Charlize Theron named U.N. peace messenger

Actress will focus on ending violence against women

UNITED NATIONS -- The newest United Nations messenger of peace, Charlize Theron, made her name acting in hard-hitting movies about abused women, but she says audiences don't want to see that type of film.

Theron was appointed Monday a messenger of peace, with a special focus on ending violence against women. Her job will be to promote U.N. activities and ideals through public appearances and media contacts.

Theron, 33, won an Academy Award for her role in the 2003 movie "Monster," in which she played serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who came from a background of violence and abuse.

In the 2005 film "North Country," she played a woman who fights back against sexual harassment.

The South Africa-born actress told a news conference she welcomed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for Hollywood to make more films about social issues.

But she added: "I always find it interesting the pressure gets put on Hollywood when we really should be putting the pressure on society, because whenever we make these movies like 'North Country,' people don't go and see it.

"I think it's a much bigger issue than getting Hollywood to step in and make these films. I think we should be asking our public why, when we make these movies, do they not go and see them. That's the bigger question."

Theron was nominated for an Oscar for her role in "North Country," but the film was not a hit in theaters.

"I don't necessarily want to forget that my job as an actor is to entertain," she said. "But let me tell you, there's a tremendous feeling when you can do it with a sense of responsibility, a sense of truth, with a sense of greater truth, which is not necessarily always good to look at or nice to look at."

One in three women is likely to be beaten or abused during her lifetime, according to U.N. figures, and one in five women worldwide will become a victim of rape or attempted rape.

Theron has campaigned against rape in her native South Africa.

She had her own experience of domestic violence at 15, when her mother fatally shot her alcoholic father as he threatened the family in a drunken rage.

"People want to somehow always connect a personal issue with the greater scheme of your life," Theron said. "(But) I don't think it was necessarily one event in my life that made me want to do this kind of work."

The United Nations has 10 messengers of peace, mostly from the fields of film, music, literature and sports. They include actors George Clooney and Michael Douglas, author Paulo Coelho, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.