Charlize Theron's most dangerous movie roles

Charlize Theron created a successful career for herself as an A-list actress in Hollywood. Born and raised in South Africa, Theron had a rough childhood before moving overseas at 18 years old to study ballet at the prestigious Joffrey Ballet School in New York. As her biography states, Theron had to give up her dancing career after sustaining several severe knee injuries. 

With ballet off the table, Theron decided to try her hand at acting instead. She left New York and headed for Los Angeles, but it wasn't exactly a seamless transition. At the time, Theron's thick Afrikaans accent prevented her from landing speaking roles. Instead of giving up, Theron studied TV shows to learn how to Americanize her accent.

By 1995, Theron landed her first small role in Children of the Corn III. Her career continued to flourish and, in 2003, she landed a major role in the film Monster, which earned her an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of a serial killer. Although Theron's dancing days are now long behind her, she's taken on some intense acting roles — and she certainly suffered both physical and mental repercussions. Here's a look at the award-winning actress' most dangerous roles in film. 

Getting inside the head of a Monster

Although Monster is the film responsible for getting the actress noticed, she is hardly recognizable throughout the movie. Since the film is based on the true story of Aileen Wuornos, the process to transform Theron into her character was intense. Makeup was used to redden and weather her complexion and she wore contacts to change her eye color. Theron had to learn to speak — and act — with dentures. Theron also had to gain thirty pounds for the role. Oh, and get inside the head of a serial killer. Needless to say, playing Wuornos was a challenge. 

When Advocate asked what was the hardest scene for the actress to complete, she turned the question around, jokingly asking, "Which wasn't?" Theron's character had been suppressing her feelings the entire movie, until one scene where she breaks down. In that moment, Theron deeply felt what her character was going through. "Once I did open the path [to those feelings], then I was kind of f***ed for two days. It was like, 'Now I can't hold it back again!'"

Filming murder scenes can't exactly be easy on the psyche either. Theron recalled the filming of one in particular to Advocate, saying, "I just remember lying on the ground with nothing [left], just complete numbness." Yikes.

A paralyzing performance in Aeon Flux

Two years after premiering in Monster, Theron took on another murderous role — the titular character in Aeon Flux. Theron played the enigmatic assassin working for rebels in an attempt to overthrow the government. The film focuses on Flux's assignment to assassinate the Chairman and the mystery surrounding it. While it sounds interesting enough, the movie bombed, earning only an eight percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. One critic from Cinema Crazed commented, "Between bouts of gun fights and acrobatics, Aeon Flux is a dreadfully boring and incomprehensible mess."

Not only that, but the dismal film's acrobatic stunts could've killed the actress. "I almost paralyzed myself," Theron explained in an interview with I'm Filmy. "I did a back handspring and my feet slipped from underneath me and I landed with my entire body weight on my neck," she said. Her awkward and painful landing resulted in a herniated disk, but, as Theron explained, her injuries could've been much worse — or even fatal. 

In 2013, Theron finally had surgery to correct the vertebrae she broke, People reported. Ah, Aeon Flux — the gift that just keeps on giving.

Down in the North Country mines

In 2005, the same year Aeon Flux was released, Theron starred in another film, North Country. Based on a true story, the movie focuses on Theron's character, a single mother named Josey Aimes and her journey to end sexual harassment in the iron mine where she works. Although North Country is ultimately focused on a class action sexual harassment lawsuit — the first of its kind — it was also about the mining community, Theron told CBS News' The Early Show.

By 2005, Theron was establishing herself as an incredible actress, but that didn't mean she took it easy — not at all. As part of her preparation for her role as a miner, Theron literally went to work down in the mines, taking multiple 12-hour shifts and engaging with the female workers.

"These were just people trying to make ends meet and trying to put food on the table. I think that was the part that moved me the most," she said. Theron certainly put herself at risk as mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Major kudos.

Crashing coupes in The Italian Job

Just months before Theron hit it big with her breakout performance in Monster, she had a pretty sizable supporting role in The Italian Job. Theron admitted to having a lot of fun playing Stella Bridger, a professional safe-cracker. "There wasn't a moment that we didn't laugh constantly," she said in an interview with The Early Show

Part of her duties on the film included some pretty terrifying driving stunts. The actress was told from the get-go that they wanted the actors to do as many stunts as they felt comfortable performing. Although she had a lot of fun racing her coworkers, she did crash — multiple times. 

Theron also broke a camera in one of the accidents on set, but at least she didn't break any bones. In an interview with BBC, Theron described the fun of driving down stairs (umm, what?) and exclaimed, "I only crashed three times!" Oh, that's all? Phew.

The stunt that went "awry" during Mad Max

In an interview with E! News, director George Miller admitted his biggest fear while filming Mad Max: Fury Road — keeping his cast safe. That's probably not the most reassuring thing to hear if you were, you know, an actor in the film. Miller said the making of the movie was basically a "military exercise." Shot over 130 days in a real desert with real vehicles and daily dangerous stunts, it's not hard to see why.

Theron, having already suffered a very dangerous neck injury while filming Aeon Flux, needed to take extra precaution. "We didn't help the neck in one shot that went slightly awry," Miller admitted. As a former doctor, he didn't like the thought of someone being harmed on his watch, but, as they say, accidents happen. "It was a cable slip when she's holding onto Tom Hardy upside down," he explained, "But she was back the next day. She's tough." That's right, it's not just the shaved head that makes Theron slay in this film — though that doesn't hurt.

Breaking her own teeth for Atomic Blonde

Theron certainly loves playing formidable badasses — and when you do it so well, why not? Theron played a particularly fierce role as an undercover MI6 agent in 2017's Atomic Blonde. Having sustained a serious injury on a set in the past was certainly not enough to stop Theron from performing many of her own stunts. Even in an intense movie like Atomic Blonde, Theron was up for the challenge. In an interview with I'm Filmy, Theron said fight scenes were filmed with 20 to 25 hits continuously, which is a whole lot to perform without any takes in between. 

To get prepared for such a rigorous role, Theron had to, likewise, train rigorously. In fact, she trained so hard she broke her own teeth — no joke. "I think it was just out of the frustration of trying to learn how to fight [while training] and, from clenching so hard, I cracked two teeth in the back and had to have surgery to remove them right before we went to Budapest to shoot." Cringing yet?

Gaining weight and developing depression for Tully

Charlize Theron went from super fit in Atomic Blonde to 50 pounds heavier in Tully — and the film premieres are less than one year apart. In Tully, Theron plays a woman named Marlo, a mother of three children — one of whom is a newborn — who is gifted a night nanny named Tully by her brother. The film is not based on a real person, so why did Theron choose to gain weight for the role?

"I just I wanted to feel what this woman felt, and I think that was a way for me to get closer to her and get into that mindset," she explained to Entertainment Tonight. Although she was looking to get more in touch with her character, weight gain brought along with it some pretty unexpected baggage. Theron said she was at getting "hit in the face pretty hard with depression." Not one to normally eat processed food or drink sugar-laden beverages, it was truly a shock to her system.

Theron has since lost the weight but you have to hand it to her — she is fully committed to every role she takes.