Charlize Theron is a South African-born American actress and former fashion model best known for her role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the 2004 feature film Monster, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Theron was born in Benoni, South Africa. Her father, Charles Theron, was a construction company owner of French Huguenot, descent; her mother, Gerda, is of German descent and took over her husband's business after his death.
Theron's first language is Afrikaans, She is also fluent in English and speaks some Xhosa. (In the United States, both in her films and while being interviewed, etc., Theron speaks with a typical American accent and style of speech, leading most Americans to assume she is American.)
"Theron" is a French surname pronounced in Afrikaans as "Tronn," although she has said that she prefers the pronunciation "Thrown." The pronunciation commonly used in the United States is as spelled: THER-on.
Theron grew up as the only child on her parents' farm near Johannesburg (Benoni) and was sent to a boarding school at the age of thirteen. At 15, Theron witnessed the death of her father, an abusive alcoholic; her mother shot him in self-defence when he attacked her. No charges were pressed.
At the age of 16, Theron traveled to Milan, Italy, on a one-year modeling contract, after winning a local competition. Her contract ended while she was in New York City, and she decided to remain there, attending the Joffrey Ballet School, where she trained as a ballet dancer. A knee injury ended this career path at the age of 18.
Unable to dance, she bought a ticket to Los Angeles. After eight 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.
She followed this with larger roles in widely released Hollywood films, and her career skyrocketed in the late 1990s, with box office successes like The Devil's Advocate, The Cider House Rules, and Mighty Joe Young.
The May 1999 issue of Playboy published nude photos of Theron, taken during the early years of her modeling career. Claiming they had been "for private use," Theron ended up suing photographer Guido Argentini.
After appearing in a few notable films, Theron starred as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the film Monster (2003). Film critic Roger Ebert called it "one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema", for which Theron won the Best Actress Oscar 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.
Having signed a deal with John Galliano in 2004, Theron replaced Estonian model Tiiu Kuik in the J'ADORE advertisements by Christian Dior; she is the current spokeswoman for Dior perfume.
On September 30, 2005, she received her own bronze star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In the same year, she starred in the financially unsuccessful science fiction thriller Æon Flux and was given positive reviews, as well as a Best Actress Golden Globe nomination, for her lead performance in the drama North Country.
Ms.magazine honored her for this performance as well with a feature article in its Fall 2005 issue. She had also been nominated for an Oscar as a lead actress for the role, although she did not win; this was her second nomination.
In 2005, Theron also portrayed Rita, Michael Bluth's (Jason Bateman) love interest on the third season of FOX's critically acclaimed sitcom, Arrested Development.
Theron dated the lead singer of Third Eye Blind, Stephan Jenkins, from January 1998 to July 2001. Jenkins broke up with her after failing to take her requests of marriage seriously.
Theron now resides in Los Angeles with her long-time boyfriend, Stuart Townsend, with whom she starred in the 2004 film Head In The Clouds, as well as in the 2002 film Trapped; she has said that they will not marry until same-sex couples are able to have their marriages recognised.
In October 2005, her mother, Gerda, was married in California. The media thought that Charlize was the one getting married (to Townsend) and the paparazzi got as close as it could for the photos.
While filming Æon Flux in Berlin, Germany, Theron had surgery on a herniated cervical disc in her neck, the result of an injury incurred on the set during a stunt.
In May 2006, Maxim magazine named Theron #25 in its annual Hot 100 issue.
Theron is also involved in women's rights organisations. She has tried to apply for a German passport because of her mother's German ancestry, but was turned down because she did not have any family members currently residing there.
In 2006, Theron won GLAAD's Vanguard Award at the GLAAD Media Awards for increasing "visibility and understanding in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community."
Theron is a supporter of animal rights and active member of PETA.