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About Charlize Theron
Academy Award winning South African actress Charlize Theron rose to fame in the late 1990s following her roles in 2 Days in the Valley, Mighty Joe Young, The Devil's Advocate and The Cider House Rules. She received critical acclaim and an Academy Award for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the film Monster, for which she became the first African to win an Academy Award in a major acting category. She received another Academy Award nomination for her performance in North Country.
She was born on August 7, 1975 in Benoni, Transvaal Province, South Africa, the only child of Gerda Jacoba Aletta (née Maritz; born January 27, 1953) and Charles Jacobus Theron (died 1990). Her mother is of German descent and her father was of French and Dutch ancestry; Theron is directly descended from early Huguenot settlers, and Boer War figure Daniel Theron was her great-grandfather's brother. "Theron" is an Occitan surname (originally spelled Théron) pronounced in Afrikaans as "Tronn", although she has said that the way it is pronounced in South Africa is "Thrown". She changed the pronunciation when she moved to the US.
Although fluent in English, her first language is Afrikaans. She grew up on her parents' farm in Benoni, near Johannesburg. She attended Putfontein Primary School (Laerskool Putfontein). At the age of 13, Theron was sent to boarding school and began her studies at the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg.
At the age of 16, Theron travelled to Milan on a one-year modeling contract, after winning a local competition. She went to New York with Pauline's Model Management. She decided to remain after her contract ended, attending the Joffrey Ballet School, where she trained as a ballet dancer. A knee injury closed this career path when Theron was 19.
Theron decided to pursue acting instead, and moved to Los Angeles. She soon found, however, that her Afrikaner accent was a barrier in landing speaking roles. Watching hours of television, she strove to hide her South African roots with perfect American inflections.
In 1994, a destitute Theron argued with a bank teller, who refused to allow her to pull funds from a South African account. Theron's subsequent fit earned the attention of a fellow bank patron John Crosby, a Hollywood manager who represented talent including John Hurt and Rene Russo. He immediately offered to sign Theron and, within months, she made her acting debut in a small role in Children of the Corn III (1995). Soon after, larger parts followed in 2 Days in the Valley (1996) and That Thing You Do! (1996).
As Theron became more of a Hollywood presence, she was cast alongside Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves in The Devil's Advocate (1997). Her turn as Reeves' suicidal wife earned her another brief but memorable part in Woody Allen's Celebrity (1998), and a starring role in Disney's remake of Mighty Joe Young (1998).
In 1999, Theron landed a string of roles in notable films, including The Astronaut's Wife opposite Johnny Depp, and The Cider House Rules with Tobey Maguire. In 2001, she reteamed with Reeves for the tearjerker Sweet November, and two years later she starred opposite Mark Wahlberg in the heist thriller The Italian Job (2003). However, her performance in 2003's Monster—a biopic about serial killer Aileen Wuornos—earned her widespread respect. Theron gained close to 40 pounds for the role, and her gritty, gripping performance won her both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
After her turn as Britt Ekland in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004), Theron took on another strong drama, starring in 2005's North Country with Sissy Spacek and Frances McDormand. Her portrayal of a coal miner fighting sexual harassment in the work place earned her nominations at the Golden Globes and the Oscars. The same year, she starred in the big-screen adaptation of the MTV cult cartoon Aeon Flux, and made multiple guest appearances on the award-winning television comedy, Arrested Development.
With several other films under her belt, Theron returned to the superhero genre in 2008's Hancock with co-star Will Smith. In 2009, she will appear in the film version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
In addition to her film roles, Theron is also a philanthropist and social activist. In 2008, she was honored by the United Nations when she became the organization's tenth messenger of peace.
Theron currently resides in Los Angeles with her long-time companion, actor Stuart Townsend. Although the couple recognizes their union as a marriage, Theron and Townsend say they won't marry until same-sex couples are also able to have their relationships legally recognized.