Actress Charlize Theron proved her versatility as an actress with her Oscar-winning portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, a role which gained her critical credibility.
Following her Academy Award win in 2004 she was feted in her native South Africa after becoming the country's first Oscar success, meeting with President Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela on her return.
Now she is winning plaudits for her role in North Country in which she plays a miner in the 1980s who become part of a landmark court case when she sues for harassment suffered working in a traditionally man's job.
She was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role, but lost out to Felicity Huffman for Transamerica.
With her best actress nomination secured she will face competition from Huffman, Dame Judi Dench, Keira Knightley and Reese Witherspoon.
For her role in Monster, the 30-year-old gained 30lb and donned heavy make-up in order to play the notorious murderess - looking almost unrecognisable as a result.
It was all a far cry from her more mainstream roles in the likes of The Devil's Advocate, Mighty Joe Young and the 2003 remake of The Italian Job.
North Country (2006)
Aeon Flux (2005)
Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004)
The Italian Job (2003)
The Cider House Rules (1999)
Mighty Joe Young (1998)
More recent films include the sci-fi adaptation Aeon Flux and her portrayal of Brit Ekland in the film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, which was endorsed by the veteran Swedish actress.
She also had a guest role in the third series of TV comedy of Arrested Development.
One of her next projects is the sequel to the remake of The Italian Job, this time called The Brazilian Job.
Her diversity of film choices has established her as an actress who is not afraid to mix commercial movies with something a little more challenging - and is all the more remarkable given she did not consider acting until she was in her 20s.
Charlize Theron was born on 7 August 1975 in Benoni, South Africa, and grew up on a farm just outside the city.
An only child, her early life was also beset by family tragedy. Her parents' marriage was rocky, and when she was 15, her mother shot her father in self-defence, after he threatened to kill them both in a drunken rage.
Theron's mother was never charged, but as the actress recalls: "I think it took a long time to sink in, because you just don't think stuff like that will ever happen to you," she said. "You always think it happens to somebody else."
As a child, Theron studied ballet and after moving to New York, landed a job at the city's Joffrey Ballet company. She also worked as a model - but a knee injury brought her dancing career to a premature end.
OSCAR 2006 FORM GUIDE
Best actress nominations from:
Screen Actors Guild
Instead, she headed for Los Angeles to try to make it as an actress, despite having no money and nowhere to live.
Two weeks later she was discovered by an agent while attempting to get a bank on Hollywood Boulevard to cash her a cheque - and eight months after that she made her film debut in the dark comedy Two Days In The Valley.
Since then, her career has been uphill all the way, with films including Tom Hanks' directorial debut That Thing You Do!, The Astronaut's Wife alongside Johnny Depp, golfing drama The Legend Of Bagger Vance, and Oscar-winning The Cider House Rules.
She has also appeared in a pair of movies for Woody Allen, 1998's Celebrity and The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion in 2001.
Off screen, she had a lengthy romance with Stephan Jenkins of the band Third Eye Blind, but has been dating Irish actor Stuart Townsend for five years.