The Stunning Transformation Of Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron made her acting debut in "Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest" back in 1995. Now, over two decades later, she's a well-respected actress who has starred in iconic films like "Mad Max: Fury Road," "Tully," "Atomic Blonde," and "Bombshell." Throughout her long career, Theron has gone through many transformations to play a variety of roles in genres, from romances to dramas and high-intensity action films.

From her time growing up in South Africa to the Oscar-winning actress she is now, it's amazing to see how Theron has changed over the years. We've rounded up some of her biggest changes and surprising moments that have brought her to where she is today. From getting discovered at a bank to winning her first Oscar to shaving her head to be in "Mad Max: Fury Road," Theron always keeps fans on their toes and continues to stun everyone with her talent.

She trained in ballet before becoming an actress

Charlize Theron was born in 1975 in Benoni, South Africa. According to Britannica, she spent her early childhood on a farm near Benoni. During her adolescence, she was a talented ballet dancer. Before considering acting, she began attending a boarding school for the arts when she was 13.

At age 16, she made another significant move to Milan to pursue a career as a model. After two years, she moved again from Milan to New York City, where she continued modeling while also studying at the Joffrey Ballet School, per Britannica. Sadly, after a knee injury, her hopes for a ballet career ended.

However, Theron still finds ways to use her dance training in her acting career. The actress did many fight scenes and her own stunts for "Atomic Blonde." Insider quoted her speaking about the fight choreography, saying, "I'm coordinated because I was a dancer, and I definitely have movement memory." Although she'd never been a fighter, those physical skills and her ability to memorize choreography definitely helped her through the action-packed film.

Charlize overcame trauma from her childhood

Charlize Theron's early life was eventful with her many moves, but it was also very challenging. Her father was an alcoholic who was frequently absent and often verbally abusive. Theron keeps this part of her childhood fairly private, but she opened up about it while speaking to The New York Times. When Theron was 15, her father arrived home drunk. He threatened his wife (Theron's mother) and Charlize with a gun. When he began shooting, Theron's mother grabbed her own gun and fired back, killing him in self-defense.

As traumatizing as that night was, Theron said that the years leading up to it were worse. "That was my entire childhood," she said. "My trauma was all of that." After the shooting, her mother told Charlize that this was a time when they were going to sink or swim. "I survived that, and I'm proud of that," she told the NYT. "I've worked hard for that, too. And I am not scared of that."

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She was discovered throwing a tantrum at the bank

When Charlize Theron moved to Hollywood in 1994, she had dreams of becoming an actress, but she'd only had a small role in "Children of The Corn III." She didn't have an agent or any connections, and she was living out of her suitcase in the cheapest hotel she could find. Speaking to Oprah, Theron explained that she didn't know what else to do at the time. "My only alternative was to go home. At the time, there really wasn't a future for me in South Africa. I didn't finish high school or go to college," she said.

Theron was discovered at a bank, where she was trying to cash an out-of-state check from her last modeling job in New York, but they wouldn't cash it. Later, when others told the story, they said she began "throwing a tantrum." But as Theron explained, "It's survival, people. If I didn't cash that check, I wouldn't have had a place to sleep that night. I said to the teller, 'You don't understand — please!'" A man at the bank offered to help, and after filling out a lot of paperwork, she got her money. On the way out, the same man handed her his card and offered to be her manager.

Charlize got her breakout role with Keanu Reeves

After she signed on with her manager, Charlize Theron's acting career started to take off fairly quickly. Her breakout role was in "The Devil's Advocate" in 1997. She starred in the legal thriller alongside Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino, as the naive wife of a young attorney played by Reeves, one of her first parts that really showcased her acting chops. Entertainment Weekly put it simply when they wrote that Theron's part "is the best thing" in the film.

After audiences and industry professionals saw Theron in "The Devil's Advocate," her resume continued to grow with more impressive and popular roles. The next year she was in "Mighty Joe Young," and she continued landing parts in "The Cider House Rules," "The Legend of Bagger Vance," and several other films over the next few years. One of her first blockbuster hits was in 2003, when she played Stella Bridger in the adventure heist "The Italian Job."

She transformed herself to play a serial killer in Monster

Charlize Theron had proven her ability as an actress, but viewers were still shocked to see her transformed in "Monster" in 2003, when the "Bombshell" actress played Aileen Wuornos. Wuornos was a Floridian sex worker who was charged with the murder of seven of her clients and branded the first female serial killer, per Brittanica. According to The Star, Theron gained 30 pounds, wore brown contact lenses, and had a prosthetic overbite to appear as Wuornos. But beyond her physical appearance, Theron blew audiences and critics away with how she portrayed the character. Theron said of Wuornos, "I see her as an extremely resilient human, probably the most resilient person I've ever encountered in my life."

Many were initially surprised that director Patty Jenkins Theron chose Theron for the role. As Jenkins explained, "The minute I took on this movie, and I decided how I was going to do this movie, I was terrified of what actor could do this ... the success of the movie rests completely on somebody's ability to pull it off." She explained that she chose Theron because she believed she'd have the strength and vulnerability for the part.

Winning her first Academy Award was a big milestone in her career

Transforming herself to portray Aileen Wuornos in "Monster" earned Charlize Theron her first Academy Award nomination and win for best actress in 2004 (per Britannica). During an interview, Theron admitted she was surprised by the film's strong reception. "The decision to do this was very personal," she explained. "You just sometimes tap into something emotionally, and you realize that other people might not be tapping into the same thing, and you're prepared for that." With that in mind, Theron did not expect critics or viewers to necessarily share her passion for the film.

During her acceptance speech for best actress, Theron said, "This has been such an incredible year. I can't believe this." She went on to thank those who worked on the film, her friends, and her family. Near the end of her speech, she added, "I'm going to thank everybody in South Africa, my home country. They're all watching tonight ... and my mom, you've sacrificed so much for me to be able to live here and make my dreams come true."

Charlize shocked viewers again in Mad Max: Fury Road

Charlize Theron surprised everyone with her role as Furiosa in "Mad Max: Fury Road." Most viewers know the actress as a beautiful blonde, but in this role, she became a completely new person. Theron appeared on screen for the action film with a shaved head and gritty look to match the post-apocalyptic landscape that her character was fighting to survive.

Speaking to CinemaBlend, the film's writer/director, George Miller, explained why it was crucial for the lead in the film to be a woman. "It was five wives escaping a tyrannical warlord, and needed a female road warrior," he said. "It couldn't be male. So there was Furiosa, and the rest followed." Theron became the warrior they needed to lead the film and captivate audiences.

Although "Mad Max" was a critical and commercial triumph, it wasn't easy for Theron or her costar Tom Hardy; they struggled to get along throughout filming. "We were either fighting or we were icing each other — I don't know which one is worse," Theron admitted in Vanity Fair. "It was horrible! We should not have done that; we should have been better. I can own up to that."

Becoming a single mother changed her life

Charlize Theron made a big change in her life when she decided to become a parent. Theron didn't follow the stereotypical journey to parenthood, instead making the decision to adopt on her own. Speaking to NPR, she said, "I cast a very wide net. I wanted to believe that somehow my child would find me in the way that we were just meant to be." She was open to adopting from any country that would allow her to adopt as a single parent. As it turned out, both her daughters were born in the U.S., and she believes they were meant to be a family. 

Theron added that she thinks society has a long way to go in how a family is defined. "It still feels very traditional in the sense that it should be that every child should have a mother and a father ... but not so much around the idea of a single parent," she said. "It's just so unfortunate. I know so many people who would be incredible parents."

Theron makes an effort to keep her children's lives private, but she has shared a few glimpses of their family life on Instagram. In one post she shared of the girls, Theron wrote, "My heart belongs to these two beautiful powerhouses. I will never be the same."

She runs a successful production company

Along with her work as an actress, Charlize Theron also runs a successful production company, Denver & Delilah Productions, which Variety noted was named after the actress' dogs. One of the first films for which she had a producer credit was her Oscar-winning project, "Monster." She has produced many other films in which she had starring roles, including "The Burning Plain," "Atomic Blonde," and "Tully." However, she has also produced the movie "Brain on Fire" and the series "Girlboss," in which she didn't have an acting part.

As The Wrap announced in 2020, Denver & Delilah signed a two-year, first-look TV deal with HBO and HBO Max. Upcoming projects include "The Old Guard 2," "Atomic Blonde 2," and "Two Eyes Staring." In producing her films, Theron prides herself on breaking rules that have often been set for women. In "Atomic Blonde," for example, she pushes herself physically in ways that she wouldn't usually be allowed to do on screen. As she told Variety, "A lot of times, studios or producers are not comfortable with seeing a woman with bruises ... We really wanted to pay attention to that authenticity."

Charlize spoke of getting a second chance to become a female action star

When Charlize Theron first entered Hollywood with early roles in "Mighty Joe Young" and "The Devil's Advocate," her path to becoming an action star wasn't an obvious trajectory. But thanks to her iconic performance in "Mad Max: Fury Road," that has become one of the many genres in which she excels.

During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Theron shared that she considers herself the exception for getting the chance to play Furiosa, as it was her "second chance" to lead an action film. Her first chance was in 2005 in "Aeon Flux," which did not perform as well as expected. "A lot of women don't get a second chance, but when men make these movies and fail miserably, they get chance after chance after chance to go and explore that again," she said. "It's unfortunate that we feel like the opportunity will be taken away from us in a heartbeat if we don't succeed, but that is the truth. It's not a very forgiving genre when it comes to women."

She wanted to play female protagonists who break the rules

In 2017, Charlize Theron starred in "Atomic Blonde" as the M16 agent Lorraine Broughton. The role seemed like a fitting next step for an actress who had already played real and fictional killers, from Aileen Wuornos in "Monster" to Imperator Furiosa in "Mad Max: Fury Road" and Ravenna in "Snow White and the Huntsman." Speaking to The New York Times about why she takes on these intense characters, Theron said, "I became very aware of women in certain circumstances not being allowed to play by the same rules guys get to play by. I was actively looking for a protagonist that could break those rules."

Theron explained that she is more interested in why people do what they do. "I'm fascinated by the why. Because in many ways, I am here today because of the why," she told the NYT. It seems that fascination has influenced many of the gritty and complex roles for which she's become known. Speaking about that common thread between her most famous characters, Theron added, "I mean, you'd be an idiot not to put it together that I like women who can struggle, and win the struggle, and get out of their situations ... They're not victims, but they're also not superheroes."

Charlize shared the challenges she's faced as a woman in Hollywood

Charlize Theron has built an impressive career as an actress and producer, but it hasn't always been an easy road. During a joint interview with Seth Rogan on "The Howard Stern Show," Theron shared an early experience with a movie producer who allegedly behaved inappropriately when she was trying to audition for him. She told Stern that when she arrived, the man was wearing pajamas, was drinking, and dismissed her attempts to read script pages. "Then at one point, he put his hand on my knee," Theron said. "Girls talk about this, where you just go blank. Like, you don't know what to do." Fortunately, she was able to get herself out of the situation before it went further.

Theron didn't name the producer, but she did say he "was a very big deal and is still a big deal." She got to meet him again when he recently reached out to her about being part of a film. She took the meeting as a chance to speak up for herself like she couldn't back then. "I went purely just to have my moment where he said, 'Nice to meet you,' and I said, 'No, we've met before,'" she shared.

She transformed herself into news anchor Megyn Kelly

Charlize Theron is known for her incredible ability to transform for a role, and she did so once again for "Bombshell" in 2019, when she wore an angular bob and facial prosthetics to become Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. "Bombshell" tells the true story of Gretchen Carlson (played by Nicole Kidman) filing a harassment suit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. Margot Robbie stars alongside Theron and Kidman as a fictional character, representing the many employees who came forward against Ailes.

When it came to transforming into Kelly for the role, Theron did a lot of research and strived to understand her. "Sometimes just mimicking physicality can feel like you're in a comedy sketch," Theron told Vogue. "I had to understand why she sounds the way she sounds, and that has to do with the emotional heart of the person." Although it wasn't her first time playing a real person or a controversial character, Kelly was quite different than any role Theron had taken before. "She's said [things] in the past that bothered me, so I really had to sit with it for a while," Theron said. In the end, she realized the story wasn't necessarily about loving Kelly as a person: "She was one part of a bigger story, a story that is historically important."

Charlize shared her new dark hair and her future plans

Charlize Theron recently surprised fans once more with her new jet-black hair. The dramatic color was yet another change for the "Atomic Blonde" actress, who is typically recognizable by her golden blonde hair. Theron showed off the new look at her 15th annual Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project block party. Theron spoke to Extra TV about some of her upcoming projects, including "The Old Guard 2," which she'll be starring in alongside "Kill Bill" star Uma Thurman.

Beyond her entertainment career, Theron is using her platform to continue her outreach project, which works on HIV/AIDS prevention programs (via Extra TV). She also enjoys seeing how that work has helped her daughters to grow while visiting South Africa with her. "I have moments where I'm really proud of them, when I feel like they say something so small, but it makes me realize that they're seeing outside their bubble," she said. "I just want them to know the world is much bigger than all of what we have here." Theron went on to add that her ultimate goal for her outreach work is that someday it will become obsolete. "I don't know how realistic that is, but that's the thing we aim for, is to get enough of the advocacy out there."