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Like Turner, Theron was raised in rural isolation; like Turner, her father was murdered, leaving her and her mother to survive on their own. Both were routinely underestimated, initially cast as pretty faces with beautiful bodies.
But unlike Turner, who was exploited and abused by a series of men in her private and professional life, Theron charted a different career trajectory for herself almost immediately.
For that, she’s been labeled a bitch, a diva, and an ice queen.
But she’s also fashioned one of the most enduring and unexpectedly varied careers in the business, positioning herself as one of the most bankable — and powerful — stars in Hollywood.
For Theron, that place has always been “rural cool girl”: the male fantasy of a hot girl who doesn’t take anything too seriously, who loves to hang with the boys, who’s low-drama and won’t hassle the men in her life with bullshit like asking for things.
Early profiles always mentioned Theron’s “discovery” story, but reveled in her past: how she grew up on farm, how her best friend was a goat, how she swears like a sailor, how she just happens to be the most beautiful woman in the world, with a body to match.
Her mother had sent the 20-year-old Theron a check from South Africa, but when she went to the bank to cash it, they refused her.
“I grew up surrounded by animals,” she told EW in 1997. Theron attempted, unsuccessfully, to sue the magazine, but the effect on her image was complete.
“I was milking cows before school at six in the morning and making butter; I can do all that shit.” She’s a tomboy, who, according to the Ottawa Citizen, “loves a big barbecue”; she learned all about engines from her father, who was a mechanic. And she was seemingly always drinking: shots of tequila, bottles of Rolling Rock, dive-bar booze. For Vogue, she had “the swear-heavy vocabulary of a randy stevedore.” In Vanity Fair, Kenneth Branagh related an anecdote from their time together on the set of Woody Allen’s Celebrity: “We were stuck in the back of a Teamsters van waiting for the rain to stop,” he said. The two Teamster lads couldn’t believe their ears.”To promote her early roles — mostly as girlfriends, wives, and love interests to middlingly handsome men, from Ben Affleck (Reindeer Games) to Keanu Reeves (Sweet November), she was placed on the covers of magazines, often without pants or a top. Regardless of consent, the cover of Playboy had the same connotation: Theron was a hot girl, a Playboy girl, not an actress of substance.
Still, it became a fixture in press to come — a sort of shadow over the cool girl narrative, a central tragedy that could be connected to every role she chose, every decision she made — especially when, in 2003, she dramatically transformed herself for the role of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in a small, indie movie called Monster.
Leading up to Monster, Theron’s role as a cover girl was secure.