The Untold Truth Of Charlize Theron

Whether she's playing real life serial killers or kicking some serious butt in her numerous action roles, Charlize Theron is one actor who has never been afraid of tackling challenging subject matter. Much of her fearlessness is rooted in the difficulties she faced early on in her career, from a tragedy that spurred her migration to Tinseltown to a disquieting #MeToo ordeal.

By the age of 28, Theron was an Oscar-winner, and by age 30, she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Regarding the latter merit, Theron said (via BBC), "If somebody had told me then that this would have happened one day, I would have laughed in their face." Indeed, Theron has had to work hard to become the veritable movie star she is today.

Away from the silver screen, she has dedicated her life to many noble causes, from HIV awareness to LGBTQ+ activism and rejecting the sexism of the entertainment industry. Moreover, she has enjoyed a bankable stint as an ambassador to some of the most revered luxury brands in the world. Although she has enjoyed a Hollywood ending, Theron's story is undoubtedly unique. There are few A-list stars who have had quite the upbringing as the South African actor. After surviving a traumatic adolescence, Theron made it her mission to move to the States and pursue her dreams. But while she may have shed her accent, she has never forgotten her roots. This is the untold truth of Charlize Theron.

Charlize Theron grew up in Apartheid era South Africa

Charlize Theron was born on August 7, 1975, in Benoni, South Africa, to Charles and Gerda Theron, per Biography. During this time, the country was under apartheid, an institutionally racist system that segregated white and Black people, the latter of whom were prohibited from entering white society and robbed of their human rights.

Theron has ambivalent feelings towards her home country. As a white South African, she has acknowledged her privilege, admitting that flourished in spite of the country's white supremacist ideology. "I obviously am a white person who benefited from my white privilege," she said during a charity event, per Variety. "I grew up during the Apartheid era, I benefited from it." As Theron recalled to NPR, she was raised on her parents' farm, which relied on the labor of black workers who in turn lived with the family. As such, Theron did not grow up inculcated with racism, though she did ponder whether a wealthier upbringing would have altered her values for the worse. "That was a lot for me to carry. It still is. It is – I think it's something that I'll carry for the rest of my life," she admitted to NPR.

Despite this, the actor cannot shift a connection she feels to her native country. "I love my country," she told GQ. "And it's very hard for South Africans to believe that, because I left and speak in an American accent."

As a child, Charlize Theron witnessed a sudden act of violence

The relationship between Charles and Gerda Theron was fraught. While Charlize Theron has long idolized her mother, telling The Guardian that she is the living person she most admires, the same cannot be said for her father. "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 ... It was a pretty hopeless situation," Theron reflected to NPR.

In 1991, when Charlize was 15, her life would be forever changed after witnessing her father's death. Of coming home that fateful evening, she told ABC News, "Nature gives you instinct. And I knew something bad was going to happen." Armed with a gun, Charles threatened to kill both Charlize and her mother. To protect her daughter, Gerda shot him dead. "I know that if my daughter was in the same situation, I would do the same thing," Charlize admitted to ABC News. Acting in self-defense, Gerda was never prosecuted for her husband's death.

Charlize Theron opened up about the horrifying experience, emphasizing that she is not ashamed of discussing her trauma. "None of those bullets ever hit us, which is just a miracle. But in self-defense, she ended the threat," she told NPR. "This family violence ... 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."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

As a model, Charlize Theron experienced body negativity

A year after her father's death, Charlize Theron left South Africa with dreams of becoming a model in Milan, per GQ. She had previously modeled in her home country, sharing a snap on Instagram of her winning a modeling competition in 1991. However, things didn't go so smoothly once she left the country. The 16-year-old was soon faced with the stark reality of the modeling industry's body negativity. 

"I was too tall, too big, too late for the supermodel look of the Eighties. Kate Moss and all the tiny, grungy girls had just become fashionable, and I didn't fit the bill," she told Vogue (via HuffPost). Subsequently, she was told that she could make it as a model if she conformed to restrictive beauty standards. "I had the capability to be a bigger model than I was. They were always telling me, 'Lose five pounds and you'll be a supermodel,'" she revealed to The New York Times. When Oprah asked the actor about her brief clothes horse stint, Theron explained that she felt stifled by the profession. "It just wasn't artistically satisfying for me because I like to say what's on my mind," she said.

On swapping catwalk ambitions for Hollywood dreams, the actor has been quick to dismiss the notion that it was easy for her due to being blessed with good looks. "How many roles are out there for the gorgeous, f***ing, gown-wearing eight-foot model?" she asked GQ.

The actor originally trained as a ballerina

For Charlize Theron, ballet was an escape from her troubled home life, as well as the horrors of Apartheid. "Even though I was modeling, I always thought of myself as a dancer," she told The New York Times. But despite ballet being her first love, her dreams were soon shattered after a spate of injuries. "I was broke, I was taking class at the Joffrey Ballet, and my knees gave out," she told Far 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'." 

Accordingly, Theron told The New York Times that her mom "bought [her] a one-way plane ticket" to Hollywood, where she resided in a grubby motel. This was a particularly difficult time in her life. As Theron told CBS, she was "living from paycheck to paycheck" and, in one desperate moment, she stole bread from a restaurant.

Finding her footsteps in Hollywood also meant she was subjected to the advances of predators. In an interview with NPR, Theron revealed that a director touched her inappropriately in 1994, when she was a young actor struggling to make it in the industry. "That is the unfortunate thing about sexual harassment," she reflected. "You never get that moment where you feel like the tables are reversed and now he's finally getting it."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Tom Hanks aided Charlize Theron's Hollywood dreams

After scoring a couple of minor roles in movies, notably horror flick "Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest," which she branded "the most exciting thing I'd ever done in my entire life," Charlize Theron got her big break in 1996. This was all thanks to none other than America's Dad aka Tom Hanks. 

After Theron auditioned for Hanks' directorial debut "That Thing You Do!," both he and producer Ed Saxon were convinced that no one other than Theron could play Tina Powers. "Casting her was such a coup," Hanks told The Ringer. As Saxon elaborated, "I remember Tom saying, 'Gentlemen, we just met a movie star.' She was smart, glamorous, and had a phenomenal sense of humor." She initially auditioned for the role of Faye, but Hanks was having none of it. As he recalled to The Ringer, Theron was "too much of a supernova to play Faye."

Despite Hanks' faith in Theron's talent, she struggled with self-doubt. "I was so nervous that I couldn't say the character's name," Theron recalled to Backstage. Thankfully, Hanks, who, it should be noted, was Theron's first crush, was there to reassure the budding star of her immense talent. "He just got up and was like, 'You know what? I really need to go to the bathroom. I'll be back.' It was his way of giving me a breather. When you have people who have that kind of kindness, you're incredibly grateful," she said.

Making Charlize Theron a 'Monster'

Following "That Thing You Do!", Charlize Theron was suddenly inundated with movie work. She was cast alongside Keanu Reeves in 1997's "The Devil's Advocate," a part which, at the time, she told Bobbie Wygant was "the most challenging material I've ever had." Then, in 1999, she starred in Oscar-winner "The Cider House Rules." While Theron has never had any complaints about working with Keanu Reeves (who has?), she had difficulties acting alongside Tobey Maguire in the latter production. Speaking with V Magazine, Theron branded the Lasse Hallström flick "a difficult movie," revealing, "Tobey and I had a rough time."

But her most pivotal role came in 2003 when she transformed into serial killer Aileen Wuornos. With the encouragement of director Patty Jenkins, Theron took on the extremely demanding role, for which she gained 40 pounds. "I didn't think I could do it at first," she told Marie Claire. "The thing that convinced me ultimately was that I had never had — and I get emotional thinking about it — I never had somebody believe in me like that before ... And all of a sudden, this woman is sitting in front of me, and she's like, 'You have to. You're the only person who can.'" 

Regarding such a draining role, Theron told Advocate that the film is ultimately "about love, the need and the willingness and the eagerness and the hunger and the survival of wanting to be loved by somebody." An Oscar win followed and a superstar was born.

Finding love with Stuart Townsend

After appearing together in 2002 film "Trapped," Charlize Theron and Irish actor Stuart Townsend fell in love. Speaking with Irish America, Townsend described the moment he met his lady love. "All I remember is Charlize had a dog with her and I remember thinking, 'Oh, there's the mad lady with the dog!'" he joked. "But then that night we went out to dinner with the director and I arrived a little early, and she arrived a little early, and she just looked like a million dollars. I went, 'Whoa! Who is this girl?'" And from puppy love began an intense 7-year-long relationship. Theron couldn't believe her luck when she snagged Townsend. "The lotto was scratched and I won," she told ABC. "I don't think I could have imagined a love like that."

Theron felt grateful that she and Townsend were rarely subjected to tabloid intrusion, which she attributes to the couple keeping this lowkey. "It's effortless in that we don't doubt that we want to be with each other," she told Vogue. "And it's more than love ... I've been in love before. But have I ever been with somebody who I really, truly felt had my back and was my best friend? No, not until Stuart."

Sadly, their love did not stand the test of time and they called it quits in 2009. "Well look," Townsend told the Irish Independent, "we had a great time, we had a great adventure, that's all I can say."

An Oscars nod for North Country

Charlize Theron isn't afraid to tackle demanding roles. In 2005, she starred in "North Country" as a miner facing sexist discrimination and sexual harrasment. This was a role Theron was particularly keen to take on due to parallels between her protagonist, Josey, who is based on Lois Jenson, and her own working class mother. As she explained to Roger Ebert, "When I was growing up, my mother was the only woman in the road construction business, so I knew some of what goes on." She also highlighted the importance of the film exposing "systematic degradation based on the fact that [Lois] happened to be a woman."

"North Country" was directed by New Zealand filmmaker Niki Caro. Speaking with Female, Theron discussed the importance of working with female directors, particularly with regards to such sensitive subject matter. "I think especially in the last two years there's been a great group of female directors," she said. "I mean coming off my little bit of success I thought, well, if anybody's gonna give me any power there's a handful of women that I really want to work with and Niki was one of them."

The New York Times praised Theron's performance in an otherwise mixed review, writing, "Ms. Theron could easily play the damsel in distress, but she keeps her performance grounded." The film saw the actor gain her second Oscars nod, though she ultimately lost out to Reese Witherspoon for her role in "Walk the Line."

Charlize Theron is committed to activism

Charlize Theron has long been dedicated to HIV/AIDS awareness and LGBTQ+ activism. In 2007, she started the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, which aims to fight HIV in South Africa. "I'm always just super galvanized by young people," she told Vanity Fair. "I really am. When I started my program [to address HIV among children] in South Africa, CTAOP, it came from this real inspiration that I get from young people."

Additionally, Theron is a vocal champion of LGBT+ rights. Prior to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex unions, Theron campaigned for equal marriage, telling The View in 2009 that she refused to wed Stuart Townsend until marriage was legal for all. In 2019, she confirmed to the Daily Mail that her eldest child, Jackson, came out as transgender at the age of 3. "She looked at me when she was three years old and said: 'I am not a boy!' So there you go! I have two beautiful daughters who, just like any parent, I want to protect and I want to see thrive," she sweetly revealed.

Theron has spoken about the importance of respecting her daughter's pronouns. "My daughter's story is really her story, and one day, if she chooses, she'll tell her story. I feel like as her mother, for me, it was important to let the world know that I would appreciate it if they would use the right pronouns for her," she told Pride Source.

The actor has been plagued by injuries

Throughout the years, Charlize Theron has unfortunately been prone to numerous on set afflictions. During the filming of 2005's "Aeon Flux," she was almost paralysed. "It was very severe," she revealed to "I was a centimeter away from being completely paralyzed for the rest of my life. It definitely woke me up to, okay, you have to be prepared. It was nobody's fault, but it was just a freak accident where I landed on my neck. I had eight years of pain management, where I just couldn't get rid of the spasms and the nerve damage."

Although Theron resolved to avoid further injury, her attempts were ultimately in vain. In 2012, she was injured when making "Snow White and the Huntsman." This time, it was the temper tantrums of her character, Queen Ravenna, that caused the damage. "I screamed so much at people, I tore a stomach muscle, which I had never heard of that before," she told MTV. Then, in 2017, she cracked her teeth when filming "Atomic Blonde" due to clenching her mouth too hard, per Deadline.

When making "The Old Guard" in 2020, she faced some particularly nasty injuries. "I basically lost all control of my hand. [And I was] shooting all this stuff riding a horse with a hand that had no function in it. It wasn't until I was done with the film that I realized I needed three surgeries," she told Stellar.

In 2009, she went on a two-year hiatus

By 2009, Charlize Theron had decided to take a break from the big screen. "[I was] unemployed, I just couldn't get a job," she joked to MTV. The truth is, she was dedicating herself to other projects. For instance, in 2010, she appeared in the music video for "Crossfire" by The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers.

After two years, she returned to acting for "Young Adult." The film marked a divergence for the habitually glam Theron, who played a washed-up, sweatpants-sporting ghostwriter of young adult fiction obsessed with her high school flame. Speaking with HuffPost, she explained why she chose to break her acting hiatus for the Diablo Cody-penned dramedy. "It was really different. When I originally read it I thought that it was ballsy in the sense that Diablo wrote a character, a protagonist who learns a lesson but doesn't necessarily make a change in her life. And it felt very real to me. It felt very human to me."

As for her break, she explained, "There wasn't anything coming my way that was blowing me away and also I started producing and developing a lot of television." Director Jason Reitman said he would never have taken on "Young Adult" without Theron. "Really the only way I was going to do this movie was if Charlize wanted to do it," he told Vogue. "It's a really tricky screenplay to pull off, because the main character is so unlikable."

Charlize Theron always wanted to adopt children

Charlize Theron adopted her first child, a baby named Jackson, in 2012, per People. "I've always been very honest in saying I wanted a family. I've always known I wanted a family," she told Vogue following the adoption. "I don't think my mom could wait any more!"

Following her break up with Sean Penn in 2015, she adopted her second child, August, as reported by Us Weekly. At the time, she told W Magazine, "I do know that choosing to be a mom in my late 30s has been really great for me. It's given me perspective."

Adopting had been something that Theron had dreamt about since she was a child. "My mom has a letter that I wrote to her when I was eight years old and in the letter I ask her if we could, for Christmas, go to an orphanage to adopt a brother or sister for me," Theron revealed on Diane von Furstenberg's "InCharge With DVF" podcast. "My mom, when I went through my first adoption, actually showed me the letter. I was connected to the idea of having a family through adoption when I was eight years old." Asked whether she ever wanted a biological child, Theron said that the decision to adopt was largely shaped by her single status. "I was open to that idea with a partner. Once I, you know, chose to be a mother on my own, adoption was really my first choice," she revealed.

Charlize Theron has found a lucrative sideline as a brand ambassador

With a hefty $160 million net worth, Charlize Theron owes much of that dough to remunerative work for luxury brands, as well as her many acting gigs. However, her role as a brand ambassador has, on occasion, found her in hot water. During a press event in 2007, she wore a Dior watch despite Raymond Weil having paid her $3 million to sport their goods. Subsequently, they sued her for $20 million and the case was settled for an undisclosed amount, as reported by People.

In 2004, she signed a deal with Dior, becoming the face of the fragrance J'adore. According to CNN, her three year contract was "worth between $3 million and $5 million," though the actor's partnership with the high-end brand continues, suggesting that she's raked in mega bucks throughout the years.

While earning that bread, Theron has also used her partnership with Dior for good. In 2018, she spoke out about the importance of diversity in advertising. "Women from all different cultures, backgrounds and countries are coming together in solidarity to say, 'we are done' and are acknowledging that we have to work together to stop this lack of representation," Theron told Harper's Bazaar. "Any time I work with Dior, there is always a conversation happening about diversity and the perception of women and I'm lucky to get to work with a brand that is as interested in those questions as I am."

Charlize Theron isn't afraid to speak her mind

In recent years, the already versatile Charlize Theron has branched out even further. The 2010s saw her star in two highly disparate films, "A Million Ways to Die in the West" in 2014 and "Bombshell" in 2019. Comedy hasn't typically been associated with Theron. But these days, she's game for tickling our funny bones. She partnered with Seth MacFarlane for his aforementioned comedy Western, with the newbie director praising "Charlize's versatility" in an interview with The New York Times.

Meanwhile, "Bombshell," which sees Theron play Megyn Kelly, tackled a subject that has followed her around for much of her career: sexual harassment. Speaking with Vogue, she explained her willingness to play a character whose political views are diametrically opposed to her own. "It's something that no woman wants to be defined by, especially an ambitious woman who wants to be known for her work," she said. "All of the women involved had to face that. It was incredibly brave." In recent years, she's also lent her name to family-friendly projects, voicing Morticia in "The Addams Family" flicks and starring in upcoming Netflix fantasy "The School for Good and Evil," exhibiting her willingness to experiment as a performer.

If there is any word that typifies Theron's life story, "bravery" certainly comes to mind. From humble beginnings in South Africa to Hollywood stardom, Charlize has survived the Fury Road to become the Atomic Blonde she is today.