Date: 3rd March 2004
Like countless Oscar winners before her, Charlize Theron singled out her mother for a heartfelt thank you.
But her tearful tribute as she accepted the best actress award acknowledged far more than the usual parental encouragement.
For Charlize Theron owes her mother much more than her Hollywood career. She owes her her life.
Thirteen years ago at the family's home in South Africa, Gerda Theron shot dead her husband as he threatened to kill her and their 15-year-old daughter Charlize.
On Monday night, Mrs Theron watched from the audience as the daughter she was so desperate to save walked on to the stage to collect an Academy Award for her role in the movie Monster.
"You have sacrificed so much for me to be able to live here and make my dreams come true," Theron, 28, said in her acceptance speech.
"There are no words to describe how much I love you."
The ceremony was dominated by The Return of the King, the third part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which won a record 11 awards from 11 nominations. But for Mrs Theron, it was the night her daughter finally overcame the legacy of that terrible evening in 1991.
The young Charlize, home from boarding school for the holidays, had gone to a family party with her parents. Mother and daughter left early. But when Charles Theron, a violent alcoholic, returned to their home near Johannesburg, he found the gates had been locked and he could not get in.
In a rage, he blasted the locks off with a shotgun and, once inside the house, started shooting into the air and screaming abuse.
Mrs Theron grabbed her daughter and ran for cover in a bedroom. Her husband shouted, "Tonight I am going to kill both of you," as he fired through the bedroom door.
The mother grabbed another gun and ran out of the room, shooting him in the arm and chest.
"I knew he was going to kill us," she later told police. "Someone had to stop him."
She was never prosecuted for her husband's death. Eventually South Africa's attorney-general ruled she had acted in self-defence.
At 16, Charlize Theron won a contract to go to Milan as a model.
Her mother urged her to leave South Africa and fulfil her dreams while she stayed to face the police inquiry. Two years later, she presented her daughter with a one-way ticket to Hollywood.
Within a year, Theron had landed a part opposite Al Pacino in the thriller The Devil's Advocate. Roles in The Cider House Rules and the remake of The Italian Job followed.
The Daily Telegraph
Source: Press Release