While Charlize Theron is certainly Sean Penn's type — beautiful, blond, and artistic like his exes Madonna, Robin Wright, and Scarlett Johansson — news of their romance, which was first exposed during a New Year's island getaway, came as a surprise. It shouldn't have though; they've had a friendship spanning nearly two decades.
For the first time, the South African actress, 38, has spoken in-depth about her relationship with the 53-year-old actor. She told Vogue she was "enjoying mommyhood," having adopted son Jackson in 2012, and, while open to romance, her attitude was that potential suitors would have to be exceptional. "I know so well what I want to fit in my life. And the simple answer to that is: Unless he can make my life better? My life is really pretty f--king good."
"A friend kind of stepped into that role, and I really didn't see it coming," the A Million Ways to Die in the West star told the magazine. "Sean and I have known each other for 18 years. We were just really good friends. And it's been slow going because you are aware that you could screw that up and lose it. We had to think about it. But at the end of the day, it was somewhat effortless."
Effortless, yes. But it's changed her life, she gushed.
"It just kind of naturally happened, and before I knew it, I was in something that was making my life better," she said. "The people who really love me can see the effect it has had on me."
Theron, who was in a nine-year relationship with Irish actor Stuart Townsend, said that dating, love, and romance in her late 30s is a "different ball game."
"The last time I was dating, I was 24," she said. "I was like, 'Awww, you're miserable and moody, but I'm just going to forgive that because you're so cute! Oh, you treat me so badly, but maybe that will change in five years when I have your children!' That just doesn't exist anymore."
Penn, who has two adult children with ex-wife Wright, has a reputation for moodiness (and beyond!), but, since going public with Theron earlier this year — and stepping out as a couple at various charity events, the Met Gala, and mostly recently at the L.A. premiere of A Million Ways to Die in the West — we've seen him smiling more than ever we can remember. So is a big flashy wedding next? Probably not.
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"I really do understand the importance and what that ceremony represents to so many people, but it's just such a personal thing," she said of marriage. "Let's put it this way: I never had the dream of the white dress. And watching other people getting married? I think it's beautiful for them, but to be quite honest, usually I’m sitting there just devastated. It's supposed to be this night of celebrating love, and all you see is a couple separated all night making sure everybody else is OK. It just looks like a lot of work. And as you get older, you start sifting through the stuff that really matters."
Theron — whose parents had a tumultuous marriage, which ended with her mother shooting her father after he attacked her while he was drunk — said that her own family history hasn't destroyed her desire to be in a committed relationship. She's big on commitment. She's just not big on marriage. Well, for now.
"A lot of people want to make it about my past, my mom and dad not being in a great marriage, but I will tell you honestly: I have had a good amount of healthy therapy about it, and it really isn't about that," she insisted. "Because I think that would kind of showcase itself more in a fear of long-term relationships, which I don't have at all. I want the long-term relationship. And I don't really know how to invest in the other thing."
So look for many more smiley, happy Theron-Penn red carpet appearances. Beyond that, only time will tell.