Charlize Theron, who has mainly acted in big-studio movies, has been awarded the Los Angeles Film Festival's Spirit of Independence award.

"She is a big movie star," said awards director Dawn Hudson at Wednesday night's ceremony. "But what we love about her is that she's made interesting choices in her career. She's taken on challenging roles in her career when other movie stars don't."

Theron's films range from her Oscar-winning portrayal of Aileen Wuornos in 2003's low-budget "Monster" to last year's big-studio flop "Aeon Flux."

Theron, 30, told AP Television News that she takes roles in both independent and studio movies because there are audiences for each.

"I think the biggest misconception about independent filmmaking is that if you do those movies, you'll always be thought of as that kind of actor," she said. "And then you don't get to do the other things. And it's not true."

Moviegoers were introduced to Theron in 1996's "2 Days in the Valley." By 1999, she was a headliner, starring in the Oscar-nominated "The Cider House Rules." Her screen credits also include "The Italian Job" and "North Country."

During Wednesday night's ceremony, Theron recounted her life and career. She began as a model in her native South Africa before coming to the United States with the Joffrey Ballet.

Theron — wearing a short brown dress and Manolo Blahnik shoes — said she wasn't a great dancer, "but if you put me on a stage and told me I was a swan and that I was dying, I ... died."

The award came one day after Theron hosted a silent auction that raised about $140,000 for her African Outreach Project. Among the items: a bra she wore in "Monster."

"I outbid the person who bid on the bra, and I feel horrible to admit that now," she said. "But it was just too special to me and I find myself incredibly sexy in it."