Charlize Theron is one the most recognizable faces in film. The South African-born American actress and producer has been in many of our favorite movies, like The Devil's Advocate (1997), Mighty Joe Young (1998) and Monster (2003).
In the latter movie, Theron garnered critical acclaim for playing the role of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who was convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection for the murder of six men between 1989 and 1990. Wuornos, who was executed in 2002, maintained that all of the homicides were done in self-defense when the men she worked as a sex worker.
Theron won an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award (SAG) among other accolades for her portrayal. Everyone was praising her faultless performance, but little did they know that Theron had her own story of abuse and violence that perhaps helped her play the role with extra conviction.
Although she doesn't link her harrowing experience to her roles, Theron once said, "you'd be an idiot not to put it together...."
Twelve years prior to Monster, if things had gone the way Theron's father wanted, she would never made it to Hollywood. In fact, she would've been dead a long time ago.
The actress grew up in a household where her alcoholic father, Charles, abused her mother, Gerda, and this took a heavy toll on her life, even after her success.
"I think what more affected me for my adult life that happened in my childhood was more the everyday living of a child living in the house with an alcoholic and waking up not knowing what was going to happen," she told Howard Stern. "And not knowing how my day was going to go and all of it dependent on somebody else and whether he was not going to drink or [not.]"
Then came the fateful night in 1991 that forever altered life as she and her mother knew it., and shaped her into the strong-willed actress that we're accustomed to seeing on the silver screen.
So what happened?
On June 21, Charles and his brother came home after a night of heavy drinking, weilding a gun while threatening to kill Gerda and Theron.
The actress, who was just 15-years-old at the time and was still living in her native South Africa, was in the house when the commotion started so she locked herself in her bedroom.
Charles began to fire rounds, but Gerda bravely stepped in and yanked the gun away from him. She shot her husband, killing him instantly. Gerda was never convicted because no charges were pressed and she was able to prove that she acted in self-defense, and to protect her daughter.
"That was my entire childhood," Theron said in a candid New York Times profile. "My trauma was all of that."
"I survived that, and I'm proud of that," Theron said in an interview with New York Times. "I've worked hard for that, too. And I am not scared of that. I am not fearful of the darkness. If anything, I am intrigued by it, because I think it explains human nature and people better."
In another interview with Howard Stern, she explained that took a while before she started to bring up her traumatic past.
"I just pretended like it didn't happen."I didn't tell anybody "” I didn't want to tell anybody. Whenever anybody asked me," Theron admitted. "I said my dad died in a car accident. Who wants to tell that story? Nobody wants to tell that story."
Theron said she did not want to "feel like a victim," and eventually started therapy to help her come to terms with her past. Along with professional help, Theron credits her mother for helping her get through the tragedy and become who she is now. The mother-daughter pair continue have an extremely tight-knit relationship, and are often spotted together at red carpet events.
"I have an incredible mother," she added. "She's a huge inspiration in my life. ... Her philosophy was, "˜This is horrible. Acknowledge that this is horrible. Now make a choice. Will this define you? Are you going to sink or are you going to swim?' That was it."
Theron and her mother left South Africa soon after the tragic event so she could pursue a career in the modelling industry. They eventually moved to the U.S., where she managed to get her big break in her first speaking role as a hitwoman in 2 Days in the Valley (1996). The rest is history.