Happy birthday, Charlize Theron! The A-list actress and mom of two is turning 45 today, and we’re taking a moment to marvel at this beauty’s talent, charisma, and poise — and how incredibly she’s transformed herself over the years for her famous movie roles. It’s not just Theron’s tremendous acting that makes this South African beauty a star; it’s her willingness to let go of her own image and be consumed by whatever character she’s playing, from her buzz cut and combat boots in Mad Max: Fury Road to her eerily on-point Bombshell role as Megyn Kelly. Theron has no attachment to how she thinks she should appear on camera — which makes the actress herself all the more elusive, and all the more compelling in each of her roles.
Look, we get it — when you look like this, it’s hard to worry that the world will forget how beautiful you are, no matter how big a transformation you take on. Most famously, Theron gained 30 pounds, professionally thinned her hair, bleached and shaved her eyebrows, and wore color contacts for her Oscar-winning role as Aileen Wuornos in Monster. And here she is eight weeks after the movie came out, destroying the Golden Globes red carpet and serving old Hollywood glamour. Aileen who?
Theron doesn’t need to be a heartbreaker in every movie she plays, and the range of roles she’s taken on are dark, daring, vulnerable, and inspiring. With recent turns in Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde, The Old Guard, and upcoming F9, Theron is slowly cementing herself as an action star too, teaching young girls that they too may one day grow up and be the strongest, most intimidating person in the room. With Hollywood’s long history of treating women as eye candy and nothing more, Theron made it clear from day one that she wasn’t there to sit still and look pretty.
Here are Charlize Theron’s most shocking transformations over the years.
A version of this article was originally published in July 2017.