Career Curve: Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron peaked back in 2003, winning an Oscar, making big-budget films, doing some great TV work... and then she slowly slid into a rut. But now she's just days away from launching what looks to be an epic comeback.

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AP
In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Patrick Wilson, left, and Charlize Theron are shown in a scene from "Young Adult." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures)
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Getty Images
Charlize Theron peaked back in 2004, winning an Oscar, making big-budget films, doing some great TV work... and then she slowly slid into a rut. But now she's just days away from launching an epic comeback with the dark comedy "Young Adult." Check out more of Charlize's thoughts on "Young Adult" here.
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Charlize Theron made her feature film debut in 1995's "Children of the Corn III," in a role so small she didn’t even make the credits—and judging from this still, she also failed to make it to the end of the film. Her fortunes would soon improve.
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Just a year later, she was allowed to speak, playing the femme fatale Helga in "2 Days in the Valley." It wasn't very good, and not many people saw it—but those who did (hello!) certainly noticed the leggy blonde who spent most of the film in her underwear.
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Among those who noticed her was Woody Allen, who cast her as a supermodel in "Celebrity," allowing her once again to spend the bulk of her time in lingerie. Her time in the spotlight fully dressed was right around the corner, however.
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She starred opposite Johnny Depp as "The Astronaut's Wife" and in a remake of "Mighty Joe Young" and had a small role in "Cider House Rules" before making her first foray into action movies, opposite Ben Affleck in "Reindeer Games." Watch the trailer and be amazed both their careers survived.
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In 2001 she starred opposite Keanu Reeves "Sweet November," a suffocatingly treacly and maudlin film about a wealthy man who falls in love with a terminally ill woman. It would be a decade before this formula worked in "Love & Other Drugs," and then only barely.
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Despite a long string off underwhelming films, Theron had established herself as talented, popular and sexy enough to star opposite the likes of Mark Wahlberg in "The Italian Job," an amusing enough Mini Cooper commercial masquerading as a heist film with a great cast including Michael Caine, Mos Def, Jason Statham and Ed Norton.
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Theron finally struck Oscar gold in 2004, playing real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster," for which she gained 30 pounds. Roger Ebert called her work "one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema." Not bad.
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Big enough to warrant a starring role in a big-budget popcorn movie, Theron tried to bring the cartoon "Æon Flux" to the big screen. Something went horribly wrong at the magic factory, however, as the film remains the most poorly reviewed of her career. General consensus is that the bodysuit was the highlight.
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The actresses' career took an unexpected turn in 2005 with a recurring role on "Arrested Development" playing Rita, a mentally handicapped British woman whom Michael Bluth very nearly married. She showed off some serious comedy chops.
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But that same year saw her starring in "North Country," a lukewarm heart-tugger based on the real-life story of the women who spearheaded a groundbreaking sexual harassment suit. Yeah, she was nominated for an Oscar, but the film has already been all but forgotten.
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Theron returned to blockbuster country with "Hancock," opposite Will Smith and her "Arrested Development" co-star Jason Bateman. Directed by Peter Berg, the film told the story of an alcoholic superhero with a mysterious past who one day is befriended by the man who is now married to his ex. It was almost really good.
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Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
After a couple of years of lying low, Theron is back with a vengeance. This week she unveils "Young Adult," playing a mean-spirited drunk who returns to her hometown to win back her ex-boyfriend (Patrick Wilson), who's now married and has a new baby. It's as bleakly funny as you'd expect from director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody.
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Next year promises to be even bigger, as she stars as the Evil Queen in "Snow White and the Huntsman," out June 1. Judging by the trailer, it's a deliciously maniacal and over-the-top performance.
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Just a week later she'll be seen in "Prometheus," Ridley Scott's "Alien" reboot that also stars Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce. And keep your fingers crossed for her long-delayed "Mad Max" reboot with Tom Hardy and writer-director George Miller—we are dying for that one.
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