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Everyone’s favorite South African actress Charlize Theron has shown vast range in her 20+ year career. The intense, crazed action of “Mad Max: Fury Road” the foul-mouthed slacker in “Young Adult,” the ditzy blonde on “Arrested Development,” and the literal “Monster” she won an Oscar for all sit side by side on her resume. Theron’s new film “Tully” opening Friday finds her in a role she’s never tackled before, a modern mom in way over her head. So it is we chart Theron’s growth as an actress and producer in a timeline stretching back to her earliest work.
Modeling and Dancing Years
Theron got her start as a model and a dancer, even attending the Joffrey School of Ballet until a knee injury made her rethink her career in America.
“2 Days in the Valley” (1996)
Theron’s first film speaking role was as the sultry Helga Svelgen in the thriller “2 Days in the Valley,” where she starred opposite Teri Hatcher, Jeff Daniels, James Spader and Danny Aiello.
“The Devil’s Advocate” (1997)
Theron had a string of larger projects in the late ’90s where she was attracted to working with interesting directors, be it Taylor Hackford on the Keanu Reeves film “The Devil’s Advocate,” Woody Allen for “Celebrity,” Lasse Hallstrom for “The Cider House Rules” or John Frankenheimer for “The Reindeer Games.”
“The Italian Job” (2003)
One of Theron’s first major action star roles was in “The Italian Job,” a remake of a classic heist caper where she starred opposite Mark Wahlberg and helped to make Mini Coopers awesome.
Theron went under a complete transformation to play Aileen Wournos, a prostitute turned serial killer. The film she produced along with her production company Denver & Delilah. And her crazed, intense, raw work won her an Oscar.
“North Country” (2005)
In Niki Caro’s drama about one of the first sexual harassment cases in the United States, Theron earned another Oscar nomination playing a woman who leaves her abusive husband and takes a job working in a mine.
“Arrested Development” (2005)
Theron guest starred during the third season of the cult sitcom “Arrested Development” as Rita, a love interest to Michael Bluth. She plays cute on the show, toying with the idea that she might be a British spy investigating the Bluths, until it’s revealed that she’s actually got the intelligence and attention span of a toddler.
“Aeon Flux” (2006)
Theron’s role as an exotic and mysterious assassin with a slick, jet black haircut in “Aeon Flux” didn’t take off as a franchise or at the box office, but it cemented Theron as a capable action star.
“Young Adult” (2011)
After a brief hiatus on the big screen, Theron took a radically different role as foul-mouthed slacker Mavis Gary, who tries to relive her glory days and make it with her high school sweetheart after going through a tough breakup.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)
The continuation of the “Mad Max” trilogy turned out to be a bait and switch where the film’s real star was Theron as Imperator Furiosa. With one arm, a shaved head and absolute intensity, she anchored one of the best action movies of the decade.
“Atomic Blonde” (2017)
Theron took another punishing role as something of a female John Wick in the stylized action movie “Atomic Blonde,” even doing all of her own stunts in the film.
“Tully” reunites Theron with her “Young Adult” director and writing combo Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody. In it, she plays a mother of three and a newborn in way over her head who forms a bond with her millennial nanny. Theron gained 50 pounds for the role.