Charlize Theron, comp

There's one person who's pretty much inescapable in movie theaters at the moment, and that's Charlize Theron. Last weekend, she was the evil queen Ravenna in "Snow White and the Huntsman," and this weekend, she's the biggest name (although not the biggest part) among the ensemble cast of "Prometheus" -- a film that she was originally pegged to play the lead in. And in a few weeks, she'll start filming on the long-gestating "Fury Road," George Miller's return to the "Mad Max" world. Between those three, she's become the queen of the blockbuster world, and with a performance in "Young Adult" that might have been her most widely acclaimed ever, Theron's as big a star as she's ever been.

But curiously, it's taken a little time for it to happen. Theron's been a familiar presence on screen for fifteen years now, since breaking through in "2 Days In The Valley" and "The Devil's Advocate," and it's a decade since she won a Best Actress Oscar for "Monster," which looked to make her a megastar. But while there were highpoints over the last few years, there have been more hits than misses. So what happened, then?

"Aeon Flux"
Paramount "Aeon Flux"

Well, a lot of it likely comes down to the failure of "Aeon Flux." The adaptation of the MTV animated series was the first major project Theron signed on to after "Monster," and it was a fairly canny move at the time, we suppose. It gave Theron a chance to remind everyone that she wasn't just the character from "Monster" with a cat-suited action role, and the possibility of a new franchise, and one with a female director, no less, in the shape of Karyn Kusama. Unfortunately, the film was a gaudy, poorly scripted mess and a significant box office flop. Rather than accepting that the film was poor, prognosticators decided that Theron (and female-driven actioners in general) wasn't a draw, and it became harder for her to get films financed afterwards, even with a second Oscar nod for "North Country" and a hilarious guest star run in "Arrested Development" in the same year.

It didn't help that her smaller projects didn't quite land either. She practically moved mountains in a fairly thankless role in "Crash" director Paul Haggis' vastly underrated "In The Valley Of Elah." The film was rejected by audiences, as were many of the Iraq-war themed pictures around the same time. She'd earlier co-starred with her then-boyfriend Stuart Townsend in "Head In The Clouds" and would later appear in his directorial debut, "Battle in Seattle," and again, neither received very good reviews or many eyes on them, although they look like "Avatar" next to Bill Maher's "Sleepwalking" or Guillermo Arriaga's "The Burning Plain," both of which barely received much of a theatrical release in 2008 (it's tempting to note that the end of her relationship with Townsend in 2010 seems to coincide with a new hunger to work).