Wearing a sheer black Chloé dress and high heels, Charlize Theron, 38, epitomizes glamour...
Tanned and fit, she’s in Los Angeles to promote her latest movie, A Million Ways to Die in the West. The Oscar-winning actress and model is mother to Jackson, 2, whose adoption was announced in March, 2012.
Born on a farm in Benoni, near Johannesburg, (her first language is Afrikaans) Theron endured a tumultuous childhood. Her father, an alcoholic, physically attacked her mother and threatened both her mother and her while drunk. Theron’s mother then shot and killed him in self-defense and her mother faced no charges.
Currently in a relationship with Sean Penn since February 2014, she was formerly linked to Stuart Townsend, with whom she starred in Trapped and Head in the Clouds. She was also romantically linked to Third Eye Blind frontman, Stephan Jenkins, and actor Craig Bierko.
SMARTY: Did you train for this role? Lots of guns?
THERON: I’ve had to do stuff like that in movies all the time, so there’s a sense of learning that one carries onto the next one. And I did a lot of that on Fury Road actually; where for a month I focused on that. I just had to learn the spinning thing and stuff like that.
SMARTY: So no practicing on the shooting range?
THERON: Seth (MacFarlane) and I went and practiced together. I think one day we shot something and then it was freezing and we looked at each other and we were like, ‘This isn’t fun.’ It got so cold. (Laughs) Yeah, and then that was it.
SMARTY: How has motherhood changed you? Have you sensed a difference in your needs, as far as work goes?
THERON: I try to get more sleep. I have to organize things better, but overall, I have heard people say that once they have children, they don’t want to work on dark material, but that hasn’t happened for me. If anything, having a child has just made me want to be more creative and ask bigger questions and have more interests in things that might be uncomfortable. I think we all have different responses, but for me, that’s definitely been like that. I didn’t look at my slate and go, ‘No, I can’t do that movie now that I have a kid.’ He just gives me energy to want to do more and explore more.
SMARTY: Did you feel like you didn’t get the chance to show your funny bone often enough or did you wish for more comedic roles?
THERON: I always say this: ‘I am in no position to complain.’ I work a lot and I work on things that I really want to work on. I am a very, very blessed human being, in general. So, for me to complain about anything is silly. I don’t do a lot of comedy, but I don’t necessarily complain about that, because it has to be a very specific thing. I get a lot of stuff offered to me, but it’s not just necessarily stuff that I feel is funny. So when this came to me, I saw the potential, and I really fucked up the first meeting with Seth. So I fought for it ...in the sense that I knew that I had a bad meeting with him and I had 104 fever and I had come back from Namibia and from shooting in the desert, and I was a wreck and literally got off the plane and I met him. I was in a winter coat shivering and I had no hair and he was just like ‘Who are you?’ (Laughter) And it was the holidays and I just remember waking up every day and sitting on this beautiful beach and thinking, ‘God, I really messed that up.’ So I thought to myself that I should call him and tell him that I want to meet with him again. So when this stuff comes around, I fight for it.
SMARTY: How do you take care of your skin?
THERON: There is no mystery to it. Sunblock, water, moisturizer.
SMARTY: You’re from South Africa and it was a hard road to get here. Do you feel that your dreams were pointing to where you are now?
THERON: No, not at all.
SMARTY: So what are your feelings? When you see yourself now, what do you think about the journey that you’ve taken?
THERON: That’s why I can probably sit here and say that I am incredibly blessed in my life.
SMARTY: But did you imagine that you would win the Oscar and be the movie star that you are?
THERON: No, I don’t think anybody can dream that big. I don’t think anybody who has gone through that experience will tell you that. It would be very grandiose to sit around and kind of expect those things to come to you. I have never not heard of an actor who just wanted to be able to pay the bills and not have to be a waitress on the side or a waiter.
SMARTY: What did Nelson Mandela mean to you?
THERON: He was a huge inspiration. He was our great liberator. He’s the reason why South Africa is united as it is today and I was very honored to know him and call him my friend. I think, very rarely do people as great as that come into your life and have a huge influence on you. So I feel incredibly lucky that I got to experience that.
SMARTY: After seeing your Dior commercial, Kelly Clarkson said you were a goddess.
THERON: That’s sweet!
SMARTY: Do you sometimes feel like you’re a goddess?
THERON: I have this incredible team that travels with me and does this stuff. So there are moments when you do something like that, where you are just in it and you see the aftermath. I just did a new campaign with Jean-Baptiste, who did the first campaign that everybody loved so much. He’s actually coming into town and we are doing the print campaign on Sunday – and he’s bringing the commercial and everybody is in love with it, so I will see it. He sent me some clips where you look at that and just go, ‘I am so lucky to have that hair person and that makeup person.’ You know what I mean? You know that’s not in your hands. There are moments where I go, ‘This is so fantastic.’ (Laughter) It’s sixteen-hour days and you are tired, and you have got too much eyeliner in your eye, but all of those things are princess problems. I just have to watch out for the croissant basket, (Laughs) that’s my biggest thing – because that’s when I feel like a goddess. I am like: ‘..and all of these croissants are for me?’
SMARTY: Do you have a lot of Dior?
THERON: I do. I get spoiled. And so do my mom and my friends, and they are incredibly generous, yeah.
SMARTY: Is there something special from there that you keep for yourself?
THERON: All their products are great.
SMARTY: In a world of privilege, where there are so many people unprivileged, how important is it to find a balance there for you, especially when you see yourself as so blessed?
THERON: Well, I have always worked in the field of HIV and anti-rape, and that’s been the last twenty years of my life. And coming from a country like South Africa, it’s impossible to forget how incredibly blessed my life has turned out and how that is not the case for many people in my country. So in starting my organization in 2007, Charlize Theron Outreach Africa Project, we focus now primarily on prevention care when it comes to HIV and AIDS and giving children, (the youth of South Africa), some kind of future to look up to – not only taking ownership of their health and making choices to actually save their own lives, but to actually give them something to live for – and that has become a huge part of my life. That’s the only reason that I go back to South Africa – that’s my family and that’s what I go back for. And my work with the UN couldn’t be more neutralizing and sobering to really, really witness the fortunate aspect of all of our lives. When I travel with the DRC or do any work with them in Africa, it’s nothing short of miraculous that I am where I am.
SMARTY: Is your mom the most important person in your life?
THERON: I think people are there for different reasons. I mean, I think I have a closeness to my mum, we are friends, but she’s my mother first and foremost and that’s how I was raised. That’s why I think we are so close, because she never tried to just be my friend – she’s my mom. And so I think that’s why we have had the relationship that we have always had, because it’s a healthy one. She’s not just my girlfriend; she just happened to be a person that I actually really like, and whom I think is actually funny and all of that stuff. But she’s the first person to put me in line, the way a parent does.
SMARTY: Does she do that still?
THERON: Yeah, of course. I mean, in a way where she treats me like I am an adult. She doesn’t treat me like I am twelve anymore, but we have a very healthy relationship in that sense.
SMARTY: When she gives you advice, how do you take it? Do you feel it’s like she’s criticizing you?
THERON: I mean, look, I think every child wants their parent to be proud of them and I think anybody who won’t admit that is secretly hiding something. I think there’s definitely a sense when it comes to a child and their parent and I think we are all human beings and it can sometimes be harder to take criticism from a parent. I have had moments with mum where she’s like, ‘That movie is a piece of shit!’ (Laughter) But I would rather her be incredibly honest, because then when she says that movie is really good, I really believe it. But yeah, that’s normal.
SMARTY: Can you relate to what Lupita Nyong’o said when she won the Oscar, that every little girl’s dream is valid?
THERON: And a very lovely moment, because a lot of people don’t acknowledge that I am African, and I ran into her parents backstage, and they said, ‘Our African sister!’ I completely relate to everything she was saying.