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It was the most shocking transformation of her career. When Charlize Theron embodied the abused prostitute turned serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003, we could hardly believe our eyes. It was also the role that earned her the well-deserved Oscar.

In honour of Theron’s 42nd birthday today, (Veels geluk, onse Charlize!), we decided to reflect on one of her most challenging roles to date, and dig deep behind the story of Monster (now available to watch on Showmax).

A brutal life

Wuornos was born on February 29, 1956 in a town called Rochester in the state of Michigan. She had an horrific upbringing and was sexually abused as a child. She never met her father, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and killed himself while serving time in prison for child molestation.

Her mother abandoned the family and Aileen was left to be raised by her grandparents, who were reportedly violent alcoholics.

By age 11, Aileen had started engaging in sexual activities at school in exchange for things like cigarettes and drugs, according to a report in the Journal of Criminal Justice. She also said that her grandfather abused and sexually assaulted her as a child. She was pregnant by age 14.

Murder spree

It was not until 1989 that Aileen committed her first murder – she killed the owner of an electronics store after he picked her up along a Florida highway. She would go on to murder six more people in Florida.

Wuornos was arrested in 1991 after having murdered seven people, and was put on trial a year later, where she was sentenced to death by lethal injection. She was executed in October 2002. She declined her last meal, and requested only coffee

Charlize on the role

“When I read the script, I didn’t know it was a real person,” Theron said in an interview with CBS News.

“This is a woman who, and when I say never experienced love in her life, I mean that … I had a real thirst to want to know what really happened in her life.”

To look the part, Charlize gained around 10 kilograms, shaved her eyebrows and got a set of custom-made prosthetic teeth.

Charlize went on to win a Golden Globe and Academy Award for her performance in Monster, which you can watch right now on Showmax.

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