"I'M 50 PERCENT FARM GIRL. I CAN MILK COWS and get dirty, and when the time is right, put on heels and do my hair." Charlize Theron
, 24, who grew up running with sheep and ostriches in the South African township of Benoni, is filmdom's most captivating quick-change artist. She blew away audiences as a cat-suited hit woman in 1996's 2 Days in the Valley
, dolled up as a model in Woody Allen's '98 Celebrity
and undressed for wild sex with Ben Affleck
in Reindeer Games
. Even portraying plain in The Cider House Rules
, she simmers. Says John Irving, who adapted his novel for the movie: "When you're playing a lobsterman's daughter working on an apple farm, you're not going to wear makeup, and you'll wear the same clothes in virtually every scene, so you'd better have pretty special assets of your own. Charlize glowed." With her ice-blue eyes, cream-puff cheeks and voluptuous curves, "she's one of the most beautiful girls around," says Reindeer Games
director John Frankenheimer. "She's got the whole package." That package comes with a tragedy. When only-child Theron was 15, her father, Charles, then 43, a builder, attacked her mother, Gerda, now 47. Gerda shot him to death in self-defense (no charges were filed). Theron moved to the U.S. in 1992 and was discovered by Rene Russo's manager John Crosby in an L.A. bank. With her career now on the fast track, Theron, who dates Third Eye Blind lead singer Stephan Jenkins, hires a makeup pro when the occasion demands, And if the 5'9" actress still has more meat on her bones than some of the competition, she's not worried." like round bodies," she says. "When I put on pair of jeans, I like to fill them out."