5 Must-See Films Starring Charlize Theron
Throughout her career, South African-born actress Charlize Theron has alternated smaller projects and more mainstream fare (she made her debut in a minor non-speaking role in horror sequel Children of the Corn III), with considerable success: she’s been nominated for two Academy Awards, winning one, and is currently part of a select group of performers powerful enough to get a project green-lit based on her involvement. The most recent example of her mass appeal is Atomic Blonde, a no-holds-barred action film set in Berlin on the eve of the destruction of the Wall. That movie, directed by David Leitch (John Wick and the upcoming Deadpool 2) is part of this year’s Piazza Grande, and an ideal opportunity to look back on the cornerstones of a remarkable career.
The Devil’s Advocate (1997)
Theron’s first significant role in a major Hollywood production came courtesy of Taylor Hackford, who cast her as Keanu Reeves’ wife in this horror thriller about a man literally selling his soul to Satan. While most of the attention is justifiably grabbed by Al Pacino’s riotously unsubtle performance as the Prince of Darkness (posing as one John Milton), Theron is no less deserving thanks to a turn whose dramatic demands are met with admirable intensity as proceedings become increasingly harrowing.
Although much was made of Theron’s physical transformation (she put on 30 pounds, shaved her eyebrows and wore prosthetic teeth), what’s really stunning about her Oscar-winning portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos (who was executed a year before the film’s release) is her complete commitment to the role and emotional fearlessness as she explores the darker sides of the human psyche. Fourteen years on, it’s still hard to shake the raw impact of her performance, and one can only hope she will reteam with director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) in the near future.
North Country (2005)
Two years after winning the Oscar, Theron was nominated again for her starring role in Niki Caro’s retelling of Lois Jenson’s landmark legal battle against sexual harassment. Caro’s direction is rather elementary, serving more as a star vehicle for Theron as a fictionalized version of Jenson (renamed Josey Aimes here). And star she does, flexing her dramatic muscles with the recognizable intensity that has always served her well.
Young Adult (2011)
Much like in Monster, Theron pulls off the considerable feat of making us empathize with someone who, on many levels, qualifies as an unsympathetic human being. As created by writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, Mavis Gary is the embodiment of selfishness and cruelty, as she returns to her hometown in an attempt to “win back” her high school sweetheart. The actress shines as she waltzes from one scene to the next armed with biting sarcasm and unwavering determination, letting specks of humanity emerge step by step.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Two years before becoming the face of the most badass movie of summer 2017, Theron appeared on screen with a lean, mean physique and without her signature blonde hair. Such was the impact of her performance as the warrior Imperator Furiosa, singlehandedly stealing the film from Tom Hardy’s ostensible protagonist, that she managed to generate serious awards buzz for acting in a dystopian action film. Odds are she will return in the planned sequels, further putting paid to the preconceived notion about women not being able to carry certain kinds of movies.