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Oscar loves beauties turning beasts

Hollywood loves beauties who sacrifice looks for art and Charlize Theron looks set to strike gold for her most unglamorous act yet.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2004 16:00 IST

Hollywood loves beauties who sacrifice their looks for the sake of art and Charlize Theron looks set to strike gold next weekend as the reward for the most unglamorous role of her career.

The 28-year-old South African is clear frontrunner in the race for the best actress Oscar to be handed out at the 76th annual Academy Awards on Sunday after turning in a startling performance in Monster.

The statuesque ice-blond former ballerina and model was rendered virtually unrecognisable by prosthetics and 30 extra pounds of weight that turned her into jowly and harsh-faced US prostitute and serial killer Aileen Wuornos.

And in an industry obsessed by beauty, Oscar voters have a perverse history of thanking actresses who agree to forego their vanity to play unflattering roles that forge careers as serious A-list actors.

Last year they awarded best actress to Nicole Kidman for sporting a large prosthetic nose to play troubled author Virginia Woolf in The Hours and gave the same award to Halle Berry in 2002 for her turn as dishevelled wife and lover in "Monster's Ball."

"The voters love beautiful women who have to sacrifice their looks for a film," Oscars expert Tom O'Neil told AFP. "Nicole Kidman and Halle Berry did it before, and now its Charlize's turn. She will win," he said.

Theron, who possesses all the flawless traits that Tinseltown demands of glamorous leading ladies -- satiny skin, perfect teeth, piercing blue eyes and a sex-goddess figure -- donned the ultimate disguise to play Wuornos.

But she put on 30 kilograms (30 pounds) with a doughnut diet, wore crooked false teeth, dull brown contact lenses while her model's complexion was overlaid with a blotchy skin of liquid resin that puffed out her fine features.

And critics say Theron, who has only been acting for seven years, deserves cinema's highest honour, not only for her remarkable transformation but also for her raw, and sometimes empathetic, depiction of the tragic but murderous Wuornos.

Following the back-to-back victories of classic beauties Berry and Kidman, former farm girl Theron is hoping her gritty portrayal of the executed lesbian murderess will mark her arrival as a heavyweight actress.

An Oscar would leave the sort of roles she has become known for playing, beautiful but two-dimensional women in big-budget movies such as 2003's "The Italian Job" and 2001's romance drama "Sweet November" in the past.

But Theron, who won this year's Golden Globe and Screen Actors' Guild best actress awards for the role, is quick to distance herself from suggestions that she "uglied up" just to impress the prize-givers.

"The work is really good, and the transformation is just one aspect. If the work is challenging, no matter what body it comes in, thats whats important," she told an interviewer.

Theron may however have to do battle for the Oscar with another foreign actress who let herself go on screen last year, Australia's Naomi Watts who played a grief-stricken widow and ravaged cocaine addict in the dark drama "21 Grams."

Kidman and Berry became instant industry heavyweights after winning their rewards for dowdiness, with Kidman now said to be Hollywood's most in demand actress for serious dramatic roles.

Other actress' have also been noticed by Oscar for taking the plunge into ugly, including this year's best supporting actress nominee Renee Zellweger who put on a lot of weight and frumpy costumes for 2001's "Bridget Jones' Diary," for which she won a best actress nod but lost the award to Berry.

Gwyneth Paltrow went really ugly in the 2002 comedy "Shallow Hal," in which she sported a giant latex "fat suit" that turned her into a 350 pound (160 kilo) heavyweight, although she was never awarded for the role.

Even male actors have gone down that route, including John Hurt in 1980's "The Elephant Man" and pretty boy Brad Pitt, who went rough and toothless for "Fight Club."

"Hollywood loves a character trying to overcome a disability, whether it's physical or mental," said O'Neil, referring to roles such as Russell Crowe's Oscar-winning 2001 turn as a schizophrenic in "A Beautiful Mind" and Jon Voight's wheelchair-bound role as a war veteran in "Coming Home."

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