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Charlize Theron was born on 7th August 1975, in rural Benoni, South Africa, to co-owners of a road construction company, Charles and Gerda. The Afrikaans-speaking family lived on a working farm outside of Johannesburg, and although Theron's childhood chores included tending livestock, her passion for dance became evident early on. To foster her artistic leanings, Theron began ballet lessons at age six.

As Charles struggled with alcoholism, he became physically abusive. In 1991, when Theron was 15, her father violently attacked her and her mother. Theron watched as Gerda shot and killed Charles; the murder was deemed an act of self-defense, and Gerda was never charged with a crime. In the wake of the death, Gerda assumed ownership of the company, and Theron concocted the long-standing story.

In 1994, a destitute Theron argued with a bank teller, who refused to allow her to pull funds from a South African account. Theron's subsequent fit earned the attention of a fellow bank patron John Crosby, a Hollywood manager who represented talent including John Hurt and Rene Russo. He immediately offered to sign Theron and, within months, she made her acting debut in a small role in Children of the Corn III (1995).