Charlize Theron Hancock

After "The Burning Plain," she did star in the would-be super hero tentpole "Hancock," although given how little she featured in the marketing campaign, it's hard to give her much credit for that film's success. And other than a brief, effective cameo in "The Road" the following year, she pretty much was absent from screens for three years, until her storming performance in last year's "Young Adult." And that film may be key: Theron's always shown a lack of vanity (see "Monster"), but her last three turns have all had one thing in common. Namely, that they're all unsympathetic roles that some actresses would shy from, and yet Theron revels in them, and manages to lace all three with a degree of humanity-- in 'Snow White' and "Prometheus," arguably more so than is present in the script.

It may also be that she's benefited from the lack of truly A-list actresses in Hollywood -- Angelina Jolie was approached for her parts in both "Prometheus" and "Snow White and the Huntsman," but was busy on her directorial debut, and there's only so many actresses you can go to after her. But as recently as two years ago, Theron was never mentioned as a possibility in the wide-ranging actress search for "Gravity," surely something that's changed now. Is she ready to challenge Jolie at the very top of the tree? Perhaps. She's isn't the lead in 'Huntsman,' "Prometheus" or "Fury Road," which helps to insulate her if they don't work, but at the same time, she'll take a certain amount of credit for their success ("Prometheus" is already looking promising if the international box office carries over to the U.S. this weekend).

What she needs to do to truly cement her return is to take the lead role of her own series or franchise. She's developing sci-fi picture "Agent 13" with "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" director Rupert Wyatt, but even that would see her take a supporting role to a male actor. However, another outlet for Theron seems to be producing, with her Denver & Delilah shingle developing several features and TV shows, including an HBO project with David Fincher and more recently, a contemporary version of the "Hatfields & McCoys" for television.

Clearly, we're just at the beginning of what we'll be seeing from Theron in coming years. And with 'Snow White' delivering at the box office and "Prometheus" looking to do big business as well, it looks like stardom's finally caught up with Charlize Theron, who will likely have more options and projects coming her way than ever before.