Charlize Theron

On this date in 1975, actress Charlize Theron was born in Benoni in the Transvaal region of South Africa, the only child of Gerda (Maritz) and Charles Theron, who operated the nation’s third-largest road construction business and owned a large farm. Her native tongue was Afrikaans but she also became fluent in English. Her childhood goal was to become a ballet dancer.

When Theron was 15, her alcoholic father came home drunk and started shooting at her and her mother, and her mother shot him to death. It was ruled self-defense. The next year she won a contest for a one-year contract to model in Europe and lived with her mother in Italy before moving to the U.S. Giving up her professional ballet aspirations, due partially to knee problems, she moved to Los Angeles and lived paycheck to paycheck while studying acting.

Her first speaking film role was in “2 Days in the Valley” (1996) and larger roles soon followed, including in “The Devil’s Advocate” (1997), “Mighty Joe Young” (1998) and “The Cider House Rules” (1999). Her portrayal in “Monster” (2003) of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, executed in Florida for killing six men, was “one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema,” critic Roger Ebert wrote. It won her the Best Actress Oscar, the first ever for a South African.

In “North Country” (2005), based on Lois Jenson’s true story, Theron played the Minnesota iron mine worker subjected to years of workplace sexual harassment. Amber Heard portrayed the character, raped as a teen by her high school teacher, in flashbacks. Theron again received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress and appeared on the cover of Ms. Magazine under the headline “Charlize Theron & Niki Caro Fight for Working Women.”

Since then, as of this writing in 2021, she has had roles in 29 films and has received numerous acting accolades, including a Best Actress nomination for “Bombshell” (2019), in which she plays former Fox News host Megyn Kelly. It’s based on accusations by Fox employees who alleged CEO Roger Ailes was a serial sexual harasser.

The 5-foot, 10-inch actress is known for working hard to get “in character.” She gained 50 pounds to play a pregnant suburban mother in 2018’s “Tully.” It took her 18 months to lose the weight. Answering Vanity Fair’s “Proust Questionnaire” in 2021 about what she most dislikes about her appearance, she said “big shoulders.” The living person she most admires? Her mother. The greatest love of her life? “My kids.”

Theron has never married (“not my thing,” she once told an interviewer) but has had long-term relationships with actor Craig Bierko, singer Stephan Jenkins (Third Eye Blind) and actors Stuart Townsend and Sean Penn. In 2020 she told an interviewer that she hasn’t dated seriously in five years and that she’s fulfilled by being a mom to her adopted Black daughters Jackson, then 8, and August, 5. Jackson is transgender.

Asked in a 2008 interview if she believed in God (see quote below), Theron called herself “pagan at heart.” When it became known two years later that she was attending Kabbalah classes and was seen wearing the red bracelet of the celebrity “religion du jour,” insiders said she had turned to Kabbalah to deal with her recent split from Townsend and “as a means to more of a social life and mixing with the Hollywood elite.” (The Daily Mail, Feb. 20, 2010)

She became a dual citizen of South Africa and the U.S. in 2007. She created the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project that same year, and in 2008 she was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace for her efforts to support African youth in the fight against HIV/AIDS. 

PHOTO: Theron in 2015 at the “Mad Max: Fury Road” premiere in Los Angeles; photo by Kathy Hutchins /

Freedom From Religion Foundation