CHARLIZE THERON

The shoot­ing that scarred her child­hood. Per­suad­ing boyfriend Sean Penn to scrap his weapons. Pack­ing a pis­tol in a spoof Western. Charlize Theron de­spises firearms, she tells TV Week – but just can’t es­cape them

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - IN­TER­VIEW BY MAR­TYN PALMER EXCLUSIVE PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY ART STREIBER

The South African beauty talks guns, guys and mother­hood

Guns. I should have known we’d be talk­ing about guns. Half­way through the trial of Os­car Pis­to­rius for the shoot­ing of his blonde South African model girl­friend, Reeva Steenkamp, here I am, meet­ing an­other blonde South African for­mer model whose child­hood was scarred by an eerily sim­i­lar shoot­ing.

When Charlize Theron was 15, her al­co­holic fa­ther Charles re­turned home drunk to their farm­house, fir­ing a gun and threat­en­ing to kill his wife and daugh­ter. Her mother, Gerda, shot him in self- de­fence. The ac­tress has hated guns ever since. And yet it’s Theron who raises the sub­ject.

‘It has to change,’ she says about the gun own­er­ship laws in Amer­ica, where there have been 44 school shoot­ings since the 2012 New­town mas­sacre. ‘Where we are now is not help­ing – we see an in­crease of gun-re­lated deaths. If it’s not work­ing, we have to change it. I’m a mum. I’m go­ing to be send­ing my kid to school and I want to know he is go­ing to be safe.’

Views of this kind don’t make you very pop­u­lar in Amer­ica’s con­ser­va­tive heart­land. But un­like a lot of A-list stars, Theron is not afraid to speak her mind – even when it comes to toxic sub­jects like gun con­trol and gay mar­riage. ‘I have to be truth­ful to my­self,’ she tells me. ‘I think that’s the beauty of liv­ing in a democ­racy. I was raised to have aware­ness of what’s hap­pen­ing and to take a view.’

Theron told TV Week colum­nist Piers Mor­gan in a 2011 in­ter­view that the child­hood shoot­ing was ‘ the great tragedy of my life’.

She said: ‘I had a par­ent who led me through the grief, shock and anger – she guided me to not be­ing a vic­tim. It doesn’t haunt me. I am at peace.’

The ac­tress has come a long way since that ter­ri­ble day in Benoni, near Jo­han­nes­burg, 23 years ago. Beau­ti­ful, rich (Celebrity Net Worth rates her as worth € 79mil­lion; the in­flu­en­tial Forbes has her at 85th most pow­er­ful celebrity)

‘I was raised to have aware­ness of what’s hap­pen­ing’

and supremely tal­ented, Theron, 38, rose to fame as an ac­tress in the late Nineties, be­fore be­ing of­fered the role that ce­mented her rep­u­ta­tion in 2003, play­ing se­rial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster.

Her per­for­mance won her a Best Ac­tress Os­car (she re­mains the only South African to win the award) and the wide ac­claim of crit­ics, one of whom, the late Roger Ebert, called her per­for­mance ‘one of the great­est in the his­tory of cin­ema’. Since Monster she has be­come es­tab­lished as a Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ter – though she’s about as far re­moved from that stereo­type as it’s pos­si­ble to be.

Away from her film work, Theron has a proud cam­paign­ing rep­u­ta­tion, from pro­mot­ing HIV aware­ness in Africa to sup­port­ing the an­i­mal rights or­gan­i­sa­tion PETA and be­ing in­volved in groups that high­light vi­o­lence against women.

She may not ac­knowl­edge it her­self, but she is part of Hol­ly­wood’s po­lit­i­cal set, along­side Ge­orge Clooney, Richard Gere, Su­san Saran­don, Tim Rob­bins, Leonardo DiCaprio and new boyfriend Sean Penn. Theron at­tended last De­cem­ber’s Nel­son Man­dela me­mo­rial ser­vice in Jo­han­nes­burg and was pho­tographed laugh­ing along­side Bono.

Penn, 53, is a re­cent con­vert to the anti-gun lobby, and un­der­scored his com­mit­ment to the cause ear­lier this year when he com­mis­sioned Amer­i­can artist Jeff Koons to make a sculp­ture out of his 67 – yes, 67 – weapons.

The yet-to-be-com­pleted piece was auc­tioned at a glitzy

Charlize Theron with boyfriend Sean Penn at a fundraiser at New York’s Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art. Right: in her new Western spoof A Mil­lion Ways To Die In The West

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