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She subsequently starred in the adventure film Mighty Joe Young (1998) as the friend and protecter of a giant mountain gorilla, and in the drama The Cider House Rules (1999), as a woman who seeks an abortion in World War II-era Maine.
In 2003, she received critical acclaim for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, becoming the first South African to win an Oscar in an acting category.
She received another Academy Award nomination for playing a sexually abused woman seeking justice in the drama North Country (2005).
On 4 December 2009, Theron co-presented the draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, accompanied by several other celebrities of South African nationality or ancestry.
During rehearsals she drew an Ireland ball instead of France as a joke at the expense of FIFA, referring to Thierry Henry's handball controversy in the play-off match between France and Ireland.
In 2008, Theron starred as a woman who faced a traumatic childhood in the drama The Burning Plain, directed by Guillermo Arriaga and opposite Jennifer Lawrence and Kim Basinger, and also played the ex-wife of an alcoholic superhero alongside Will Smith in the superhero film Hancock.