Net Worth: $120 million
Charlize Theron is one of Hollywood’s favourite beauties, known not only for her looks but also her serious talent and work in films such as 'Monster' and 'Young Adult'. Coming a long way from South Africa to Los Angeles, and dealing with demons of her own past, this artist has managed to become one of the most respected actresses, who uses her status to do good in the world.
Charlize was born in Benoni in South Africa. Her mother is Gerda and her father was Charles and Charlize was their only child. She has Dutch, French and German ancestry.
‘I am the product of the mother who raised me’, she said. ‘My mom would wake up every morning, get me ready for school, make my food, get me on the bus and the go run the third largest road construction business in South Africa – and do it in style, wearing suede boots, knee-high boots. I was so impressed by that.’
Charlize didn’t enjoy going to school and felt she didn’t fit in, so she was sent to boarding school and studied at the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg.
On June 21, 1991, when Charlize was sixteen, her father, who was an alcoholic, physically attacked her mother, threatening both her and Charlize and making her mother shoot him in self-defence. Her mother faced no charges. ‘I don’t think you can go through something like that and not kind of walk with it, hand in hand. But you try very hard to move on’, she said. ‘I don’t know how to say this without sounding strange. But I feel like having this tragedy at such a young age has given me a leg up from other people. Because, man, from sixteen, I knew the value of life and I knew how quickly it could be taken away. And from that moment on, I made a choice to either swim or to drown, you know?’, she confessed about the effect this fact had on her life. ‘People want to think that I am this tortured soul, that my work is drawn only from this one well. And though I would never sit here and say that it didn’t mark me, or mould me into the person that I am, my life has had many painful journeys and heartbreaks since my father died, many of which I draw on for my work.’
That year, Charlize won a one-year modeling contract and moved to Milan in Italy with her mother. After a year there, they moved to the US and lived in New York and Miami. At that time, Charlize wanted to be a dancer and she attended ballet classes at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York, until she had a knee injury. ‘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.’ And so, aged nineteen, Charlize flew to Los Angeles, wanting to start her career in the film industry. During the first months there, her mother sent her money to help her out, and when she couldn’t cash one due to a problem with the teller, she made a scene, which was noticed by John Crosby, a talent agent waiting behind her in line. Although they soon parted ways, she was given a chance to begin her career.
Charlize’s first film debut was a small role in the horror Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest in 1995. Then, she appeared in 2 Days in the Valley in 1996.
Mesmerized by her beauty and talent, she was given the lead female role in The Devil’s Advocate, alongside Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves. But, as she said: ‘Looks alone won’t get you far. It may get you in the door, but there’s always somebody younger, somebody prettier. You have to rely on something else’, and so she spent an hour a day in a three-month period with a psycho-therapist, getting to know schizophrenia. She also contemplated appearing nude in the film, having declined roles in the past that would require her to take her clothes off, but decided to go along with it because the movie was worthy of it.
The film was a great success, opening the door of Hollywood wide for her. She went on to appear in Mighty Joe Young in 1998, then The Cider House Rules in 1999. That same year, she appeared on the cover of the January issue of Vanity Fair. In May, Playboy made a cover with her as well, taking photos shot of her when she was an unknown model. Charlize sued Playboy, but lost.
2000 proved to be a busy year for her as she starred in Reindeer Games, The Yards, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Men of Honor and Sweet November, where she appeared again alongside Keanu Reeves. But it wasn’t until she decided to do the film Monster that the game changed for her, and colleagues and audiences stopped perceiving her as another beautiful blonde, and realized she had a lot to offer as an actress. ‘I never got offered parts like that, never. And it took a woman, a first-time female director, to offer me that role.’ The film was based on true events, and Charlize changed her appearance in order to fit the lead role, by gaining weight and basically letting herself go. ‘I was trying to make the correlation between Aileen Wuornos and her experiences when she was very young. And I was reminded of something that happened to me. I was five years old and we were driving… all the cars stopped because a truck had rolled over and was ablaze. The doors were jammed and there was a man trapped inside. In South Africa everybody carries a weapon, and the man begged for someone to shoot him because he didn’t want to burn to death. Nobody could get him out of the cab, so somebody shot him. It was horrific, but definitively a moment that made me have a great value for life. Other things in life have taught me not to take a moment for granted.’ For her role in the film, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2004, being the first South African to do so, and won the Screen Actors Guild Award and the Golden Globe Award.
Charlize continued to work, appearing in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers in 2004, for which she won another Golden Globe Award. That year, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She then starred in Arrested Development in 2005, as well as Aeon Flux, Fantastic Four and North Country, where her performance was praised once again. In 2008, she appeared in Hancock and that same year, she was invited to become a UN Messenger of Peace. In 2011, she played the lead role in Jason Reitman’s Young Adult, and her performance got her another Golden Globe nomination. In 2012, she appeared in the Snow White and the Huntsman, as well as Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. In 2015, she starred in Dark Places, and Mad Max: Fury Road. In 2016, she shot the sequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Currently, she is working on many new projects.
Like many other artists in the industry, Charlize, too, has her own production company, called Denver and Delilah Productions – named after her two dogs.
Charlize is one of the actresses who worked hard to prove she has so much more to offer than just her looks, even though she is considered to be one of the most beautiful actresses of Hollywood. In 2000, she was even named one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People in the World. ‘I don’t avoid glamorous roles. I played Britt Ekland, who is one of the most beautiful women alive. But I don’t see so many. You tell me one glamorous role that is in a good movie you have seen in the last ten years. My point is, it’s not a case of wanting to be glamorous or not. It’s about wanting to tell a good story. And the physical is at the bottom of the list for me. Your job, as an actor, is to be a clean canvas for your director, and you have to tell the story as authentically as possible’, she said. ‘Look, I can’t forget I’m a woman. I love being a woman and I love being feminine, so that will always be part of my work, obviously. But I approach the material with a more humanistic approach. I think that kind of stuff can become over-earnest if you approach it with a big hammer. Personally, I’ve been lucky. Maybe it’s the way I was raised, but I know right from wrong and I know wrong when I walk into a room – and if I feel it’s wrong, I walk right out again.’
When it comes to endorsements, Charlize is the face for Dior’s J’Adore fragrance, and promotes Raymond Weil watches.
Charlize is very active when it comes to charity work. In 2007, she started her own foundation, The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, fighting HIV/AIDS amongst the African youth. In 2009, her organization partnered up with TOMS Shoes, making a special edition unisex model and giving it away to children in need, as well as selling them and giving the portion of the proceeds to CTAOP.
Charlize also supports women’s rights organizations, same-sex marriage and animal rights, being the active member of PETA and supporting their anti-fur campaigns.
‘I don’t really talk about my personal life and I don’t really talk about my relationships. I’m not a big partier. I like the simplicity of my life, and I’ve chosen the kind of life I really want to live. I don’t think my life is boring at all.’, she said.
‘I live a very simple life. I don’t have to make these giant movies. I don’t have a yacht or a private plane. As long as I can maintain this life, which is pretty low-maintenance and simple, then all of you don’t have to worry about all that stuff. It’s such a blessed place to be in. I don’t have to take a job to pay a mortgage on a house that I can’t afford. My life comes first, then my job. I’m incredibly lucky to be in a position where I don’t have to work all the time to live.’
When it comes to relationships, she also keeps them very private, but one that was known was with Sean Penn. They were together for a year and a half, but broke up in 2015.
Charlize adopted two children – a boy in 2012, and a girl in 2015. She lives in Los Angeles, close to her mother, with whom she speaks Afrikaans, as it’s her first language, and English is only her second – she uses the American accent. In 2007, she became a citizen of the United States, keeping her South African citizenship.
When it comes to her vices, Charlize used to be a smoker, but managed to quit after a hypnotherapy. She is said to suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Charlize is very proud about her background. When she won an Oscar, she got greeted at home by no other than Nelson Mandela. ‘’I’ve always been very proud to be a South African and I’ve always been very honest to people about that. And whatever I can do in my power, I promise you, I will do. I don’t think it’s too much pressure. I think it’s our duty as citizens of this country. You don’t have to win an Oscar to do something good for your country. We all can do that. If I can be an encouragement for that I’ll be glad to be that.’’
Written by: Tamara Djordjevic