Campus & Community

Theron takes roast in stride

5 min read

Woman of the Year shows class and sass

A feisty Charlize Theron proved a match for her kidders at this year’s Woman of the Year award ceremony as the tall, slender, striking blonde gave as good as she got during the annual roast by Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals.

The ceremony kicked off at 2:30 p.m. today (Feb. 7) with a parade that started just outside The Harvard Inn. Several members of this year’s Hasty production “Fable Attraction,” adorned in wigs ranging from platinum blonde to electric blue and attired in various stages of female dress and undress, accompanied the “Monster” star en route.

Theron sat perched on the back of a burnt orange Bentley, squeezed between her Hasty Pudding hosts, Evan Eachus ’08, president of the theatricals, and David Andersson ’09, vice president of the Hasty Pudding cast, who were dressed as a bright yellow female bee and a sequined genie, respectively.

The lively procession, which included dancing bears, a group of bagpipers, a bouncing Elvis (c. 1972), and Harvard cheerleaders, rolled, hopped, and sashayed its way down Massachusetts Avenue, turning left on Holyoke Street where it ended in front of the recently renovated New College Theatre. The historic playhouse, home to the Hasty Pudding Theatricals since 1888, was closed in 2005 for a major overhaul, which replaced almost two-thirds of the building. The updates include a new theater, rehearsal rooms, classrooms, and meeting space.

Along the way the actress waved and blew kisses to the crowd, stopping frequently for seductive photos with her cohorts, who obliged by covering her face with bright red lipstick smooches.

“I never knew Boston was so quiet,” she yelled at one point to the rather subdued crowd, who responded with an enthusiastic whoop! Later she tried to encourage an impromptu striptease from a group of male onlookers perched on a balcony above the route. “Take it off,” she hollered to the men — who chose to remain clothed.

Theron could easily have been just another blonde bombshell, known more for her classic good looks and long leggy frame than her acting talent. But her talent matches her beauty.

She won her industry’s highest honor, a best actress Academy Award for her chilling portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the 2004 film “Monster.” For the role, the South African native gained more than 30 pounds and donned severe makeup that rendered her almost unrecognizable. She also won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for her performance.

Her other screen credits include the sci-fi action flick “Aeon Flux,” in which she played an acrobatic assassin; “The Cider House Rules,” opposite Tobey Maguire; and a turn as a struggling single mother working as a miner in “North Country.”

Theron’s first big break came in the form of a knee injury, which sidelined her professional dancing dreams and set her instead on the acting path. She was later discovered in Los Angeles, as the story goes, in a bank line after throwing an award-worthy tantrum (a shade of things to come) at a teller who refused to cash her check. A talent agent in line witnessed the display. Impressed, he offered to take her on as a client.

In keeping with its longstanding tradition of tongue-in-cheek good fun, the Hasty Pudding boys Eachus and Andersson took Theron through her paces on the New College Theatre stage, making her face a series of comic challenges to determine if she was truly “pot” worthy.

The actress was more than up to the task.

Her first test involved a mock dating game and required her to determine which of three bachelors was in fact from another planet. The skit was a nod to her film “The Astronaut’s Wife,” where she is married, unwittingly, to an alien.

“Did you just say they were all men?” Theron asked her hosts, “then they’re all aliens,” she sparred.

Though she failed to accurately identify the extraterrestrial, she fared better with the next set of challenges.

A cast member portraying an anguished Keanu Reeves appeared onstage and insisted she killed their movie “Sweet November” by “acting it into the ground.” To win the pot away from him she needed to pass the triple threat test; prove she was an expert actress, model, and dancer.

Theron accepted, breaking out her best shoulder shimmy and backside shake to the delight of the audience.

“I was about to do the worm,” she joked, as the music cut out.

For her screen test, she was required to woo an African elephant dressed in a pink tutu, in her native Afrikaans, which she accomplished with seductive verve. Her final hurdle, her best model pose, had to be done with a twist, a giant rubber nose.

In the end, her hand on hip, head over the shoulder, and an intense sideways glare was all it took: The pot was hers.

Theron graciously accepted her prize to a standing ovation. As she received the award, she admitted she had never completed high school.

“I thought I should be clear with you guys,” she laughed, adding later, “I love you all.”

In the press conference after the awards ceremony, Theron kept up the witty banter. Asked how the Hasty Pudding award compared to winning an Oscar, she laughed as she checked her answer.

“I want to say I’ve never been surrounded by so many fake breasts — but I was at the Academy Awards.”