“Hey, sorry I’m late!” shouts Anna Paquin, 23, after bounding toward a café in Manhattan’s East Village. It’s 3:02 p.m. and the interview appointment was for 3 p.m. No, Paquin is no inconsiderate Hollywood diva and her dozen-year-old honour as the second-youngest Oscar winner (after Tatum O’Neal) hasn’t given her attitude. “I look like crap,” she says with an apologetic smile. Nothing could be further from the truth, yet she persists, explaining that she’s in the middle of moving. “I haven’t washed my hair in several days.”
Apparently, this is her only chance to pack due to a hectic itinerary; just around the corner is the May 26 launch of her new movie, X-Men: The Last Stand, an estimated $150-million comic-book fantasia about mutant superheroes who are battling a cure for genetic mutations. In all three X-Men editions, Paquin plays the vampirish Rogue, a heroine who has a white streak in her hair and a deadly touch. It’s an unusually commercial role for an actor who usually likes taking on films such as Almost Famous and Buffalo Soldiers (in which she acted alongside Joaquin Phoenix and Ed Harris). Even back in 1996, Franco Zeffirelli directed her as the young Jane Eyre and, in the same year, in Fly Away Home she adopted a flock of Canadian geese. But when you have a chance to save the world in the company of Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Patrick Stewart, and when the salary will score you a cooler apartment than you might own as one of the stars of The Squid and the Whale and The Dark, why refuse?
Born in Winnipeg and raised in New Zealand, Paquin hit the ground running at nine when she was picked out of an open call to costar in Jane Campion’s dreamlike art film The Piano. Two years later, in 1994, there at the Oscars stood Paquin, a waif in a beaded cap, making a bewildered, unrehearsed acceptance speech. With no professional experience, she had played a 19th-century Scottish child whose mute mother (Holly Hunter) is forced into an arranged marriage. Throughout the movie Paquin’s eyes well with anger, defiance and vulnerability. Her face would be called “unnerving”; her pauses, “scene-stealing.” She’s barely been out of work since.
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