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What You Probably Never Knew About Charlize Theron

If you're aware of Charlize Theron, you probably know her because of a few of her most prominent traits: her beauty, acting prowess, and penchant for telling it like it is. Theron was born and raised on a farm in South Africa but moved to Milan at age sixteen to pursue modeling. She traveled to Los Angeles a few years later to get her start as an actress. Though you might not have been able to guess it from her first-ever film role in "Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest," Theron had all the makings of a Hollywood star.

After playing a long string of girlfriend and bombshell roles early in her career, Theron finally proved that she should be taken seriously with her role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the 2003 film "Monster," for which she won the Oscar for best actress. That same year Theron founded her own production company, Denver and Delilah Productions (which Elle notes was named for her dogs), and set about bringing projects that were important to her to the big screen.

Theron has become known for her skills as an action heroine, starring in films such as "Mad Max: Fury Road," "Atomic Blonde," and "The Old Guard." All the while, Theron has remained dedicated to her non-profit, the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, which works to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS in her home country of South Africa. While her filmography alone is enough to fill an entire article, we thought we'd go a little deeper. Keep reading to find out some things you probably never knew about Charlize Theron.

Her favorite stars growing up were Tom Hanks and Goldie Hawn

Most actors have movies or stars they idolized growing up, and Charlize Theron was no exception. The only difference was that, for Theron, she had no context for what she was watching. As she told Vanity Fair, "When I became interested in movies and acting, I was living on a farm community in South Africa, where there were no materials, there was no reading about celebrities. I loved Tom Hanks movies and Goldie Hawn movies. But, I didn't know who they were or what their names were."

Theron went on to say that the only part of acting she doesn't like is the fame. Growing up as she did, she didn't quite understand how famous stars like Hanks and Hawn were -– they were just the people who happened to be in her favorite films.

In an odd twist of fate, Theron would work with Hanks much earlier in her career than she might have expected. After her small part in "Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest," Theron starred alongside Hanks in the 1996 film "That Thing You Do!" Theron told Variety that he wrote a sweet note in her script saying he would always claim he "discovered" her but cautioned her against ever doing television. We imagine Hanks wouldn't give that same advice today, as Hypebeast reports that his own production company, Playtone, has become a major TV producer.

She put her body on the line doing stunts for Atomic Blonde

Much of the press surrounding Theron's 2017 film "Atomic Blonde" was about all the stunt work she did for the film, and for good reason. The action sequences in the movie –- directed by stunt coordinator David Leitch -– are a sight to behold. We're especially partial to the 10-minute-long one-take sequence near the end of the film.

Unsurprisingly, scenes like this took a lot of hard work and preparation to pull off. Variety wrote that during the shoot, Theron "twisted her knee, bruised her ribs and had to undergo extensive dental surgery, because she clenched down so hard on her jaw she cracked two teeth while getting in shape to throw burly men over her shoulders." Before the shoot, Theron spent two-and-half months training for hours every day in order perfect her moves, which she says was difficult because she's tall and "that tends to make you look like you're Big Bird."

She even caught the flu while they were shooting in Budapest during the winter, but she kept working. Co-star James McAvoy has said he was impressed by Theron's dedication and stamina. All of Theron's extensive training and preparation paid off in the end (minus all the injuries), as stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave told The Hollywood Reporter that she was able to do "98 percent of her own action" in the film, apart from the sequences that were off-limits due to insurance issues. If all of these stories were meant to boost Theron's action-star cred, then they were certainly successful.

Preparing for Tully took a huge toll on Theron

Considering her impressive work in brutal action films like "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Atomic Blonde," one might assume that playing a sedentary woman struggling with motherhood would be a piece of cake for Charlize. However, as Theron tells it, that wasn't actually the case. Speaking with Variety, Theron revealed the toll it took on her to play the titular character in Jason Reitman's 2018 film "Tully," which was written by Diablo Cody.

"It was brutal in every sense," Theron said. "This time around, I really felt it in my health. The sugar put me in a massive depression. I was sick. I couldn't lose the weight. I called my doctor and I said, 'I think I'm dying!' And he's like, 'No, you're 41. Calm down.'"

Theron also had to gain weight to play Aileen Wuornos in "Monster," but she found gaining and losing the weight for "Tully" was much more difficult. Theron admitted that it was likely that age had something to do with it, as she was in her twenties when she filmed "Monster." Though much has been written about actors' crazy diets and workout routines to get fit for a film, Theron's story reminds us that gaining weight can be just as difficult as losing it sometimes.

An agent discovered her at a bank

Charlize Theron's discovery story is the stuff of Hollywood legend. In her case, however, it happens to be true. As she told Indie London, "I had moved to Los Angeles, but couldn't get an agent. My mother had sent me a cheque to help pay my rent and I was trying to cash it in a bank on Hollywood Boulevard. A clerk refused – and I just went nuts."

Though the story of her so-called "tantrum" has been repeated time and time again, it's what happened next was truly life-changing. She told the rest of the story to Oprah in 2005. "I was begging and pleading, and a gentleman came over and tried to help . . . What I didn't know is that I was auditioning for a guy who would end up being my manager. On the way out, the man who'd helped gave me his card. He said, 'If you're interested, I'll represent you.'"

That man happened to be the agent John Crosby, who also represented Rene Russo and John Hurt at the time. As Anne Helen Petersen noted in her BuzzFeed profile of Theron, she has frequently been described as "Lana Turner-esque," and their Hollywood origin stories are quite similar. As the legend goes, Lana Turner was discovered at a soda fountain in Los Angeles in 1937. But luckily, unlike Turner, Theron has been able to gain power in the industry by making deliberate choices about the roles she takes and how she does (or does not) play by Hollywood's rules of engagement.

Most people pronounce her name wrong

Americans are famously bad at (or uninterested in) pronouncing non-English-sounding names, and Charlize Theron is one of the unwitting recipients of this laziness. Perhaps because of her American-sounding accent, some interviewees and fans seem to forget that Theron is not, in fact, American by birth and grew up in South Africa.

Almost everyone who interviews Theron pronounces her name wrong. That's probably why, when Ellen DeGeneres actually pronounced her name correctly on her show, Theron was shocked. The first thing she said upon walking out on stage was, "Wow! The pronunciation of my last name, that was amazing!"

In case you were wondering, the correct way to pronounce Theron's last name is closer to the word "thrown" if you were to roll the "r" rather than "Theh-ron," which is how most Americans pronounce it. Theron also conceded that her first name is also pronounced slightly different in Afrikaans than it normally is in English, but she seems to have made peace with the mispronunciation either way.

Theron almost starred in Showgirls

Considering that Charlize Theron was primarily known for her beauty and sex appeal early in her career, it makes sense that she was considered for one of the sex-forward films of the 1990s. Paul Verhoeven has revealed that Theron was actually in the running to star in his (in)famous film "Showgirls," but she didn't get the part because she wasn't well-known enough yet, Verhoeven told the Daily News.

Verhoeven conceded that it was probably a blessing in disguise that Theron didn't get the part. "I have full respect for Charlize, but if she had been offered the part then she would probably have been chewed up in the same way they treated Elizabeth. She was very lucky that she did not get the part," he said. Indeed, starring in "Showgirls" essentially ruined Elizabeth Berkley's career, so Verhoeven is probably right in his evaluation.

For her part, Theron told Andy Cohen that she had no reservations about auditioning for the film, via the Toronto Sun. "You have to understand at the time Paul Verhoeven had just discovered Sharon Stone and he was the director. You kind of go with the filmmaker,' she said. Still, we'd like to see Theron and Verhoeven collaborate in the future –- Theron certainly has a Sharon Stone quality about her –- so we hope there's no love lost between the two.

Her hair and makeup for Monster only took an hour

Even though she won an Oscar for her devastating performance, the majority of the press around Charlize Theron's 2003 film "Monster" was concerned with her shocking "transformation" for the part. The press became so obsessed with talking about it –- and downright rude at times –- that Theron famously walked out of an interview for another film, "North Country," when the interviewer asked her once again about "going ugly."

Theron has said that what was so infuriating about these questions is the assumption that she went through this transformation thoughtlessly or did it for shock value. "I didn't work on Aileen from the outside in. After I read the writing she did in jail, she was in my body, and I was in hers," she told The New Yorker.

One might assume that this transformation would take hours in the hair and makeup chair every morning, but Theron told Oprah that this wasn't the case. In fact, Theron said "the whole thing took just under an hour" and that "the only prosthetics we used were on my eyelids, to make them heavier." The rest of her face was hand-painted and done with airbrushing, and the only other thing she had to do after that was put in her false teeth. The hairstyle was just as simple –- Theron would get it wet, comb it back, and then "let it dry that way." 

Theron also gained weight for the role, but she said it was relatively easy, especially since the preparation period was over Christmas -– the perfect time to gorge yourself on sugary food.

She was told she should play Wonder Woman's mom

Likely because she had worked with director Patty Jenkins on "Monster" years before, at one point, rumors were swirling that Theron had turned down the role of Wonder Woman in Jenkins' 2017 film. Theron put these rumors to bed once and for all on a segment of "Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen" when a caller asked if the story was true.

She told the caller that she did not turn the role down but had a rather unexpected connection to the film. She recalled that someone once told her about the film and wanted to make her aware of it as a possible project. Theron replied that she wasn't familiar with the character of Wonder Woman, and the person she was speaking with said, "No, it's for Wonder Woman's mom."

"This is a great example of how Hollywood slaps you in the face when you start aging," Theron explained. She said that she laughs about it now, but that looking back, "It was the defining moment where I crossed over." In case you were wondering about the facts on this one, Theron is less than 10 years older than "Wonder Woman" star Gal Gadot, so it certainly would have been an incongruous casting choice. That said, Sally Field was only 10 years older than Tom Hanks when she played his mother in "Forrest Gump," so really, anything is possible.

She's a great driver

Charlize Theron has starred in two "Fast & Furious" films thus far, which means she will always be a part of La Familia — just kidding! She plays an evil villain, which means she doesn't actually get to join the family. While "Fast & Furious" may be the most successful heist franchise she's ever been a part of, it's not the first. In 2003 Theron starred in F. Gary Gray's "The Italian Job" alongside Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, and Jason Statham.

While the film is primarily about robbing a safe and getting revenge, it does contain some pretty slick driving scenes. Speaking with W Magazine, Theron revealed that the driving in the film was a piece of cake for her. "I'm a great driver. I grew up on a farm. When I did 'The Italian Job,' Mark Wahlberg, my costar, would do one 360 and start puking. I was like, 'What's up, girl?" she said.

Even though Theron was already a very competent driver before shooting the film, Theron said she was treated unfairly during production. During a Comic-Con interview, Theron described how she "was the only woman with a bunch of guys. And I remember vividly getting the schedule in our preproduction, and they had scheduled me for six weeks more car training than any of the guys. It was just so insulting." This prejudice only made Theron work harder, as she worked to "out drive" all of her male costars. She said she's especially proud of the scene where she and Wahlberg drive through a crowded mall, a stunt she did "completely" on her own.

She once punched a woman in the face

Charlize Theron may seem like a natural at fighting in films like "Atomic Blonde" and "The Old Guard," but that wasn't always the case. According to Theron, she had only ever punched two people in her life prior to shooting "Atomic Blonde." The most memorable punch was in the film "2 Days In The Valley," where she starred alongside Teri Hatcher. Theron wasn't familiar with being on a set at the time, nor did she know how to "hone in" her energy during a fight scene. "I connected right with Teri Hatcher's face. I felt terrible about it. I had no money and sent her some cheap beer the next day. Sorry, Teri," she told W Magazine.

While that punch may have been in the script, there was another punch in Theron's life that was much more off-the-cuff. As she tells it, "I was working in Milan as a model, and this girl got very aggressive with me at a bar. She pushed me and started talking smack, and that was it. My body just took over, and I thought, I didn't just do that, did I?" Theron is certainly much better trained now than she was back then, so we'd think twice about getting aggressive with her these days.

She didn't learn to speak English properly until moving to the US

Though Charlize Theron was born and raised in South Africa, you wouldn't know it from her accent. This seeming contradiction often perplexes interviewers, and it's a question she's been asked time and time again. During a Q&A after an event honoring her at the BAFTAs, an interviewer asked Theron, "Why have you lost your accent?" After initially responding in Afrikaans, to which the interviewer could not reply, Theron gave an honest answer. "I left South Africa as a model when I was sixteen," she replied. "I'd always spoken Afrikaans at home and my English was actually very bad; the reason I have an American accent is because in fact I learned to speak English properly in the US."

Though she may no longer have a South African accent, she still loves her home country. Her non-profit organization, the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, is certainly evidence of that. But speaking with British GQ, Theron said that people sometimes still question her loyalty. "I love my country," she explained. "And it's very hard for South Africans to believe that, because I left and speak in an American accent. I have a very, very strong connection to my country and to its people."

She once cooked dinner for Jane Goodall in the Congo

Charlize Theron has often spoken about her love of travel, a hobby that isn't surprising when you remember she left home at the age of sixteen to become a model. One of Theron's experiences traveling the world was iconic in more ways than one. While speaking with Jimmy Kimmel, Theron explained that she got the opportunity to travel to the Congo to hang out with Jane Goodall as part of the Sundance series "Iconoclasts." She described how Jane Goodall was an obvious choice for the series for her, as she had always looked up to Goodall as a child.

Theron told Kimmel that she wanted to bring a gift for Goodall, so she asked if there was anything Goodall missed from back home. Goodall's response was simple: "whiskey." Theron still felt like she needed to do something for Goodall as thanks for letting her stay in the jungle with her, so she decided to make dinner one night. She thought pasta would be easy, but she struggled to pour the water out of the pot and accidentally put out the fire underneath in the process.

As Theron tells it, Goodall was "not impressed" with her cooking attempt, but it was all remedied because of the whiskey she brought. "We ended up drinking whiskey and eating way overcooked pasta 'til like 3 AM, and she's just an incredible storyteller," Theron explained. You can stream the whole episode of "Iconoclasts" online, but unfortunately, the pasta-cooking incident is not included.