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Charlize Theron: "I Have To Be Disciplined, It's Part Of My Job"

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She’s the straight-talking South African who has ventured into solo parenthood, adopting a baby boy called Jackson. Here, CHARLIZE THERON, 36, gives Easy Living a rare audience, talking female role models, fat days and the importance of family…

Charlize Theron sits before me at West Hollywood’s fashionable London Hotel, a long-legged and sharp-cheekboned, other-worldly goddess. Dressed down and make-up free, she looks, frankly, staggering. Yet, unlike most actresses, she can’t even tell me who designed her outfit, a cream jumper and black skinny jeans. “They were in my closet,” she shrugs, pushing a strand of blonde hair out of those famous aqua eyes.

Description: Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron

It’s safe to say that Charlize – often described, admiringly, by her co-stars as an outspoken, wise cracking ‘broad’ – is no bland, people-pleasing matinee idol. As was famously exemplified in her Oscar-winning breakthrough role as serial killer Aileen Wournos in 2003’Monster, she has never been scared to walk on the dark side, or to mask her dazzling looks for a role.

Description: Charlize Theron in Woody Allen’s Celebrity

Charlize Theron in Woody Allen’s Celebrity

Nor is Charlize scared to go her own way in her personal life. As recent headlines revealed, the newly singer 36-year-old – who tells me she loves children and always wanted a family – has adopted a baby boy, now seven months old, called Jackson. “I now travel in a pack,” she confirms, adding that reaction “has been amazing – the amount of email and congratulations! Everyone’s been so lovely”. Jackson, she says, is “doing great. It’s very hard for me to leave the house now!”

And yet, leave the house Charlize must, given the dizzy height her career has reached this year. Not only was she Golden Globe-nominated foe the deliciously dark Young Adult, she also stars in two major movies – Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, which I can’t wait to ask her about, and Snow White And The Huntsman, in which she plays the wicked Queen Ravenna opposite Kristen Stewart.

Charlize’s achievements are all the more impressive given that she grew up far from Hollywood, in South Africa, on a farm east of Johannesburg, and her first language is Afrikaans. Weekly trips to drive-in cinema were regular treats. “It was 45 minutes from our farm. You went along, you had no idea what was showing. I remember seeing American films, but we didn’t have celebrity magazines back then – so I would watch Bruce Willis and Tom Hanks movies, and not know who they were.”

Description: Charlize’s achievements are all the more impressive given that she grew up far from Hollywood, in South Africa, on a farm east of Johannesburg, and her first language is Afrikaans.

Charlize’s achievements are all the more impressive given that she grew up far from Hollywood, in South Africa, on a farm east of Johannesburg, and her first language is Afrikaans.

Rather than acting, Charlize intended to pursue a career as a ballet dancer, studying in her teens in South Africa and then in New York, funded by modeling. Learning from doctors that she would destroy her knees if she continued to dance, she turned to acting and rapidly began winning roles – first as the femme fatale in 2 Days In The Valley, in 1996, then in a series of highly praised performances including playing a supermodel in Woody Allen’s Celebrity, before rocketing to the A-list with Monster.

In Prometheus – Ridley Scott’s hugely anticipated sci-fi drama, which has been described as a prequel to Alien and centres on a dangerous space mission investigating the origins of mankind – Charlize plays Meredith Vickers, a cool, enigmatic businesswoman. On set, she immediately clicked with her co-star – Ireland’s hottest export Michael Fassbender. “because he is so good at what he does, he doesn’t carry this weight around of being an ac-tor” she says, “ He was the joker on the set. I’m a little bit like that, too – I hate it when things get too serious. We instantly hit it off.”

Description: Charlize In Prometheus

Charlize In “Prometheus”

Charlize fulfilled a long-held ambition by working with Ridley Scott. She admires him hugely – partly because he created Alien’s Ellen Ripley, Hollywood’s first bona fide action heroine, famously played by Sigourney Weaver. “ I don’t think there’s a woman in this industry who wasn’t inspired by her,” she says.

Despite Charlize playing a character that epitomizes female power, it isn’t power that interests her (“I think as soon as you start thinking you are powerful. That’s probably the moment when the universe will tell you that you are not”), but confidence. It is Charlize’s mother, Gerta, to whom she refers constantly and describes as her “biggest supporter”, who she credits with giving her this assurance. “You have to raise a child to believe in their value.” She says. “I hope that I’ve had enough of that instilled in me to go through my life and hopefully age gracefully, knock on wood.”

And yet, despite her confidence. And even though she is the face of Dior’s J’adore fragrance, Charlize assures me she doesn’t always feel beautiful. “I get far, I need to work out, I have pimples and I’m getting older – everything is happening for me, exactly as it is for everybody else”, she says.

As for exercise, “I have to be disciplined; it’s part of my job. So I train five days a week right now. I practice an incredibly hard yoga called power yoga. I cycle, I spin and I do all sorts of things that I like – because that’s the key.” Doesn’t she also play golf? “Only because my mother forces me to,” she smiles. “I love spending time with her doing it, but I have no patience for that game whatsoever. I would never play it with anybody else. God, no. Torture.”

Description: Far away from the golfing green, Charlize’s natural interests lie in high-adrenaline’s danger sports’ inspired,

Far away from the golfing green, Charlize’s natural interests lie in high-adrenaline’s danger sports’ inspired

Far away from the golfing green, Charlize’s natural interests lie in high-adrenaline’s danger sports’ inspired, once again, by her remarkable mother who, she reveals, was a professional skydiver. “She was the only woman on a men’s team. I just thought that was the coolest thing ever.”

After a skydiving accident, Gerta warned her daughter of the sports, but Charlize wasn’t to be dissuaded and has herself jumped out of a plane. “She knew I’d try it,” says Charlize. “It’s like any child; as soon as you say no to something, they can’t wait to do it.”

Description: Charlize also devotes considerable time to her Aids-prevention programme – the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project – in South Africa.

Charlize also devotes considerable time to her Aids-prevention programme – the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project – in South Africa.

Charlize also devotes considerable time to her Aids-prevention programme – the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project – in South Africa. “Culturally, it’s nor thought of as polite to talk about things likes safe sex in South Africa,” she explains. “Unfortunately, HIV is not a polite virus.” Charlize’s programme focuses on “prevention care – how not to become HIV positive, how to have an understanding of the virus”. Charlize adds that she has received formidable support from Oprah Winfrey, whom she counts as a friend and an inspiration. “She was an incredible force – really stepped up to the plate. I’m eternally grateful for her help in setting it up.”

Charlize spends her rare free time “with my mother, who is a great companion” and walking her two rescue dogs (Blue, a pit bull, and Berkeley, a border terrier mix) in the Hollywood Hills. She is also a legendary dinner-party host. “I always do my own grocery shopping,” she says. “I like going to farmers’ markets and picking out produce. As a child, I loved spinach and weird stuff that kids shouldn’t like, because I grew up with my mother in the garden and it just felt like part of my environment.”

Although family and finding a long-term partner are hugely important for Charlize, she has always said has no plans to ever marry – largely in support of the campaign to legalise gay marriage in the States. “I do have a problem with the fact that the US government hasn’t stepped up enough to make gay marriage legal. Right now, the institution of marriage feels very one-sided, and I want to live in a country where we all have equal right. It’s nor right that the government tells us who can love and what is good love.”

Description: Charlize Theron with her baby son Jackson

Charlize Theron with her baby son Jackson

Another priority is friendship, and she explains that her close friends have become like an extend family to her. “Friendship is one of the greatest girls that you could receive. I have really, really good people in my life. I sometimes find myself wondering what I did in a past life to deserve the people I know! I don’t take any day with for granted. I don’t treat them like they are going to be there forever, I treat them like they are here now. That’s my philosophy.”

One of Charlize’s most brilliantly unlikely friendships is with the 78-year-old actress and Hollywood legend Shirley MacLaine. Charlize met her at the Oscars in 2005 and was so overwhelmed that she kissed her on the bottom – a hilarious ice-breaker that became the foundation for a genuine closeness.

Description: Charlize Theron  in Snow White And The Huntsman

Charlize Theron  in Snow White And The Huntsman

With her role as the villainous queen in Snow White And The Huntsman, also in cinemas this month, it’s clear why Charlize has jokingly called this phase od her career “my bitch period”. She says she loves villains because ‘there’s something really nice about the freedom of excusing behaviour that you would never, ever do yourself. I mean, the way I yelled at people in this movie – I would never do that in real life!”

Charlize Theron may not need to yell, but she is not someone who will toe the line, either. She’s strong-willed, opinionated and-yes-something of a goddess. I leave her hoping that some of that grit might rub off on me, even a little bit. Because, like Ellen Ripley before her, Charlize Theron kicks ass.

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