keep my life sacred. I really don't mind when I'm in front of a camera and playing a character I'm comfortable with . . . but I don't necessarily like the spotlight to be about me - not at all. The idea of sitting in Cannes and watching that . . . ugh. No.
[on playing unglamorous characters yet posing for glamorous spreads] Well, guess what? I'm a sexual creature. There's nothing wrong with that. Why do we have to be ashamed of being so many different things? Why do we have to be only one thing, a good mother or a hooker? I don't think that what's under my clothes is evil. I'm a woman, I'm feminine. And I like the way I look. And I celebrate that. And I don't make excuses for that.
People just aren't willing to see conflict, or ugliness or the more flawed side of life through a female character's eyes. I mean, can you imagine a woman playing Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976)? When Robert De Niro does it it's fine, [but] people are very uncomfortable about seeing that through a woman's eyes. We aren't allowed complexity.
[on the media's reaction to her appearance in In the Valley of Elah (2007) It just bummed me out because I was, "What do you want? Do you want me to play a detective from Albuquerque who's a single mom in a Dior dress?" The way they focused on my appearance, I felt like it hurt [the film] and I was embarrassed because [director] Paul Haggis had worked really hard, and just because I had a ponytail that's what they were talking about.
I don't believe in charmed lives. I think that tragedy is part of the lesson you learn to lift yourself up, to pick yourself up and to move on.
[on being congratulated by Nelson Mandela and South African president Thabo Mbeki after winning a Best Actress Oscar for Monster (2003)] I don't think I want to be a pin-up for anything! The people who inspire me are the ones who just live life and live it in a way that's good-natured. Do unto others what you want done unto yourself. It's not that hard. Don't screw people over. Enjoy life, travel, adventure. Enjoy. I try to just live my life in as good and authentic a way as possible. And I just wish people would write about that and the matter-of-fact way that that is, rather than, "On a summer's day, her mother shot her father". It's like I walk around with this badge. I live my life the way I want to live my life. It's like I have chosen this life. I want to be able to go to sleep at night and feel that I'm not haunted and I'm happy and I enjoyed my day in London and that I enjoy my friends and my love, and that if this is all gone tomorrow, like that man who died so horribly in front of me when I was five, that it was good.
[on her mother shooting her father, who was in a drunken rage, which was ruled self-defense] You know, people drank. Some people drank more, but it was never considered that this might be a problem. It was just the way it was then.
[on her role in Monster (2003)] I was trying to make the correlation between Aileen Wuornos and her experiences when she was very young. And I was reminded of something that happened to me. I was five years old and we were driving . . . all the cars stopped because a truck had rolled over and was ablaze. The doors were jammed and there was a man trapped inside. In South Africa everybody carries a weapon, and the man begged for someone to shoot him because he didn't want to burn to death. Nobody could get him out of the cab, so somebody shot him. It was horrific, but definitely a moment that made me have a great value for life. Other things in life have taught me not to take a moment for granted.
I never got offered parts like that, never. And it took a woman, a first-time female director to offer me that role. Paul Haggis [the director of Crash (2004/I) and In the Valley of Elah (2007)] recently said to me, "You know, often it's the material that will define an actor, but you didn't do that. You defined yourself with what you chose to do". And I thought that was a nice compliment.
I do like the challenge of finding material that people don't want to risk a lot of money on and that studios don't necessarily jump to go, "Yeah! We want to tell that story." And how could I not after I had done something like Monster (2003)? Everybody wondered how a movie like that could be successful.
[on her role in Hancock (2008)] I keep myself guessing. I get bored so quickly. I just really liked the material. And the girl was cool. I wasn't ticking any boxes. I just try and do good material and how it gets made is secondary . . . and anyway, it's really nice to get a decent paycheck.
As you get older, you get wrinkles and your boobs sag. But you get wisdom, too. So it's not all bad!
[in response to a reporter's question as to which side of the bed she sleeps on] The side that you're not on.
[responding to a question as to why she doesn't have kids] I actually have seven children no one knows about--in a cave. They can see Russia from their house, too.
I don't avoid glamorous roles. I played Britt Ekland [in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004)], who is one of the most beautiful women alive. But I don't see so many. You tell me one glamorous role that is in a good movie you have seen in the last ten years. My point is, it's not a case of wanting to be glamorous or not. It's about wanting to tell a good story. And the physical is at the bottom of the list for me. Your job, as an actor, is to be a clean canvas for your director, and you have to tell the story as authentically as possible.
I don't know if I would be who I am today if I'd grown up in a different country. In our house the news was always on, the newspaper was always on the dining room table and my parents had a real thirst for politics, and that's how I grew up. A lot of my American friends grew up in a different way, and because of what's happened in America in recent years, they are asking questions, playing catch-up. But I can understand that, because they were living in a country that was comfy and cosy. I wasn't. I want to know what is going on. I have an interest in world politics - how can you not when you live on this Earth? I'm just flabbergasted when people don't give a shit.
I can remember [growing up in South Africa] we'd have to travel an hour to the nearest drive-in cinema, and we'd go and never really knew what was playing. But once you got there, it was an hour's drive back, so you may as well watch whatever it was. I was about eight or nine and Fatal Attraction was playing and Mom didn't want to turn all the way round, so she was like, 'Well, this is as good a way for you to learn as any.'
On her mother shooting her father: I don't think you can go through something like that and not kind of walk with it, hand in hand. But you try very hard to move on.
My mother was an incredible example to me. I can't imagine going through life without her. I think she has influenced who I am, but without intent really. She would always say, 'That's how I feel, but you should figure it out for yourself.' I think of my life now and I realise that the way I was brought up is why I can deal with so much now. I'm responsible for my own actions, my own decisions. So it's a weird one, because she didn't want me to be her, but I think now, at 32, I look at her and I kind of go, 'Wow, I somehow aspire to be you.' I think she really values me being independent and being myself.
The reason I did North Country (2005) wasn't just because of what the women were going through. I was really fascinated to understand where the men came from. But what those women suffered was appalling. Just appalling. The real lady that this happened to is still in therapy and on medication. When you meet her, you understand that this has taken a real toll on her.
Look, I can't forget I'm a woman. I love being a woman and I love being feminine, so that will always be part of my work, obviously. But I approach the material with a more humanistic approach. I think that kind of stuff can become over-earnest if you approach it with a big hammer. Personally I've been lucky. Maybe it's the way I was raised, but I know right from wrong and I know wrong when I walk into a room - and if I feel it's wrong, I walk right out again.
There were a lot of pros to winning the Oscar, but a lot of cons too. Suddenly it all became about transformation. Every movie I did after Monster (2003) was jumped upon as yet another transformation. Even when I only had dirt on my face, like in North Country (2005) it was transformation.
I do all this work with Guillermo Arriaga on the The Burning Plain (2008) script, we explore all these themes, and then we come on these junkets and it's like: 'So, you don't play a glamorous role again.' Sometimes I just want to look at people and say, 'Have you really thought this through?' You know, how many great stories can you tell in a Dior dress? Or is it because I've done a J'adore perfume ad that I can only be one type of woman? I don't think women are that. We are many things. One day we wake up and we want to put on jeans and T-shirt, and the next day we want to fucking have our hair done. But that doesn't mean that I don't have access to raw emotion.
Asked if beauty is a problem for her: No. But it seems to be a problem for journalists.
I don't know how to say this without sounding strange. But I feel like having this tragedy [her mother shot her father] at such a young age has given me a leg up from other people. Because, man, from 16, I knew the value of life and I knew how quickly it could be taken away. And from that moment on, I made a choice to either swim or to drown, you know?
People want to think that I am this tortured soul, that my work is drawn only from this one well. And though I would never sit here and say that it didn't mark me, or mould me into the person that I am, my life has had many painful journeys and heartbreaks since my father died, many of which I draw on for my work.
[after becoming a US citizen in 2007] You're stuck with me now.
Æon Flux (2005) $10,000,000
Where Are They Now
(January 2005) Took a break from filming Æon Flux (2005) due to a minor injury, but returned to the set. She was also a presenter at the Golden Globes in the middle of January.
(June 2005) On Greek island, Santorini, having a vacation with Stuart Townsend.