01/10/2006 at 09:00 AM EST
Charlize Theron refuses to settle for pretty-girl roles. After her Oscar-winning performance in 2003's Monster, she's de-glammed herself again, this time as a miner fighting sexual harassment in the based-on-a-true-story North Country – and earning a Golden Globe nomination. The South Africa-born former model, 30, spoke recently about her own "casting couch" experience; her relationship with her boyfriend of five years, Stuart Townsend; and the movie accident that almost left her paralyzed.
Have you ever experienced sexual harassment?
The only thing (involved) a very well-known director, actually. Before I'd done any acting, my modeling agents said they were casting extras for a big action film. They said, "You have to go to the director's house on Saturday night at 9." Now, I had never been on an audition in my entire life, so I said, "Well, maybe that's what they do," you know? Then I showed up and he answered the door in his pajamas and continued to make drinks. I thought, "Wow, this is really not formal, this whole casting procedure." Us girls, we're smart: You leave.
How was it working with Sissy Spacek?
Sissy is very nurturing and motherly, which is so great. She's got two daughters, and she completely took me under her wing. As far as she was concerned, I was her daughter. She told me not to smoke.
Do you feel pressure to have kids?
God, no. I've got my career, I've got a wonderful life with Stuart. I've always wanted to have kids, but it's not like I'm in a rush. If it were to happen tomorrow, it would be a blessing. If it didn't, that would be totally fine, too.
You guys are such a cute couple.
Does it help that you're both actors?
I think the most important thing is not what the person's occupation is but the personalities. He challenges me and keeps me on my toes. He's a fire sign, I'm a fire sign. What I like to call a Sagi-terrorist (laughs). We're very supportive of each other and we know how much our careers mean to us, so we never stand in the way.
Do you choose roles differently now that you've won an Oscar?
I haven't read a script in the last two years, since I won it. I took this role a week before I won the Oscar. (Director) Niki (Caro) and I had dinner and it was a hot date – she finished my sentences, I finished her sentences. I fell in love with her, I was so inspired by her as a woman. I said, "If you'll have me, I would love to do this." I also did that with Aeon Flux.
You suffered a terrible accident while filming that movie. What happened?
I did a back handspring and my feet slipped from underneath me and I landed on my neck. I was on a wire, but the wire was just guiding me, it wasn't lifting me.
You nearly broke your neck, right?
I didn't break it; it was a herniated disk between my third and fourth vertebrae. We had to shut down (production) for six, seven weeks because if I had any other, smaller accident, like a car accident or if I slipped and fell, it would have compressed my spinal cord. That's paralyzed. And the nerve damage was really problematic because I lost all feeling in the right side of my body.
You're very close with your mom, Gerda. What does she think of your success?
She's hilarious. She's become this person: "Oh, you think you don't have to call me back because you've won an Oscar." Everything I do bad now, it's like, "Oh, we think we're little Miss Hot Shot 'cause we got an Oscar."