Charlize Theron opens up about her traumatic childhood when her mother shot and killed her abusive father

Charlize Theron has strived of late to take on roles that redefine the action genre.

From her crowd-pleasing role as the defiant Imperator Furiosa in "Mad Max: Fury Road," to now playing the butt-kicking spy Lorraine Broughton in "Atomic Blonde" (opening Friday), the Oscar winner has quickly become one of the leading voices in pushing Hollywood to think outside the box about parts it gives actresses.

But being strong-willed is nothing new for the Theron. In a revealing New York Times profile, Theron opened up about one of the most traumatic moments in her life: when her mother killed her father in self-defense.

It's a story Theron rarely brings up while doing press, for obvious reasons. But for the Times, Theron did go into some detail about the event, and how her family rebounded from it.

"I survived that, and I'm proud of that," Theron said. "I've worked hard for that, too. And I am not scared of that. I am not fearful of the darkness. If anything, I am intrigued by it, because I think it explains human nature and people better."

The shooting occurred when Theron was 15 and living in her native South Africa. One night, when her verbally abusive alcoholic father came home with his brother after drinking heavily, he threatened her mother with a gun. He began shooting and Theron's mother grabbed her gun and shot back, killing Theron's father and wounding his brother. Police later determined it was self-defense.

See photos from the "Atomic Blonde" premiere:

For teenage Theron, the aftermath was worse than the incident, due to her family life being in complete turmoil.

"That was my entire childhood," Theron said. "My trauma was all of that."

Once she got into acting in the 1990s, and got out of the cookie-cutter roles that focused on her looks, she began to take on challenging roles that featured her playing complex women. Though she doesn't link all those roles back to what she went through as a teen, she also adds, ""I mean, you'd be an idiot not to put it together...."

An obvious connection is her Oscar-winning role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003's "Monster," who claimed her killings were due to being raped when she was a prostitute.

"People like Aileen Wuornos that people just want to label and, like, shove under a rug," Theron said. "Nobody wants to examine that human. Nobody wants to look at that person and say, 'But why did this happen?' I'm fascinated by the why. Because in many ways, I am here today because of the why."

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See photos of Charlize Theron through the years:

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