On this day in 1975, the actress Charlize Theron, known both for her lithe blonde beauty (she was named 2007’s “Sexiest Woman of the Year” by Esquire magazine) and serious acting chops (she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for 2003’s Monster), is born in Benoni, South Africa.
Theron grew up on a farm in South Africa and modeled in Europe and New York as a teenager. After moving to Los Angeles as a young woman, she was reportedly discovered in a bank line by a talent agent. She made her movie debut with an uncredited part in Children of the Corn III (1995), which was soon followed by larger roles in such films as 1996’s That Thing You Do!, which marked Tom Hanks’ directorial debut; 1997’s The Devil’s Advocate, co-starring Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves; and 1998’s Mighty Joe Young, about an African gorilla brought to Los Angeles to escape poachers. Among Theron’s other high-profile movie credits over the next several years were The Cider House Rules (1999), the acclaimed adaptation of the John Irving novel; John Frankenheimer’s poorly received action thriller Reindeer Games (2000); The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), with Will Smith and Matt Damon; and The Italian Job (2003), a remake of the classic 1969 crime caper. She met her longtime boyfriend, the Irish actor Stuart Townsend, when the two starred together in the forgettable 2002 thriller Trapped.
In 2003, the actress shed her glamorous image and completely transformed her appearance for her role as the real-life prostitute-turned-serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Theron’s performance earned her the best reviews of her career, as well as an Academy Award for Best Actress. She received a second Best Actress Oscar nomination for another unglamorous performance in North Country (2005), which was inspired by the true story of a female miner in Minnesota who filed a landmark sexual-harassment lawsuit against her company for the abuse she received from male co-workers.
On the small screen, Theron was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award for her portrayal of the Swedish actress Britt Eklund in the HBO movie The Life and Death of Peter Sellars (2004). She also turned in a notable guest-starring performance on the acclaimed Fox comedy series Arrested Development in 2005. Theron’s more recent film credits include In the Valley of Elah (2007), a drama involving soldiers recently returned from war in Iraq, co-starring Tommy Lee Jones; and the unconventional superhero film Hancock (2008), which reteamed the actress with her Bagger Vance co-star Will Smith.