Hollywood star Charlize Theron says she’s not ashamed to talk about the violence that marred her childhood – because it will help others in a similar situation.
Charlize Theron rarely talks publicly about the night her mum killed her dad – a trauma that mired her youth for years to come – but now she’s done exactly that, in an effort to open up dialogue around family violence.
In a new interview with NPR, the Oscar-winning actor says she wants to encourage discussion around what it’s like to grow up with an addict.
Theron’s father was an abusive alcoholic, and her childhood in her native South Africa was scarred by his behaviour and the fallout from that.
“Our family was just kind of stuck in it,” she says. “And the day-to-day unpredictability of living with an addict is the thing that you sit with and have kind of embedded in your body for the rest of your life, more than just this one event of what happened one night.”
Theron says that on the night he died, her father “was so drunk that he shouldn’t have been able to walk when he came into the house with a gun”.
She continued: “My mom and I were in my bedroom leaning against the door, because he was trying to push through the door.
“So both of us were leaning against the door from the inside to have him not be able to push through. He took a step back and just shot through the door three times. None of those bullets ever hit us, which is just a miracle.”
To save her family, Theron’s mum Gerda grabbed the gun and shot her husband. “In self-defence, she ended the threat,” says Theron.
Police later classed the incident as self-defence. Theron was 15 at the time.
Although she does not often talk about what happened that night to the press, the actor says she shares her story with lots of people in her life.
“I’m not ashamed to talk about it, because I do think that the more we talk about these things, the more we realise we are not alone in any of it,” she says.
Theron herself faced sexual harassment at the hands of a movie director when she was just starting out in her career, in 1994.
The unnamed director invited her to an audition in his home. He was drinking and dressed in pyjamas at the time, and touched her leg. Theron says that for years after, she blamed herself – it took her a long time to recognise the incident for what it really was.
The fact that she has first-hand knowledge of the psychological damage wrought by sexual harassment means Theron is keen to explore further what she terms as “a grey area” on-screen.