Theron aligns herself with animal-rights organization PETA in its anti-fur campaign. With her pooch Tucker, she appears on billboards that say, "If you wouldn't wear your dog, please don't wear any fur." The following year, the outspoken activist announces that she and Townsend would not wed until gay marriage is legal in the U.S., and is awarded The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's (GLAAD) Vanguard Award – the organization's highest honor.
Theron stars as struggling single mother Josey Aimes in North Country, a movie based on the landmark sexual harassment lawsuit against a Minnesota mine. Her gritty performance earns Theron a second Oscar nomination, but she loses to Reese Witherspoon, who played June Carter in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line.
East of Havana, a documentary produced by Theron, is released. The film follows the lives of three Cuban youth wrapped up in the local hip-hop scene. "At the end of the day, hip-hop is poetry," Theron tells Marie Claire. "It's a way for these kids to open up about the repression they face."
The In the Valley of Elah star is named Esquire's "Sexiest Woman Alive." In the issue, the 32-year-old Oscar winner doesn't concentrate on her looks, instead, she criticizes past roles ("Reindeer Games. That was a bad, bad, bad movie.") and politics ("I grew up in a country that learned the lesson that you can't impose your way of life on 26 different kinds of people just because you call yourself righteous.").
Opposite Will Smith, Theron plays Mary Embrey in Hancock, which makes $107 million in the U.S. and another $78 million internationally. "Charlize Theron is a fantastic actress – gorgeous, sexy, powerful, so much range," Smith tells PEOPLE. "From drama to comedy, she can do all things fantastic."
After nearly nine years together, Theron and Townsend reportedly split. Soon after, the beauty is linked to her North Country costar Jeremy Renner. "We're just friends," the Oscar-nominated actor tells PEOPLE, denying the romance reports.
Theron, 36, becomes a mother when she quietly adopts a son. "She is the proud mom of a healthy baby boy named Jackson," her rep says in a statement to PEOPLE about the 4-month-old infant. "It's been amazing, the amount of emails and congratulations," the actress told Ryan Seacrest on his radio show. "Everyone's just been so lovely – it's been really nice."
Theron gives a sinister performance as the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman, a dark and modern twist on the classic children's story alongside Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth. "I think the reason why I really wanted to do it was because I saw a lot of potential in finding the human within a character that's become very iconic for just being one thing and that's being evil," the actress says. "I like that challenge." Theron's risk pays off when the flick debuts at No. 1, earning $56.3 million during its opening weekend.
Coming off a successful ride with Snow White and the Huntsman, Theron stars in Prometheus – Ridley Scott's prequel to 1979's Alien. The sci-fi flick wows audiences, raking in $50 million at the box office and earning a second-place debut.
Theron heats things up with actor Sean Penn during a New Year's getaway to Hawaii, where the two enjoy the sun and surf. "Charlize and Sean have been friends for years," says a source, but the couple is spotted together again in L.A. and were "all over each other" during Penn's Help Haiti Home gala.
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