Álainn or Appallin’: Charlize Theron
There are very few female movie stars who are known by their first names; Meryl, Angelina, Jodie, Julia and Charlize are just a few. All but one of these ladies are also considered box-office gold, guaranteed bums-on-seats no matter what the film. Charlize is on her way though, and she’s doing it the hard way – in spite of, not because of, her looks.
Charlize grew up on a farm outside Benoni, close to Jo’burg in South Africa, an only child in a less-than-happy household. Her father was a successful business man who was doing his best to drink away his business. Her mother, however, was, and still is, made of strong stuff. She raised her daughter to be strong and proud.
My mother was an incredible example to me. I can’t imagine going through life without her. I think she has influenced who I am, but without intent really. She would always say, ‘That’s how I feel, but you should figure it out for yourself.’ I think of my life now and I realise that the way I was brought up is why I can deal with so much now. I’m responsible for my own actions, my own decisions. So it’s a weird one, because she didn’t want me to be her, but I think now, at 32, I look at her and I kind of go, ‘Wow, I somehow aspire to be you.’ I think she really values me being independent and being myself.
Famously, or infamously, one night when she was 16 her father went at her mother in a drunken rage and she killed him in self-defense.
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.
Charlize was considered a talented ballet dancer and studied the art for years, eventually ending up at Joffrey Ballet in New York, at the age of 16. As a teen, she had done some modeling and continued to use the job to finance her ballet studies. Then disaster struck when she injured her knee and was told she wouldn’t be able to dance anymore.
Charlize’s mother realised that modeling wasn’t making her daughter happy so she gave her a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, forcing the 18 year-old Charlize to follow her dream. She continued to model while looking for work. One day, she was in the queue of her bank to cash a wages cheque, the bank official refused to cash it as it was an out-of-state cheque and Charlize lost it. After she shouted for a while, an agent who had been queuing gave her his card and told her to call him as soon as she could speak with an American accent. She spent weeks perfecting the accent by watching soaps on the telly. After eight months in Los Angeles she got her first part.
Her first role was in a B-movie but it gave her the taste and she was hooked. Charlize started making waves in her next role in 2 Days in the Valley and then in That Thing You Do!. It was in 1997, at the age of 22, that she really made people sit up and notice, though, when she played Keanu Reeves’ wife in The Devil’s Advocate. It may not be difficult to out-act Keanu, but Charlize’s layered, sensitive performance his grief-stricken wife belied her young age. Next up were money makers such as The Cider House Rules and The Italian Job. It was in 2003, though, that she kicked the acting world in the arse with her Oscar-winning performance in Monster.
Over the years, though, the beauty has had to put up with a lot of concentration on her looks. Can a woman that beautiful get away with playing someone normal? Well, she is actually normal you know.
It just bummed me out because I was, “What do you want? Do you want me to play a detective from Albuquerque who’s a single mom in a Dior dress?” The way they focused on my appearance, I felt like it hurt [the film] and I was embarrassed because [director] Paul Haggis had worked really hard, and just because I had a ponytail that’s what they were talking about.
As a result, her screen successes have been mixed. She looked red-hot in Aeon Flux, pity the film was pants. She won plaudits for her appearances in TV show Arrested Development (which starred Mrs Portia Degeneres) and was nominated for another Oscar for North County, in 2005. Recently, she added her weight to In the Valley of Elah, a critically-adored film which viewers ignored. And let’s not mention Hancock.
I explore all these themes, and then we come on these junkets and it’s like: ‘So, you don’t play a glamorous role again.’ Sometimes I just want to look at people and say, ‘Have you really thought this through?’ You know, how many great stories can you tell in a Dior dress? Or is it because I’ve done a J’adore perfume ad that I can only be one type of woman? I don’t think women are that. We are many things. One day we wake up and we want to put on jeans and T-shirt, and the next day we want to fucking have our hair done. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have access to raw emotion.
Coming up, she is directed by her edible Irish chappie, Stewart Townsend (above right), in Battle in Seattle and shall be starring in Sleepwalking.
Charlize and Stewart are famous for being the first Hollywood couple to say that they’ll never marry until the gays can. Brangelina were years behind.
I have so many friends who are gays and lesbians who would so badly want to get married, that I wouldn’t be able to sleep with myself
Watch the interview with The Huffington Post:
In her view, the South African sees the ban on gay marriage as a form of apartheid:
I don’t like living in an elitist world, it bothers me. I don’t want to be part of an elitist sexual preference. It bothers me, maybe it’s because I come from a country where I lived under apartheid but this is a form of apartheid and I don’t want to be a part of that.
She has been gay for pay on-screen and off. Recently, a woman payed $140,000 to kiss the South African. Who says money can’t buy happiness?