Her character in Dark Places witnesses a killing, much as Theron did as a child

By Tim Nudd
Updated April 07, 2015 02:25 PM
Credit: Mars Distribution

In her new film Dark Places, Charlize Theron plays a woman who, at 8 years old, saw her mother and sisters killed in a horrific massacre.

While the circumstances were very different, the Oscar winner says she can relate to the tale – because of what she witnessed herself as a child in South Africa.

When Theron was 15, her father, Charles, attacked her mother, Gerda. Gerda shot him to death in self-defense, and no charges were filed.

In an interview with French television network TF1 this week, Theron, 39, acknowledged the connection.

“I did experience a very traumatic experience, an event, in my life. And somehow it’s formed me,” she said.

“My character goes through this ordeal when she’s 8 years old, and it really is examining what trauma does to a child, especially when she’s expected to speak about it. And that’s definitely something I can relate to, that’s definitely something I’ve experienced in my life. As far as events go, they’re very similar. There’s a murder [in the film], while my situation was a very unfortunate incident with self-defense.”

Theron spoke at length about her father’s death in a 2004 interview with ABC.

“I think, for me, it took a long time to sink in, what had really happened, because you just don’t think stuff like that will ever happen to you,” she said. “You always think it happens to somebody else.”

She said she bears the scar of that night, but it doesn’t define her. “It’s a part of me, but it doesn’t rule my life,” she said.

Dark Places was adapted from the novel by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn. The film premiered in Paris last week. It does not yet have a U.S. release date, but this new trailer was released over the weekend:

It also stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Christina Hendricks, Nicholas Hoult, Corey Stoll and Tye Sheridan.