Occupation: Actress, Model
Date of Birth: February 9, 1979
Place of Birth: Newport, RI, USA
Sign: Sun in Aquarius, Moon in Cancer
Relations: Husband: Robert Brinkmann (cinematographer); mother: Candice (nurse); father: Ando (retired psychiatrist); has three older brothers
Education: Graduated from Providence High School in Burbank, Calif.
MENA SUVARI BROKE into Hollywood by lying. That is as simple as it gets!
"When I was 12, I lived in South Carolina and I got involved with a small modeling agency," Suvari told UniverCity Magazine. "Through the agency, I got into a big modeling convention. I lied and said I was 13, and I was signed to a big agency that summer."
The "big agency" in question was Wilhelmina, and Suvari's ruse resulted in a five-year modeling stint, during which she commuted back and forth between Ashley Hall, her all-girls middle school in Charleston, S.C., and New York. Eventually, though, it was that world-famous San Francisco treat that brought Suvari to the West Coast; she landed a gig in a Rice-a-Roni ad and headed, along with mom Candice and dad Ando, to Los Angeles. As their baby sister sought fame and fortune (and probably reaped a lifetime supply of that tasty grain dish) in Tinseltown, Suvari's three older brothers graduated from the Citadel and commenced careers in the Army.
Suvari, named for an Egyptian godmother and an Estonian river, dutifully made the requisite television rounds. She graced the set of Boy Meets World twice, once in 1995 and a second time in 1996, although not as the same character. She then hit the halls of ER and Chicago Hope, earning critical praise for her portrayal of an HIV-infected teen on the latter drama.
That same year, 1997, she joined such up-and-comers as Ryan Phillippe and Denise Richards in Nowhere, a movie touted as "90210 on acid." The title was chillingly prescient with regard to where the film was headed. Suvari crawled out from the wreckage unscathed, next appearing in the infinitely more successful 1997 thriller Kiss the Girls, which headlined Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.
The neophyte's SAG card remained full through 1998, but she didn't get the chance to really make an impression on audiences until The Rage: Carrie 2. Of her character, Lisa Parker, the doomed goth friend of the title character, Suvari said in an Entertainment Weekly interview, "I'm the coyote girl. That's what the boys called me."
A role as Rob Lowe’s daughter in the NBC mini-stinker Atomic Train somehow didn't derail Suvari's career, probably because a mere two months later, hormonal throngs flocked to theaters to catch a glimpse of the petite actress in American Pie. Something of a Porky's for Gen-Yers, Pie followed the trials and tribulations of four high-school boys in their attempts to lose their virginity before prom. At the sugarcoated core of the flick, Suvari's Heather teaches the jock of the quartet (Chris Klein) that love is more important than lust or lacrosse.
Suvari deftly side-stepped the typecasting pitfall of becoming the new millennium's Annette Funicello by winning the role of Angela, the nubile, self-absorbed cheerleader of Kevin Spacey’s dreams, in the Oscar-bedecked drama American Beauty.
"I was determined to get this role," Suvari declared in her UniverCity interview, adding that she had more than a little insight into the character. "I don't always brag about how everyone wants to f--k me, but I'm definitely flamboyant like [Angela] is." Suvari said, "I got to bring a lot of myself into it — the way she's kind of snotty and sassy and frisky. I had a lot of fun with it and let myself go." Behind the sexual bravado, though, Suvari noted that "like everyone else in the film, [Angela's] someone who's trying to find herself."
Beauty reaped numerous awards, including the Best Picture Oscar at the 2000 Academy Awards, a Best Actor Oscar for Spacey, and a Best Actress nod for lead actress Annette Bening. But while Academy members failed to acknowledge the film's younger stars, their British counterparts honored Suvari and co-stars Thora Birch and Wes Bentley with supporting actress and actor BAFTA nominations. For the record, Suvari and Birch lost to the legendary Maggie Smith (nominated for her performance in Tea With Mussolini), while Bentley lost to Talented Mister Ripley star Jude Law.
Having cut her heavy-duty acting chops, Suvari next returns to lighthearted fare with Sugar and Spice, a comedy that features her as a trailer-trash cheerleader who teams up with her fellow squadmates to rob banks. It was during the filming of Sugar that Suvari met cinematographer Robert Brinkmann, who is more than a decade and a half her senior. Perhaps taking a cue from her parents, who are 24 years apart in age, Suvari married Brinkmann in March 2000. The union was a well-kept secret until a fan outside the Independent Spirit Awards asked the Cable Guy lensman if he was Suvari's boyfriend. "No," he replied, "I'm her husband."
Suvari can also be seen later this year doing what she does best — portraying a pretty young thing mixed up with an older man. In Loser, coed Dora Diamond (Suvari) is duped by a college professor (Greg Kinnear) and then befriended by a campus dork (Pie co-star Jason Biggs). Amy Heckerling, of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless fame, directs.
"It's extremely surreal for me," Suvari confessed to the Toronto Sun about her heady and fast-won success. "I have so much to learn. Sometimes, I think about it and say, like, 'Why did this happen to me?' It's so mind-boggling."
1999 American Beauty
1999 American Pie
1999 The Rage: Carrie 2
1998 Live Virgin
1998 Slums of Beverly Hills
1998 Snide and Prejudice
1997 Kiss the Girls
1999 Atomic Train
1997 413 Hope St.
1997 Chicago Hope
1996 Minor Adjustments
1996 Boy Meets World
1996 High Incident
1995 Boy Meets World
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)