a decades worth of hard work from a bit part in Children
of the Corn III in 1994 to an Academy Award-winning performance
in Monster in 2003 Charlize has emerged as one
of todays leading ladies of the silver screen.
She certainly looks the part. Absolutely stunning
from head to toe, the statuesque blonde has been blessed with her
share of natural beauty. She crossed continents with those long
legs of hers, first strutting down the fashion runways of Milan,
then dancing with the Joffrey Ballet in New York and, finally, taking
the big leap to L.A.
While her appearance has undoubtedly played
a supporting role in her acting career (her first feature film,
2 Days in the Valley, flaunted her sex appeal as a scantily-clad
assassin), it took more than good looks to turn the heads of Hollywood
heavyweights Tom Hanks, who cast her in his directorial debut, That
Thing You Do, and Robert Redford, who tapped her talent for
The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Woody Allen was so taken with the rising star,
he invited Charlize to spoof her modeling career in Celebrity
and then called her back for The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.
Shes easily stereotyped as the very
attractive model/dancer, Robert Redford told Vogue in an interview
during the filming of Bagger Vance. But there
was such emotional range in what I saw of her work that I took the
bet, and Im extremely pleased with what she did.
She has all the elements, I think, of
what creates a lasting actress, he continued. Shes
ambitious, shes got looks, shes talented, intelligent,
fiercely tough on herself without letting the insecurity dominate.
And she has courage; thats an additional thing.
Indeed, whether shes sizzling on screen
with Keanu Reeves, Johnny Depp, Ben Affleck, Mark Wahlberg or Patrick
Swayze (just a few of the Hollywood hotties with whom shes
shared scripts), or nuzzling up to a 15-foot gorilla, Charlize has
demonstrated, one movie after the next, that there is substance
beneath the surface.
Her acting (and directing) abilities couldnt
be more evident than in the crime drama Monster, based
on the real-life story of Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who was convicted
of murdering six men in Florida and then executed in 2002. Charlizes
transformation into a serial killer was a far cry from her rosy
roles as a girlfriend, wife, supermodel and Southern debutante.
It was downright chilling.
With stage make-up including a latex mask, sprayed-on tattoos
and freckles, false teeth, shaved eyebrows and brown contact lenses
she was barely recognizable. Charlize also gained 25 to 30
pounds for the part (surely easier than skimming 14 pounds from
her flawless figure for Sweet November). She mastered
the talk and walk of the character, truly pouring her heart into
performance earned rave reviews and more than a dozen awards, including
the Best Actress Oscar at the 76th annual Academy Awards. I
know everybody in New Zealand has been thanked, she said in
her emotional acceptance speech. So I'm going to thank everybody
in South Africa, my home country.
Born Aug. 7, 1975, in Benoni, South Africa,
Charlize never dreamed of being a Hollywood star. She wanted to
be a ballerina. Trained in dance since childhood, she came to the
Joffrey Ballet in New York in 1991, by way of an impromptu modeling
competition in Johannesburg at the age of 16 and a years worth
of runway work in Milan that was neither rewarding financially nor
Ironically, it was Charlizes sleek physique
that dashed all hopes of a dance career. She was too tall to pirouette
and pas de deux. One day in class, her knee gave out for good. She
I thought it was the end of the world,
she said in an interview with Elle magazine. Dance had been
my passion. I thought Id go back to South Africa and pack
grocery bags for the rest of my life.
Charlizes mom, Gerda, thought otherwise.
Knowing Charlize had far more opportunities abroad than she ever
would back home, she urged her daughter to pursue acting in Los
Angeles. Charlize obliged. She checked into a shabby hotel on Fairfax
and set up shop.
It was a long and lean struggle before Lady
Luck finally smiled upon her in the unlikeliest of places, a bank
on Hollywood Boulevard. Out of money and patience, Charlize, then
19, was attempting to get an out-of-state check cashed to no avail.
She wouldnt take no for an answer. In fact, she
made such a scene, screaming and gesturing, that she caught the
eye of talent manager John Crosby, who also discovered Rene Russo
(at a Rolling Stones concert). He offered her his business card.
Eight months later after losing her South
African accent (Afrikaans is her first language), as well as countless
auditions for TV commercials Charlize nabbed her first part:
a cameo in MGMs low-budget 2 Days in the Valley.
She steamed up the screen as Helga the hit woman. Acting was apparently
in her blood, after all.
been going strong ever since, superceding all of the pretty
girl typecasting with a rewarding range of roles in movies
both good and bad. She played a drummers girlfriend in That
Thing You Do! in 1996 and a waitress in the comedy Trial
and Error in 1997. That same year, she landed her first lead
in the thriller The Devils Advocate. She lost
her sanity as the embattered wife of an attorney and gained
quite a bit of notice in the process.
By 1998, Charlize was well on her way to fame,
perfectly cast in Disneys remake of Mighty Joe Young
as an orphaned African girl who becomes the lifelong protector of
an orphaned gorilla. She also joined the all-star ensemble in Celebrity,
alongside Kenneth Branagh, Winona Ryder and Leonardo DiCaprio.
She continued to wow critics and fans the following
year with passionate portrayals in The Cider House Rules
and The Astronauts Wife.
Charlize consistently complements her
beauty with passion, strength and vulnerability, Miramaxs
Harvey Weinstein said of Charlizes performance in Cider
By 2000, shed set Hollywood on fire with
a succession of films, including Redfords Bagger Vance,
Men of Honor, The Yards and Reindeer
Games, the latter of which she endured freezing on-location
conditions and tackled some of her own stunt work.
In 2001, Charlize reunited with Keanu Reeves
for Sweet November and Woody Allen for Jade Scorpion.
The next year she took on a drama, Trapped, and a comedy,
Waking Up in Reno. She was also cast in the flashy,
star-studded 2003 remake of The Italian Job.
Though some of her movies havent been
big hits, Charlize keeps shining bright. Nothing has been able to
nudge this actress from her A-list stature.
I would be the first to admit that
some of the films Ive done have been rubbish, she told
an interviewer. A lot of people expect you to disown your
movies when they arent successful or when the critics dont
like your performance. But its okay to admit that sometimes
things didnt work out. She knows that all too well.
Charlize has had a tough life. That emotional
depth she conveys on screen might not be entirely attributable to
her acting skills.
Aside from a rather bleak existence in South
Africa, where her family farmed and ran a heavy-haulage business,
Charlize had to overcome a personal tragedy. Her father, Charles,
was shot and killed by her mother when he attacked her in a drunken
rage. The act was ruled self-defense and Gerda was not charged with
a crime. Charlize was 15.
years, Charlize told media that her father died in a car accident.
She didnt want any publicity about the familys private
heartbreak. Of course, the truth eventually emerged in the press.
In a televised interview with Diane Sawyer earlier
this year, Charlize said, The terrible thing is that everybody
in South Africa has a gun. Thats just the lifestyle there.
And when those things are around, [when] people get irrational and
emotional and drunk, terrible things can happen.
Shes a survivor and all the better
for it, said Luis Mandoki, who directed Charlize in Trapped.
Because of the way Charlize has dealt with her pain over the
years, shes able to go to physical and emotional distances
as an actress that others cant, he said in an interview
For all of the fame and glory, Charlize has
managed to stay pretty grounded, holding fast to her earthy roots
as a Boer. (Off camera, shes known for dressing down in jeans
and sneakers). She has a home in Hollywood Hills that she shares
with her well-pampered dogs. She cherishes her circle of friends.
And her mom lives just down the road.
A self-professed mamas girl,
Charlize is intensely close with her mother. We were friends
from away back. We had to be. We were the only ones there for each
other. I felt like her protector.
Romantically linked to actor Craig Bierko and
singer Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind, Charlize has a new man
in her life. Shes engaged to Irish actor Stuart Townsend,
her co-star in the upcoming movie Head in the Clouds.
From the Summer 2004 issue.
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