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It was unclear which fact was more extraordinary about Anna Paquin - that she won an Academy Award at age 11 for her performance in "The Piano" (1993), or after her win, that she had no plans to continue acting. Movieg rs were thankful for her later change of heart, as the Canadian actress continued to give thoughtful, complex and occasionally seductive turns as an adult in a wide variety of projects ranging from big-budget blockbusters like the "X-Men" franchise to independent fare like Noah Bambauch's "The Squid and the Whale" (2005). But it was her foray onto the small screen that allowed for her most compelling performances, particularly as a 19th-century schoolteacher who campaigns for Native American rights in the Emmy-winning miniseries, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (HBO, 2007), for which she received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Paquin also shined in her first regular series television role, playing barmaid and telepath Sookie Stackhouse on Alan Ball's acclaimed "True Blood" (HBO, 2008-14), which only added to an already impressive career for the young actress.Born Anna Helene Paquin in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on July 24, 1982, Paquin's parents were natives of New Zealand, and the...
It was unclear which fact was more extraordinary about Anna Paquin - that she won an Academy Award at age 11 for her performance in "The Piano" (1993), or after her win, that she had no plans to continue acting. Movieg rs were thankful for her later change of heart, as the Canadian actress continued to give thoughtful, complex and occasionally seductive turns as an adult in a wide variety of projects ranging from big-budget blockbusters like the "X-Men" franchise to independent fare like Noah Bambauch's "The Squid and the Whale" (2005). But it was her foray onto the small screen that allowed for her most compelling performances, particularly as a 19th-century schoolteacher who campaigns for Native American rights in the Emmy-winning miniseries, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (HBO, 2007), for which she received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Paquin also shined in her first regular series television role, playing barmaid and telepath Sookie Stackhouse on Alan Ball's acclaimed "True Blood" (HBO, 2008-14), which only added to an already impressive career for the young actress.
Born Anna Helene Paquin in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on July 24, 1982, Paquin's parents were natives of New Zealand, and the family - which included her older siblings Andrew and Kate - relocated to that country when she was four. Acting was, for all intents and purposes, started out as a bit of a lark for Paquin. She attended the audition for "The Piano" simply because her sister was going, and her earliest interests focused more on music (she played cello and piano) and sports than performing. But casting directors for the Jane Campion period drama saw something in then nine-year-old's audition, and thus, cast her as Holly Hunter's daughter over 5,000 other hopefuls.
The choice was an inspired one. Paquin delivered a mature and moving performance as Flora, who speaks for her silent and headstrong mother's sign language and later provides the undoing for her affair with wild New Zealander Harvey Keitel. Audiences and critics certainly agreed. The picture, which was envisioned as a modest art picture, was a box office success, and the 11-year-old Paquin was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1994. To the surprise of many, she won the award, which made her the second youngest actress to win an Academy Award, after Tatum O'Neal in "Paper Moon" (1973). Her acceptance speech, marked by a near 30-second moment of breathless silence, charmed many viewers.
Paquin's career might have stopped after this momentous occasion. She had relocated to Los Angeles, CA with her mother following her parents' divorce, and was devoting more attention to her studies than to future film roles. Offers flooded in after the Oscar win, but Paquin steadfastly refused all until Franco Zefferelli offered her the chance to play a young Jane Eyre in his 1996 film version of the Charlotte Bronte novel. Paquin's performance proved that her Oscar win was no fluke. She began to slowly build a film career based on interesting characters rather than high-profile projects. She played a young girl who helps raise a flock of Canadian geese in the endearing children's' drama "Fly Away Home" (1996) for director Carroll Ballard, and earned an impressive cameo in Stephen Spielberg's "Amistad" (1997) as Isabella II, Queen of Spain. While shooting the latter project in Canada, she traveled to Montreal to shoot five television commercials for a telephone company in her former hometown of Winnipeg.
As Paquin grew into her teens, her roles matured with her; she was a seductive runaway "gifted" to a drug-addled Sean Penn and Kevin Spacey by Garry Shandling in the film version of David Rabe's "Hurlybury" (1998), and played the daughter of Diane Lane's mom on the verge in "A Walk on the Moon" (1999). Not one to be typecast, Paquin also ventured into the teen movie subgenre with the likable "She's All That" (1999), starring as the younger sister of BMOC Freddie Prinze, Jr., who provides advice on how to woo offbeat high schooler Rachel Leigh Cook.
In 2000, Paquin graduated high school and stepped into the Hollywood blockbuster machine by taking the role of Rogue, a teenage mutant who can absorb the powers and even the life out of her fellow advanced humans, in the film version of the influential comic book, "X-Men" (2000). The film was a colossal success, earning Paquin nominations from the Saturn Awards, MTV Movie Awards, and Blockbuster Entertainment Awards. Not surprisingly, she revisited the character in its two sequels, "X2: X-Men United" (2003), which saw Rogue joining the X-Men as a full-time member, and the underwhelming "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006), which showed Rogue accepting a controversial cure for her mutant abilities.
The year 2000 proved to be one of Paquin's busiest years, both on and off-screen. Not only did she begin studies at Columbia University - taking leave after one year to pursue her acting career - but she appeared in two other major films - Cameron Crowe's much-loved "Almost Famous" (as one of the "Band-Aid" groupies), and "Finding Forrester" (as a college board member's daughter who aids an inner city student's transition into Ivy League life). Theater offered new opportunities, with the actress making her stage debut in a 2001 production of "The Glory of Living," which brought her a Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk nomination.
Quality film projects outside the "X-Men franchise" proved somewhat elusive for the next few years. "Buffalo Soldiers" (2001), an Army comedy with Joaquin Ph nix and Ed Harris, was pulled from release due to the events of September 11 of that year, vanishing without a trace after theater dates later in the year. A second picture made that year, the Spanish horror film "Darkness," did not see the light of day until 2004 and sank at the box office, due to poor promotion and reviews. Undaunted, she returned to the stage - this time in London for the West End production of "This Is Our Youth" in 2002.
Paquin next co-starred with Edward Norton in Spike Lee's "25th Hour" (2002) as a college student who provides a tempting distraction for professor Philip Seymour Hoffman. She kept away from the big screen - save for providing a voice for the English-language dub of the acclaimed Japanese anime feature "Steamboy" in 2005 - until 2005, when she played a role similar to her "25th Hour" character in the critically lauded and Oscar-nominated "The Squid and the Whale." In this film, the professorial object of her affections is dissolute author Jeff Daniels, who allows her to share his home with his two sons after his divorce from Laura Linney.
Paquin returned for the third "X-Men" installment in 2006, prior to making her debut as executive producer on "Blue State" (2006), a comedy filmed in her former home town of Winnipeg and starring Breckin Meyer as a Democrat who makes good on his promise to abandon the United States for Canada if George W. Bush is re-elected. Paquin, who co-produced the film with her brother Andrew, played Meyer's companion for the road trip north. The independent feature was released in 2007, the same year Paquin took on the role of Elaine Goodale in "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" for HBO. The role, based on the real-life p t and Indian rights advocate who married a Sioux doctor and bore witness to many of the tragedies that befell Native Americans at the end of the 19th century, made excellent use of Paquin's soulful nature and earned her nods from both the Emmy and Golden Globe awards.
Paquin remained busy after her success with "Wounded Knee" with a string of edgy projects, including Kenneth Lonergan's drama "Margaret" (2007), for which she was top-billed; the horror film "Trick 'r Treat" (2008), and the HBO series "True Blood" (2008-14), in which she starred as author Charlaine Harris' Gothic heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, whose supernatural pedigree made her a target by all manner of night creatures. Paquin found herself in Golden Globes contention once again when she was nominated for and won the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama in 2009. Later that year, she earned a second Golden Globe nod for her work on "True Blood," as well as her portrayal of Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker who smuggled Jewish children to safety during World War II, in the made-for-television movie, "The Courageous Heart of Irena" (CBS, 2009). In early 2010, Paquin made news for declaring that she was bisexual while recording a public service announcement for the True Colors Fund, a nonprofit organization founded by Cyndi Lauper to support the LGBT community.
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