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Jena Malone started acting while still a child and has appeared in films including Bastard out of Carolina (1996) and Contact (1997).
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Born in Nevada in 1984, Jena Malone got her breakout acting role in Bastard out of Carolina (1996) when she was only 12 years old. She went on to appear in a number of hit films including Donnie Darko (2001), Contact (1997), Into the Wild (2007) and Sucker Punch (2011).
Actress. Jena Malone was born November 21, 1984 in Sparks, Nevada. The product of a one-night stand, Malone was raised by her mother, Debbie Malone, and her godmother – her mother's lover. Although she only met her father once, as a four-year-old, Malone says she did not miss the absence of a father figure: "The thing is, I had two loving parents. Love in any shape or form is a beautiful thing. I didn't grow up missing my father."
Malone's family was deeply impoverished throughout her childhood. Her mother, an aspiring actress and singer, struggled to maintain steady employment, and the family spent large chunks of time on welfare. They moved frequently around Lake Tahoe before moving to Las Vegas ("Can you imagine a worse place to raise a kid?") living in 27 different residences (including their car) by the time Malone turned nine years old. Inspired by her mother and the show business atmosphere of Las Vegas, Malone set her heart on acting at a very young age. She recalled, "We had only lived in Vegas nine months when I asked my mom if I could go to an acting class for my birthday. It cost 25 dollars."
One day, when Malone was nine years old, she asked her mother on a whim whether they could move to Hollywood and try to make it as actresses; much to her surprise, her mother agreed. "So she quit her job and we moved to L.A," Malone remembers. Miraculously, the plan hatched from the capricious impulses of a nine-year-old worked out almost immediately. Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, Jena Malone landed a role in a USC student film project called Sunday's Child, through which she met her manager Beverly Strong. Over the next several months, she also appeared in a Michael Jackson music video and a 1996 episode of the TV show Chicago Hope. Malone delivered her breakthrough performance later that same year in a film called Bastard Out of Carolina. Playing a physically and sexually abused young girl, Malone turned in a mature and riveting performance that earned her an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance.
After appearing in the TV movie Hidden in America (1996), Malone raised her profile with an acclaimed performance as the childhood version of Jodie Foster's character in Contact (1997). The 1998 film Stepmom, costarring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon, was enormously popular and established Malone as a household name amongst movie lovers. Also around this time she appeared in For the Love of the Game and various TV movies.
Despite her growing success as an actress, Malone faced increasing troubles in her personal life.
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