CHARLIZE THERON survived family tragedy and personal injury, but thanks to a prima donna outburst in her local bank, she's become one of Hollywood's sharpest young talents. Words: Nigel Floyd

UNPREDICTABILITY IS THE KEY TO John Frankenheimer‘s twisty. serpentine thriller Deception. And unpredictability is something its female star. Charlize Theron. knows plenty about. ‘I think life is unpredictable. much like a heist.‘ she says when I meet her in Los Angeles. ‘No matter how much you plan it. it's never going to work out the way you want it to.’

The 25-year-old South African star might now be one of Hollywood‘s hottest up-and-coming properties (appearing everywhere from Playboy to P’ople magazine). but life was not always so sweet. When she was fifteen. her abusive alcoholic father attacked her mother in a drunken rage. Gerda. her mother. shot him dead. The verdict was self-defence and Gerda was not charged. but it’s a legacy Charlize will not quickly forget. She has never spoken about it in public.

Growing up on an isolated farm outside Benoni. South Africa 150% tomboy. 50% princess‘ Charlize dreamed of escape. After a stint at dance school in New York. cut short by a knee injury. she flew. aged eighteen. to Los Angeles on a one- way ticket. Scraping by on sporadic modelling assignments. she was ‘discovered‘ in a scene straight out of a Hollywood movie. She wanted to cash a $500 cheque at her local bank. When the cashier turned her down. she had a screaming tantrum whereupon a male customer stepped forward and said. 'I don‘t know what you do. but if you‘re interested in acting. here‘s my card'.

Persuaded by her friends that John Crosby was a legitimate talent manager rather than some sleazy scumbag. she went to see him. Crosby. who had also ‘discovered' Rene Russo at a Rolling Stones concert. landed her first acting job as a sexy Norwegian hitwoman in the hip indie movie 2 Days In The Valley.

Her best stroke of luck. however. was not getting a part at all. She was in the rtmning for the lead role in Paul Verhoeven's leaden—footed. mega-flop .S'lumgir/s. but was beaten by Elizabeth Berkley. It was a close escape that left her free to play a squeaky-clean small town girl in That Thing You Do.’ alongside Tom Hanks. Although embarrassed by Charlize's talk of a childhood crush on him. Hanks enthused: ‘That girl is going to be somebody.‘

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Her career went into overdrive. with roles opposite Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino in Devil's Advoeate. an animatronic ape in Mighty Joe Young and Johnny Depp in The Astromtut's Wife. She also played a young woman

seeking an abortion in The Cider

House Rules. ‘1 have no desire to do the same thing back-to-back.‘ she insists. ‘The best advice I ever got was never to do what people expect you to do. What I love about acting is the transformation.‘

Ironically. her role in Deception is the closest Charlize has come to repeating her femme fatale part in 2 Days In The Valley. As duplicitous wildcat Ashley. she lures Ben Affleck‘s ex-con into an ill-planned casino heist. The similarities made the

actress hesitate. not least because of

her doubts about how Ehren Kruger‘s complicated script might be handled. But when John Frankenheimer. the veteran director of The Mane/nirian Candidate. came on board. Charlize knew she was in good hands.

Aside from buying her a brand new Eddie Bauer designer coat for location work in freezing Vancouver. Frankenheimer was a hard task

‘Life is unpredictable, much like a heist'

master. ‘He’s 70 years old. but you‘d see John out there in waist—high snow going. "No. put the camera over here“. It‘s amazing to see somebody who‘s pretty much done everything. but still has that energy and excitement about movies.’

At the Cannes Film Festival. it was the critics who got excited about her portrayal of Joaquin Phoenix‘s messed-up girlfriend in The Yards. Also to come are Robert Redford‘s The Legend Of Bugger Vance. with Will Smith and Matt Damon. and Navy Diver. in which she plays Robert De Niro‘s alcoholic wife.

‘l’m not interested in seeing a movie where somebody whines for hours.‘ says the woman who‘s seen the effects of alcoholism first hand. 'An alcoholic is someone who fucks up all the time but you have to find the redeeming part of it. My character sobers herself tip and she has to sober him up with her. The challenging part is not making it whiny and pathetic. but making it hopeful.‘

Deception goes on general release Fri 30 Jun.