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Charlize Theron is the strong and powerful beauty of so many movies we love, but she has a traumatic past that she could only get through with the help of her mother.

When she was just 15 Theron had to lock herself in her bedroom to get away from her drunk, abusive father who was wielding a handgun. Her father threatened to kill her with a shotgun, which is when her brave mother stepped in. Gerda Maritz shot her husband and his brother, who was with him, to protect her daughter. Theron’s father died, but her mother was found to have acted in self-defense and was never prosecuted.

Theron rarely talks about the incident but is incredibly close with her mother, even attending the 2004 Oscars with her mother. She spoke last year about the influence her mother had on her life with CNN’s Piers Morgan.