Charlize Theron is an Academy Award-winning South African-American actress, film producer, and former fashion model. She 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 for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the film Monster, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. She received another Academy Award nomination for her performance in North Country. She was named Esquire's Sexiest Woman Alive in 2007. In late 2008 she was asked to be a UN messenger of peace by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
At the age of 16, Theron traveled to Milan, Italy, 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.
Unable to dance, Theron flew to Los Angeles on a one-way ticket her mother bought her. During her early months there, she went to a bank to cash a check her mother had sent her to help with the rent. When the teller refused to cash it, Theron immediately started into a shouting match with her. Afterwards, a talent agent in line behind her handed her his business card and subsequently introduced her to some casting agents and also an acting school. She later fired him as her manager after he allegedly kept sending her scripts for films similar to Showgirls and Species.
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 (1995). Larger roles in widely released Hollywood films followed, and her career skyrocketed in the late 1990s with box office successes like The Devil's Advocate (1997), Mighty Joe Young (1998), and The Cider House Rules (1999). Theron appeared on the cover of the May 1999 edition of Playboy Magazine with an accompanying nude pictorial. Theron later claimed that the nude pictures were not intended for publication and appeared in the magazine against her wishes.
After appearing in a few notable films, Theron starred as the serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003). Film critic Roger Ebert called it "one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema". For this role, Theron won the Academy Award for Best Actress 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. The Oscar win pushed her to The Hollywood Reporter's 2006 list of highest-paid actresses in Hollywood; earning $10,000,000 for both her subsequent films, North Country and Æon Flux, she ranked seventh, behind Halle Berry, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Renée Zellweger, Reese Witherspoon, and Nicole Kidman.
On September 30, 2005, Theron received her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.In the same year, she starred in the financially unsuccessful science fiction thriller Æon Flux,. Additionally, Theron received Best Actress Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for her lead performance in the drama North Country. Ms. magazine also honored her for this performance with a feature article in its Fall 2005 issue.
In 2005, Theron portrayed Rita, Michael Bluth's (Jason Bateman) love interest, on the third season of FOX's critically-acclaimed television series Arrested Development. She also received Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for her role of Britt Ekland in the 2004 HBO movie The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.
In 2008, Theron was named the Hasty Pudding Theatricals Woman of the Year.
On November 10, 2008, TV Guide reported that Theron will star in the film adaptation of The Danish Girl alongside Nicole Kidman. Theron will play Gerda Wegener, wife of Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe (Kidman), the world's first known person to undergo sex reassignment surgery.
Theron was born in Benoni, South Africa, the daughter and only child of Charles and Gerda Family Tree, and is of German and French descent. Theron's first language is Afrikaans; she is fluent in English and speaks some Zulu. "Theron" is an Occitan surname (originally spelled Théron) pronounced in Afrikaans as "Tronn", although she has said that she prefers the pronunciation "Thrown".
Theron grew up on her parents' farm near Johannesburg (Benoni). 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 15, Theron witnessed the death of her father, an abusive alcoholic; Gerda shot him in self-defense when he attacked her. The police pressed no charges against her.
From January 1998 to July 2001, Theron dated the lead singer of Third Eye Blind, Stephan Jenkins. Jenkins ended the relationship after failing to take her marriage requests seriously.
Theron resides in Los Angeles, in the home of late 1930s actress Helen Twelvetrees, 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 and uncredited 2005 Æon Flux. She, like Sarah Silverman, and Brad Pitt, has said that she will not marry until same-sex couples are able to have their marriages recognized. Townsend recently stated he considers himself and Theron to be husband and wife. "We didn't have a ceremony," he said. "I don't need a certificate or the state or the church to say otherwise. So no there's no big official story on a wedding, but we are married... I consider her my wife and she considers me her husband".
While filming Æon Flux in Berlin, Germany, Theron had suffered a herniated disc in her neck, which occurred as a result of her suffering a fall while filming a series of back handsprings. This required her to wear a neck collar for a month.
Theron became a naturalized citizen of the United States in May 2007.
Having signed a deal with John Galliano in 2004, Theron replaced Estonian model Tiiu Kuik as the spokeswoman in the J'ADORE advertisements by Christian Dior. From October 2005 to December 2006, Theron earned $3,000,000 for the use of her image in a worldwide print media advertising campaign for Raymond Weil watches. In February 2006, she and her loan-out corporation were sued by Weil for breach of contract.
Theron is involved in women's rights organizations, and marched for abortion rights. Theron is a supporter of animal rights and active member of PETA. She recently appeared in a PETA ad for their anti-fur campaign.