Charlize Theron: My Childhood Trauma Shaped Me

Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron discussed her childhood trauma.  Venturelli/Getty Images

Charlize Theron is drawing inspiration for her new movie from one very dark place. The Oscar-winning actress, 39, opened up in a new interview with the French TV station TF1 about just where she found the strength to play her gritty role in the upcoming Dark Places.

Theron stars in the upcoming big-screen adaptation of Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn's 2009 novel as Libby Day, a woman who saw her own mother and sisters murdered at the hands of a Satanic cult. The South African actress' own tragedy came when she was in her teens. Her mother Gerda shot and killed her alcoholic father Charles after he abused and threatened the two women, allegedly drunkenly wielding a gun as he came after them.

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"There's definitely an acknowledgement on my part that I had an experience of, a very traumatic experience, an event, in my life," the celebrated star told TF1. "And somehow it’s formed me."

"In the film, my character goes through this event when she’s 8 years old, and it really is examining what a trauma like that would do to a child, especially when she’s expected to speak about it," Theron continued of her character Libby, who testifies in court about the murders. "And that’s definitely something that I can relate to, that’s definitely something that I’ve experienced in my life."

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"As far as events go, they’re very similar," she added of her own experience and that of Dark Places' Libby. "There’s a murder mystery, and my situation was a very unfortunate incident with self-defense."

Theron has spoken about the tragic incident only a handful of times, first revealing the violence to Diane Sawyer in 2004. She went on to touch on the murder in an interview with Piers Morgan in 2011, telling the journalist, "My mother is amazing, and I know all daughters or children will say this, it sounds very biased, but she is very unique. She's saved my life many times."

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"It was the great tragedy of my life," she added. "I think what follows is … you have to find where you want yourself to be, and how you want people to see you in this world. I had a parent who led me through the grief, shock and anger going through all of the emotional things that you do when you — when something like this happens to you. But really kind of guided me towards not being a victim and not going through my life feeling victimized. You know, I'm incredibly saddened by that night and saddened by the event … [but] no, it doesn't haunt me. No, it doesn't haunt me at all. I'm completely at peace."

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