Charlize Theron
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Date of Birth: August 7, 1975

Place of Birth: Benoni, Republic of South Africa

Occupation: Actress

Height: 5' 9"

Best Known For: The Italian Job, Monster, North Country

Charlize Theron Biography

Rarely has there been so much buzz attending the emergence of a new Hollywood star, but concerning the lithe and leggy blonde Charlize Theron, the tag of "It" girl for the 1990s is perfectly apt. The preternatural poise acquired from years of ballet training that enabled her to win a modeling contest at 16 and escape to the world beyond her South African homeland has stood her in good stead on her meteoric rise in show business. She even has a "discovery" story to rival that of Lana Turner's at Schwab's, attracting the attention of talent manager John Crosby with a tour de force hissy fit thrown in a bank when a teller refused to cash the starving would-be actress' out-of-state check. Lady Luck was smiling on her as she lost the lead in the disastrous Showgirls (1995) to Elizabeth Berkley, paving the way for her breathtaking debut as Helga Svelgen, the sexy, cat-suited Norwegian hit woman who went toe-to-toe with Teri Hatcher and titillated fellow assassin James Spader in John Herzfeld's 2 Days in the Valley (1996).

Theron was so unknown she remained nameless in the marketing campaign for "2 Days in the Valley." Nevertheless her scantily clad, gun-toting image stared down from billboards and stopped traffic and imprinted itself on the studio mind-set. Offers poured in for her to essentially play that icy sex kitten again, but she demurred, further displaying her versatility with an about-face as the prissy marriage-minded girlfriend of a drummer (Tom Everett Scott) in Tom Hanks' directorial debut, That Thing You Do! (also 1996), earning a blush from Hanks when she told him at the audition of the crush she had on him since seeing Splash at the age of nine. Adorable in her comic role as a waitress who catches Jeff Daniels' eye in Jonathan Lynn's Trial and Error, Theron really impressed with her de-glamorized turn as The Devil's Advocate (both 1997). Fighting hard against the stereotyping of her as too beautiful for the part, she more than held her own against Al Pacino and Reeves, with an onscreen breakdown that landed her character in the loony bin proving she was much, much more than just a pretty face.

Woody Allen gave Theron the chance to spoof her modeling experience as the oversexed supermodel of Celebrity, and she enjoyed her first starring turn in the well-crafted Disney remake of Mighty Joe Young (both 1998), feeling quite at home as the orphaned African girl who grows up with an orphaned gorilla and remains his devoted protector as an adult. Once again convincingly maneuvering through a wide range of emotions, Theron was right on the money with her mixture of strong-willed resilience and moist-eyed vulnerability as The Astronaut's Wife (1999), an extraterrestrial spin on Rosemary's Baby which disappeared quickly due to its predictability and lackluster promotion by the studio. She continued to impress as Candy, a young woman tempted by desire for another man while her soldier boyfriend is away at the war, in The Cider House Rules (also 1999), glad that director Lasse Hallstrom and screenwriter John Irving (for the first time adapting one of his novels to the screen) had not made her character overly sympathetic.

The sky seems the limit for Theron, arguably the hottest actress in Hollywood with five movies coming out in 2000. She endured freezing on-location conditions and even took on some stunt work for her role in John Frankenheimer's Reindeer Games, which she told Premiere (December 1999) was the "most layered character I've ever played," a restless Midwestern woman whose sexual dalliance with an ex-con played by Ben Affleck, inadvertently leads him back to a life of crime. In 2000, there was an appearance as Faye Dunaway's daughter in The Yards, not to mention her teaming with Will Smith and Matt Damon for Robert Redford's The Legend of Bagger Vance, set against the backdrop of a golf tournament in 1930s Georgia. She also joined another salt-n-pepper tandem, Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding Jr., for Men of Honor, the true story of Carl Brashear, the Navy's first African-American salvage-and-retrieval diver.

In 2001, Theron was seen in two relatively poor, though not abominable films, Woody Allen's Curse of the Jade Scorpion and Sweet November with Keanu Reeves. 2002 saw Theron playing in a chilling drama, Trapped, and in a daring comedy, Waking Up in Reno, but neither did much business or added anything exceptional to her acting resume. She returned in 2003 opposite Mark Wahlberg in F. Gary Gray's slick, engaging but conventional remake of the 1969 heist drama The Italian Job playing second-generation safecracker Stella Bridger, who introduces Mini-Coopers into the plot for the much-praised finale. Effective in an otherwise stock role of the sexy, icy babe, Theron next stretched her acting muscles by taking on the role of convicted murderer Aileen Wuornos, one of America's first known female serial killers in writer-director Patty Jenkins' Monster (2003). In a glammed-down, bulked-up bid for greater dramatic credibility, Theron's stunning physical transformation and intense recreation of the highly intense Wournos resulted in universal praise and put her on most critics' short lists for the best actress of the year. The actress easily received her first Academy Award for Best Actress and took home the year's Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama, as well as the Independent Spirit Award and Screen Actors Guild Award.

Theron was next seen in the low-profile wartime melodrama Head in the Clouds (2004), playing Gilda, a woman notorious for her free-spirited affairs who becomes entangled in the life of a working-class Irish student (Stuart Townsend) and her limping best friend (Penelope Cruz). She next hit the small screen for a pair of projects, appearing as actress Britt Ekland in the HBO biopic The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004), for which she was Emmy nominated, and she signed on to appear in a recurring role in the critically acclaimed Fox comedy Arrested Development in 2005, playing Rita, a British schoolteacher who catches the eye of Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman). Meanwhile, she had another acting triumph with her turn in North Country (2005), playing an abused, misunderstood single mother of two who finds pride and economic freedom as a Minnesota miner, only to feel the constant humiliation of sexual harassment. The film and Theron's character were inspired by the true events surrounding the first ever class action sexual harassment suit against a corporation, and while the actress' performance was powerful—she earned nominations from the Golden Globes and Academy Awards for Best Actress—the film from director Nikki Caro never quite transcends the realm of a very high quality Lifetime telepic. Theron next took on the live-action role of the edgy animated sci-fi heroine Aeon Flux (2005).

In 2007, Theron appeared in the drama In the Valley of Elah, which was written and directed by Paul Haggis, who also wrote the screenplay for the 2004 Award winning film Crash. In 2008, Theron will be seen in Battle in Seattle, a film written and directed by her longtime boyfriend and fellow actor, Stuart Townsend. Also in 2008, she will appear in the Bill Mahr-directed drama Sleepwalking, with Nick Stahl and Dennis Hopper, and she will play the wife of Will Smith, a superhero estranged from the public, in Hancock. In 2009, Theron will reprise her role of Stella Bridger in the sequel film The Brazilian Job.

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