Charlize Theron owes her career to a late-night meltdown with her mom.

The Oscar winner, 34, whose romantic drama Burning Plain is in theaters now, opens up during her Quintessentially-sponsored NYC premiere.

What has been the defining moment of her life so far?

“I’ve had a few, I have to say,” the South African-born stunner tells me. “I remember at night, at like 2 in the morning, with my mom in the City in a basement on, like, 21st Street, crying my eyes out and eating four pints of ice cream because I couldn’t dance anymore, and my mom saying ‘well, why don’t you try acting?’ I mean … because of some crazy moment at 2 a.m. with Haagen-Dazs, I’m standing on a red carpet today.”

What does she hope to accomplish by the time she’s 40?

“Just to survive,” she laughs. “I’m not a big planner. I try to live every day like tomorrow might not come. Not that I succeed at that every day, but I try to think that way and not too far ahead.”

Charlize is not afraid to shill.

“I’m butt-naked in the movie,” she says. “I don’t care, as long as I get them into the theater. It’s for the [high-end accent] art.”

Burning Plain is in theaters now.

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