Hollywood actress Charlize Theron was caught in the middle of an ugly brawl between a photographer and a mystery friend after the premiere of her latest movie MONSTER on Wednesday night (17DEC03).

The South African beauty was at the VISCAYA LOUNGE in New York, when a man in her party objected to Brazilian paparazzo LAURA GIANNONI trying to take her picture, according to New York news website PAGE SIX

Giannoni claims that the male friend kicked her in the leg, swore at her and then punched her before leaving with Theron.

A spokesperson for bar owner BOBBY MALTA counter-claims the photographer spat in Theron's friend's face, which he retaliated to by grabbing her around the throat.

The spokesperson continues, "At that point, Charlize was clearly horrified. She wanted to be escorted out. So we escorted Charlize and her friend outside. The photographer continued to rant and rage. She was very upset. She went outside and hailed a police car. And we were happy to cooperate with them."

Giannoni denies she ever attacked Theron's friend, and has filed a police report over the incident, claiming he attacked her after she took a photo of the CIDER HOUSE RULES star without permission.

She says, "They took pictures of my face, but I can't press charges against the guy because I don't know who he is. I am distressed, depressed and tired."

Theron's spokeswoman did not return calls when contacted by Page Six.

19/12/2003 16:51