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Charlize Theron Has Seriously Damaged Her Body More Than Once During Filming

There are few more committed actresses than Charlize Theron. Whether she's chucking her movie star good looks out the window for the role of a serial killer in Monster, becoming ripped and terrifying to play Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, or packing on the pounds for Tully, Theron has proven that she'll go the extra mile to bring each of her characters to the screen in as vivid and authentic a manner as possible.

Of course, there's a big difference between being committed to astutely performing a role and being committed to sacrificing your body for said role if that's what the job requires. As it turns out, Theron is both. Perhaps no major star other than Tom Cruise has come so close to serious, life-changing on-set injury so many times as Theron has. (We're not counting Jackie Chan; when it comes to endangering oneself for the amusement of others, he's in a class by himself.) 

With the impending release of her new Netflix film The Old Guard, an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, we thought it would be interesting to look back on all of the times Charlize Theron has nearly completely obliterated herself for the sake of her craft.

Charlize Theron almost paralyzed herself shooting Aeon Flux

Theron's first really significant on-set injury was also potentially the most serious, and it came in service of a film that barely anyone remembers: Aeon Flux, the live-action adaptation of MTV's animated sci-fi series. The flick required Theron to perform some tricky stunt work in clothing that was decidedly not designed for that, and one of those stunts went seriously wrong. While doing a handspring back flip in platform shoes, Theron fell on her neck, slipping a disc that came very close to penetrating her spinal cord (via Chicago Tribune).

How close, you might ask? In a 2017 interview with News.com.au, Theron said, "What happened on Aeon Flux was a very unfortunate accident, and it was very severe. I was a centimeter away from being completely paralyzed for the rest of my life. It definitely woke me up to, 'Okay, you have to be prepared.' It was nobody's fault, but it was just a freak accident." 

The actress went on to explain that the injury had required eight years of pain management "where [she] just couldn't get rid of the spasms and the nerve damage," but that a disc fusion a few years previous had finally corrected those issues.

Charlize Theron tore a stomach muscle while screaming during filming on Snow White and the Huntsman

Theron portrayed the evil Queen Ravenna in 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman, and the actress found it pretty easy to stay in the head space of the temperamental character, thanks to her extravagant wardrobe. Speaking with MTV News shortly after the flick's release, Theron said, "Off-set, you can joke about it, [but] you're in these costumes. I felt like I was being so high-maintenance: 'It hurts, oh gosh, I can't walk to craft service.' You become a big pain in the a**. I mean, I'm saying it was the costume, but it really wasn't. That's how I behaved."

She admitted that she relished getting the chance to play such a theatrically nasty character — in fact, she dug it a little too much. "I did enjoy just screaming at people," Theron said. "I screamed so much at people, I tore a stomach muscle, which I had never heard of that before." 

Honestly, neither had we. It's tough to imagine just what kind of bellowing, from-the-gut histrionics it would take to actually tear a stomach muscle, but you don't have to try to imagine it — just check out Snow White and the Huntsman, and watch Theron work.

Charlize Theron cracked two teeth while training for Atomic Blonde

Theron's penchant for doing her own dangerous stunt work continued with 2017's Atomic Blonde, which featured the kind of crazy hand-to-hand combat scenes usually reserved for intense martial arts flicks and John Wick movies. This just may be because Atomic Blonde was directed by David Leitch, one of the masterminds behind the Wick franchise and a man with a prodigious gift for getting bone-crunching action to really land onscreen. Speaking with Variety about her training for the film, Theron said, "I was like, 'We're going to pretend [fight], right?' [And Leitch] was like, 'No you're actually going to throw big dudes.'" Theron's response, of course, was, "Alright, let's throw some big dudes." 

The Atomic Blonde shoot wouldn't be the last time Theron would seriously mess herself up tangling with big dudes, but it wasn't any hard fall or accidental shot to the face that nearly sidelined her — it was her own intensity. "My teeth are in bad shape," Theron explained to Variety. "I'm actually still undergoing surgery. It's really crazy. When I trained, I cracked two teeth in the back of my mouth, clenching while fighting." 

That's right: while undergoing intensive training to beat the crap out of guys twice her size, Theron habitually gritted her teeth so hard that she cracked two of them. We're not sure what to say about this other than to advise you to be extremely polite should you ever meet the actress in person.

Charlize Theron seriously injured her hand shooting The Old Guard

For her role as the immortal Andromache of Scythia, better known as Andy, in The Old Guard, Theron didn't suddenly decide to take it easy. During a visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live! in October 2019, the actress acknowledged the weird cast on her hand by joking that she had changed careers and was now a professional bowler. Then, she made every jaw in the house drop by nonchalantly explaining just how freaking tough she really is. "This is so stupid," Theron said. "I did an action movie and I tore the ligament off the bone fighting. I messed up my elbow, as well."

Tore... the ligament... off the bone. But oh, she wasn't done. "I've been walking around with this injury for two months. How badass is that?" she said. "I didn't know that it was anything. I just was like, 'Toughen up. Come on.' And then I was told by a doctor that it was basically just floating around and I was like, 'Oh, that's interesting. That's why I've only been using these four fingers.'"

Okay, that is just nuts. Two things are certain, though: First, whoever Theron was fighting when she sustained that injury, we wouldn't want to be him; and second, The Old Guard is going to kick some major but. The flick debuts on Netflix on July 10.