Reporter: Charles Wooley
Producers: Danny Keens and Sandra Cleary
There's nothing quite like a fairytale to deliver a little box office magic. And the big movie right now is "Snow White and the Huntsman".
Charlize Theron is one of the major stars — appropriate perhaps given that her life reads like a Brothers Grimm fable.
She was born a poor but beautiful farm girl in South Africa.
And despite a troubled childhood and unthinkable personal tragedy, she rose to become a world famous movie star.
Now she's basking in her happily ever after — with a hit film, an Oscar and a gorgeous new addition to the family.
CHARLES WOOLEY: In any fairy tale, you need a few essential elements - a brave and handsome hero, a twisted villain, and an enchanting castle. All of England is a movie set, isn’t it?
CHARLIZE: Pretty much, yeah.
CHARLES WOOLEY: So, what better place to meet Charlize Theron, the star of Hollywood’s latest fairytale blockbuster, than an old English Castle? You know, people met ends as bloody as anything that ever happened in one of your movies here.
CHARLIZE: Well then it’s very suited for us to be here, don’t you think? I did that on purpose, you see.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Good, good. Shall we enter within?
CHARLIZE: Yes, welcome to my humble abode.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Charlize, it’s a great name. I take it it’s a feminine extraction from my name, Charles?
CHARLIZE: Yeah, I think so, yeah. My mother is very mysterious about it. Do you get Charlie?
CHARLIZE: Yeah, yeah, some of my friends call me Charlie, some of my friends call me Chuck, Chaz.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Yeah, I get Chuck in America.
CHARLES WOOLEY: In Australia, chuck means something else entirely.
CHARLES WOOLEY: The Charlize Theron story is one of contrasts - beauty and the beast, glamour and grit - and personal triumph over tragedy. And, perhaps most striking of all, is how this most beautiful 36-year-old is drawn to the darkest and most unattractive of characters.
CHARLIZE: I don’t think of myself as someone who is attracted to darkness or heaviness. I’m a very, very light person. It’s the fact that it’s complex and layered, and maybe I believe that the world is that. Not dark, but complex, and sometimes not pretty. I don’t believe in kind of sweeping that, those things, under the rug, because I am really comfortable looking at those things.
CHARLES WOOLEY: I always thought you’d be a serious woman.
CHARLIZE: Well I am, so I mean, don’t spread the rumour that I’m not. Yeah, no, don’t tell people that, please.
CHARLES WOOLEY: You are very serious about your craft.
CHARLIZE: Yes, but not.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Or am I bringing a serious side of you?
CHARLIZE: No, I hate people who think they’re curing cancer doing this, I really do. I’m not earnest about it.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Yeah, so am I.
CHARLIZE: I think it’s such a great gift, it’s like being in a circus.
CHARLES WOOLEY: This is a career that began as more style than substance. South African-born Theron stepped into the limelight as a model, and it proved the perfect grooming for one of her first Hollywood roles - as a supermodel with a peculiar ‘sensitivity’ in the Woody Allen film “Celebrity”.
SUPERMODEL: Meaning, every part of me gives me erotic pleasure.
CHARLIZE: I think ever actor dreams to be in a black-and-white film, and I got to be a in a black-and-white film directed by Woody Allen, and that to me was incredible, absolutely incredible.
CHARLES WOOLEY: And of course, your role was extraordinary. You were a very sexy supermodel, who when touched anywhere on her body experiences -
CHARLES WOOLEY: Hunger. Rapture.
CHARLIZE: Of the sexual kind. Yes, um yeah. There’s nothing like being a model-turned-actress, and so I always vowed I should never do that, and leave it to Woody Allen, the one and only person who could get me to go and play a model.
CHARLES WOOLEY: But it was her ability to play a monster that catapulted Charlize Theron from being just another attractive actor to becoming Hollywood royalty.
AILEEN: I’m a hooker, and I’m trying to clean my life up here, you know? Go straight and Christian and all
CHARLES WOOLEY: Her 2003 role as the real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster” was described as one of the greatest performances in modern cinema.
CHARLIZE: Never made me feel more beautiful in my life.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Certainly it was one of the great transformations, and for Charlize, her greatest challenge.
CHARLIZE: Usually I would walk into rooms and be like, I can do this.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Yeah.
CHARLIZE: And I think in a way it was the first time in my career that I wasn’t 100% sure if I could actually bring what was expected to the table.
CHARLES WOOLEY: And there’s no reason why one of the most beautiful young actresses in the world can’t play such a person. I mean, it is called acting isn’t it?
CHARLIZE: Yeah, I think we’ve lost sight of what acting is.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Yeah.
CHARLIZE: You know, character isn’t told through celebrity - you have to be able to leave that at the door and show up with a clean canvas and your job is to tell that narrative as well as you can.
CHARLES WOOLEY: It really was, as they say, an Oscar-winning performance.
CHARLIZE: You know, that was my princess moment. It really, truly was - you can’t be jaded about that, you know? That was -
CHARLES WOOLEY: No.
CHARLIZE: A really, really nice thing.
CHARLES WOOLEY: No, you can’t be jaded about the first one. Hey, the double-whammy -
CHARLIZE: You can be somewhat jaded with the second one.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Yeah, of course, so double-whammy –
CHARLIZE: So that Meryl Streep is one jaded bitch.
CHARLES WOOLEY: She was the first South African woman to win an Oscar
NELSON: She has put South Africa on the map.
CHARLES WOOLEY: And Charlize rightly received a hero’s welcome back home from her childhood hero - Nelson Mandela.
CHARLIZE: I love you so much.
NELSON: I love you too, you know. Thank you very much.
CHARLIZE: I remember just having tea with him, tea and a dessert in South Africa that we call koeksisters. It’s a dessert that you – yes, it’s incredibly sticky, and he was touching my Oscar and then I left and there were all these sticky, sugary fingerprints of his on the Oscar and I was just like, I’m never cleaning this Oscar ever again.
CHARLES WOOLEY: He is a great man.
CHARLIZE: Yes, amazing.
CHARLES WOOLEY: It was a remarkable homecoming for the girl who grew up on a farm on the outskirts of Johannesburg. But if the landscape appeared idyllic, family life was far from it. At the age of 15, Charlize witnessed her mother shoot and kill her father in what was judged to be an act of self-defense. How do you come from something like that, and just go on to have this stellar career?
CHARLIZE: I think if you haven’t dealt with it then, then you’re affected, but I’ve completely dealt with it, but I’ve completely dealt with it. It’s something that happened a very long time ago. The other reason why it’s just kind of tiresome to always talk about it is because it feels like people want that to be the thing that defines me. And maybe the reason that I am as healthy about it is that I won’t let something like that define me.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Now, Charlize has started a family of her own, bringing home her African-American son Jackson after a two-year adoption process. And while adoption might seem to be something of a fashion in Hollywood, Charlize maintains it’s something she has always wanted to do.
CHARLIZE: You don’t take these matters lightly, when it comes to making a commitment to a child’s entire life. I would have always adopted, even if I was in a relationship, so this wasn’t a last resort for me, and I just feel very lucky and very blessed.
EVIL QUEEN: You will do this for me, Huntsman.
CHARLES WOOLEY: From new mum, to evil stepmother –
EVIL QUEEN: I will give this wretched world the Queen it deserves.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Theron is fabulously evil, in the soon to be released “Snow White and the Huntsman”. This is a spectacular if not dark adaptation of the classic - it would seem fairytales are back in vogue.
CHARLIZE: The original story written by the Brothers Grimm is incredibly dark, and I kind of appreciate that because thematically - they’re strong and dark and real topics. And I don’t know, maybe that’s not necessarily bad for a teenager to witness.
CHARLES WOOLEY: These fairytales are ancient and they resonate in the human subconscious, in fact, don’t they?
CHARLIZE: Yeah, even in today’s society, it still feels like you’re holding up a mirror and seeing something reflected in, from that fairytale into our society, and that’s powerful.
EVIL QUEEN: Come and avenge your father.
CHARLIZE: She basically sets up this whole war in order to meet her king. Excuse me.
CHARLES WOOLEY: It’s hay fever weather.
CHARLIZE: Oh my God.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Well, that’s a first.
CHARLIZE: I apologise.
CHARLES WOOLEY: I - oh no. No, no, no.
CHARLIZE: Wow, that was - that came on so strong.
CHARLES WOOLEY: No, I think, I have the feeling that it’s made my story, I have -
CHARLIZE: That was a, that was an intense sneeze -
CHARLES WOOLEY: - Miss Theron sneezing on camera, you haven’t done that before.
CHARLIZE: Oh, all over you.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Have you?
CHARLIZE: Yeah, no. I’ve never done that. Wow, okay.
CHARLES WOOLEY: In a celebrity-obsessed world, where even a sneeze can be an occasion, there is something refreshing about Charlize Theron. She’s earthy, smart, authentic, and wise enough to calculate the odds and know just how lucky she is.
CHARLIZE: I remember very vividly when I did my first role, I remember that I didn’t sleep for like a week. I was so excited, I didn’t need to sleep and it was such an incredibly amazing feeling that I remember saying to myself, if I can go through my life paying my rent and putting food on the table just doing this, that would be amazing. That would be a good life and, you know, life’s been really, really good to me. I’ve gotten that and a lot more, so there’s nothing but gratitude.