A director with a remarkable grasp of characterization and emotional depth, Patty Jenkins stunned audiences in 2003 with her powerful debut feature, Monster. Based on the life of convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos (played by a virtually unrecognizable Charlize Theron), Monster not only offered a thoughtful, compelling take of the killer's tragic life, but also served to showcase Jenkins as a true talent to watch for. By the tender age of six, Jenkins had pretty much traversed the globe due to her father's status as a fighter pilot; when it came time for Jenkins to pursue her higher education, she set her sights on Cooper Union. Though she hadn't really considered a career in film to this point, her creativity and interest in painting certainly pointed to a career in the arts, and Jenkins' interest in film was soon piqued. Following in the footsteps of such acclaimed filmmakers as David Lynch, Jenkins was soon accepted into the Experimental Film Program at the American Film Institute, despite an ever-increasing interest in creating narrative films. In 2001, a pair of short films, Just Drive and Velocity Rules (the recipient of the Warner Bros. Production Grant), began attracting attention to the young director.
After watching an interview with Aileen Wuornos on television, Jenkins began corresponding with the convicted killer. Though she was upfront about her intentions of making a film based on Wuornos' life, Jenkins lacked an actress capable of convincingly portraying the controversial figure. She got past this difficult obstacle when she turned on the television late one sleepless night and noticed Theron's harrowing performance in The Devil's Advocate. Jenkins immediately knew that Theron was the woman for the part, and though it did take some convincing, Theron was drawn to the solid script and the director's uncompromising vision. Aided by documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield (who had directed two documentaries on Wuornos), Jenkins and Theron soon had a good feel for Wuornos' physical nuances, and it wasn't long before the cameras were rolling. Released to great critical acclaim in 2003, Monster earned star Theron an Oscar for Best Actress and pointed to great things to come for first-time director Jenkins.