The Tragic Story Of Charlize Theron's Parents

In June 1991, when actress Charlize Theron was just 15 years old, she experienced a horrific incident. Her mother Gerda killed her father Charlie right in front of her in an act of self-defense. 

The Oscar-winning actress said her dad never physically abused her, but shared "he was a verbal abuser." As she explained to Diane Sawyer in 2004 (via ABC News), "[He] could be very serious but loved to laugh as well, and enjoyed life. He also had a disease. He was an alcoholic."

Theron shared the details of that tragic night in a 2019 NPR interview, explaining that her father had come home from a night of drinking with a gun. The Monster star said, "My mom and I were in my bedroom leaning against the door, because he was trying to push through the door. So both of us were leaning against the door from the inside to have him not be able to push through. He took a step back and just shot through the door three times. None of those bullets ever hit us, which is just a miracle. But in self-defense, she ended the threat." Charlize's mother was never prosecuted because she was protecting herself and her daughter.

Here's a closer look into what Theron's parents were like, and how her childhood continues to affect her as an adult today.

Charlize's father struggled with addiction

Charlize Theron has opened up about her rough history with her dad over the years. She told NPR in 2019, "My father was a very sick man. My father was an alcoholic all my life. I only knew him one way, and that was as an alcoholic." She said her family was "stuck" in a "pretty hopeless situation." Theron explained, "the day-to-day unpredictability of living with an addict is the thing that you sit with and have kind of embedded in your body for the rest of your life, more than just this one event of what happened one night."  

In 2017, she told Howard Stern, "I think what more affected me for my adult life that happened in my childhood was more the every day living of a child living in the house with an alcoholic and waking up not knowing what was going to happen," according to People. She said she grew up "not knowing how [her] day was going to go and all of it [was] dependent on somebody else and whether he was not going to drink."

The Mad Max actress has turned a difficult situation into an opportunity to help others. She told NPR, "I'm not ashamed to talk about it, because I do think that the more we talk about these things, the more we realize we are not alone in any of it."

Charlize doesn't blame her mom

In her 2004 Diane Sawyer interview, Charlize Theron — who is now a mom herself — revealed how she feels about her mom's role in her dad's death, saying, "I know what happened and I know that if my daughter was in the same situation, I would do the same thing." 

As open as she is about her story, that wasn't always the case. At the time, Theron "just pretended like it didn't happen." 

"I didn't tell anybody — I didn't want to tell anybody. Whenever anybody asked me, I said my dad died in a car accident. Who wants to tell that story? Nobody wants to tell that story," Theron told Howard Stern in 2017 (via People). 

Theron credited her mother for giving her strength in a 2018 Extra interview. She began, "I think we all have to find our own footing. None of us are born knowing how to navigate life and difficult decisions, especially for young girls." She continued, "No matter who you are or where you come from, the struggle is maybe a little bit different, but all interconnects. I am lucky enough that I had a great mom who really kind of made me brave and always told me to be brave. I don't know who I might have been without that."

Theron had an unimaginably tough childhood. But as a mom, actress, and advocate, she has become so courageous in her adult years.