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Monster of a role makes Charlize THeron a Hollywood heavyweight

March 1, 2004

South African actress Charlize Theron delivers her tearful acceptance speech for Best Actress for her role in Monster at the 76th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California.
Photo: Timothy Clary, AFP
LOS ANGELES —March It was a Monster of a role that transformed South African farm girl Charlize Theron from another pretty face into Hollywood heavyweight Sunday when she walked off with the best actress Oscar.

The ex-model and ballerina, 28, believed to be the first South African to win an Oscar, was honoured for her startling performance as US prostitute and serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Patty Jenkins' low-budget biopic Monster.

The attractive blonde actress, who grew up outside the provincial South African town of Benoni, underwent a staggering physical transformation to play Wuornos, who was executed in Florida in 2002 after her lesbian lover turned her in.

With the help of heavy make-up, liquid resin and an extra 13.6 kilograms (30 pounds), she portrayed a disturbed and vengeful woman whose physical appeal has been knocked out of her, but managed to evoke reluctant empathy for her murderous character.

Virtually unrecognisable, her porcelain skin was made blotchy, her face puffy, her teeth mis-shapen and her lithesom figure bulged for the role in the small film that she produced and turned into a major hit.

"I was a ballerina for 12 years and your body is just an instrument and you use it," she said, adding that the transformation had enabled her to become Wuornos and was never intended to showcase her versatility.

"In rehearsals, everything felt wrong until I put on the pants and the moccasins and the shirt and the teeth," she said. "My greatest fear is that we wouldn't get close to who she really was." The role is a far cry from the lighter and more glamorous roles Theron has taken on in her eight-year acting career, in mainstream hits such as 1997's The Devil's Advocate and last year's remake of The Italian Job.

An only child, Theron grew up as a rural Afrikaans-speaking South African schoolgirl who dreamed of a career as a ballerina and once told a teacher she was going to be a princess.

The idyll was shattered, when at the age of 15, her mother Gerda shot and killed her 43-year-old father Charles after he tried to attack them. No charges were brought in the case, but it marked the end of Theron's childhood.

Shortly after the horrific incident, the 16-year-old took up a modelling in Paris and Milan before heading to New York where she enrolled in a top ballet school until she was forced to stop dancing after a knee injury.

Just as she was poised to head home, her mother persuaded the then 19-year-old to fly to Hollywood to try her luck as an actress, although her command of English was still far from perfect.

"I didn't even know Hollywood was in Los Angeles and thought they'd given me the wrong plane ticket," she once said.

After being discovered by a talent scout in a bank in 1994, Theron took acting lessons and began transfroming her heavy South African accent to a California lilt to win film parts, the first of which she got in 1995.

Since, she has cranked out around 20 movies, including Sweet November, with Keanu Reeves in 2001, The Legend of Bagger Vance, (2000) 2000's Reindeer Games co-starrring Ben Affleck and The Cider House Rules (1999).

But despite the meteoric rise of the "boeremeisie" – Afrikaans for farm girl – Theron said she doesn't want to be sucked into Hollywood vanity and self-aggrandizement.

"I don't necessarily want to call myself a star. I mean, what is the criteria for that?" she said. –Sapa-AFP

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CD sales dropping, but what will replace it? [29/01/2004]
Rings sweep Oscar nominations [28/01/2004]




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