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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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As a child actress she did not have legal rights to her earnings, some of which went to her mother while the rest were stowed away in trust funds. When Malone discovered that her mother had lost most of her money on "investments" in the nonexistent business plans of relatives and that she did not have enough left over to pay her taxes, she filed for emancipation so that she could gain access to her trust funds. Malone received her legal emancipation in early 2000,
at the age of 15. "Financially I had come to a sink or swim situation," she said. "I ran into some strange tax problems, and the only way out of them was to get to my trust fund."
Despite these financial and family issues, Malone continued to excel professionally. She appeared opposite Jake Gyllenhaal and Mary McDonnell in the 2001 film Donnie Darko, which developed a large and fervently devoted cult following. In 2003, Malone again teamed with Jodie Foster in the Catholic school comedy The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, and a year later she played a leading role opposite Mandy Moore and Macaulay Culkin in Saved! Gradually making the transition from child star to mature actress, she appeared in small but key roles in the highly acclaimed films Cold Mountain (2003), Pride & Prejudice (2005), Into the Wild (2007) and The Soloist (2009). Most recently, in March 2011, she starred in the action-fantasy film Sucker Punch.
Malone is unmarried and does not have children.
Having successfully weathered the transition from child star to mature actress, Jena Malone is at once a seasoned veteran and an up-and-coming actress whose career appears to be only just taking off. While she has been working nonstop from the age of nine and has been a legal adult since the age of 15, Malone retains a youthful optimism and faith in humanity that shines through in all of her roles. "What motivates me in life is not being scared," she says. "We all start out wanting to know the world. We see it through unjaded eyes. I think unjaded eyes are what we should all continue to look through."
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