Family & Companions
Actress-model Mena Suvari may have begun her career as a doe-eyed ingénue, but she soon proved herself not only willing, but capable of taking on grittier roles in projects both large and small. Rocketing to stardom with high-profile roles in two of the year's biggest films - "American Pie" (1999) and "American Beauty" (1999) - the 20-year-old actress suddenly found herself in the precarious position of being one of Hollywood's hottest properties. There was, of course, the requisite sequel "American Pie 2" (2001), although impressive work in films like "Spun" (2002) and a recurring role on "Six Feet Under" (HBO, 2001-05) did much to dispel any misconceptions about a perceived lack of depth. Nonetheless, the danger of playing against expectations bore itself out as Suvari struggled to find her footing over the ensuing years in a hodgepodge of films that included the thrillers "Trauma" (2004) and "Stuck" (2008), neither of which approached the commercial or critical success of her earlier efforts. Guest turns on television series like "Psych" (USA Network, 2006-14) and "American Horror Story" (FX, 2011- ), gradually filled out periods between feature film projects, including a return to the raunchy comedy franchise that started it all with "American Reunion" (2012). Although never forgetting her lighthearted roots, Suvari had grown as an actress considerably over the course of the decade, and sought to demonstrate her dexterity as a performer in a wide array of roles in any number of genres.
Mena Suvari was born on Feb. 2, 1979 in wealthy Newport, RI to her Estonian-American father Ando, a psychiatrist, and her Greek-American mother, Candice, a nurse. The couple relocated Suvari and her three brothers to South Carolina, where the boys enrolled at the prestigious Citadel Military Academy and the academic daughter dreamed of becoming a doctor or an astronaut until a chance visit by a modeling agency to her girl's school altered her course. Signed by the Wilhelmina modeling agency in New York City, the youngster spent several years traveling up and down the East Coast to attend fashion shoots. When Suvari was 12, the family moved to California, where she landed her first TV commercials and guest spots on shows like "Boy Meets World" (ABC, 1993-2000), "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) and "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000). She made her film debut with a small role in the third installment of writer-director Gregg Araki's Los Angeles-set teenage wasteland trilogy "Nowhere" (1997), and followed up with another decidedly unglamorous role in "Snide and Prejudice" (1997) as a young girl abused by her uncle (Angus Macfadyen) a schizophrenic who believes he is Adolf Hitler.
Following a brief appearance in the thriller "Kiss the Girls" (1997), Suvari had another small role in the wry comedy "The Slums of Beverly Hills" (1998) alongside future "American Pie" co-star Natasha Lyonne. Her role as the suicidal best friend of a telekinetic time bomb in "The Rage: Carrie 2" (1999) was overshadowed by a co-starring role as a wholesome choir girl who wins the heart of amiable jock Oz (Chris Klein) in the surprisingly good teen romp "American Pie" (1999) that same year. Touted as "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982) for a new generation, the enjoyable film fell somewhat short of that claim, though Suvari's performance revealed a unique screen presence reminiscent of a young Jennifer Jason Leigh. Trumping her ensemble role in "Pie," she followed up with a critically lauded dramatic role as an entirely different kind of suburban teen in "American Beauty." With her brilliant characterization of Angela - a delusional yet sophisticated amateur model whose manufactured sexual bravado proves devastating for a husband suffering a midlife crisis (Kevin Spacey) - the actress proved that she had emotional depths yet to be fully explored on screen. Her scenes depicting Spacey's fantasies - naked and covered with rose petals - became one of the most iconic film images of the decade.
Suvari's next role was alongside "American Pie" star Jason Biggs in "Loser" (2000), director Amy Heckerling's college-set romantic comedy where she essayed an undergraduate with a persistent crush on her professor (Greg Kinnear). She next joined the ensemble of the black comedy "Sugar and Spice" (2001), as one of a group of close-knit cheerleaders whose fierce loyalty in the face of adversity leads to a dangerous and bizarre life of crime. Suvari returned for an abbreviated role in the sequel "American Pie 2" (2001) then continued to explore her interest in more offbeat material by portraying a speed freak in the derivative drug flick "Spun" (2002), co-starring Jason Schwartzman, Mickey Rourke and Brittany Murphy. In 2004, Suvari reteamed with "American Beauty" screenwriter Alan Ball on the fourth season of his hit HBO creation, "Six Feet Under" (HBO, 2001-05), as a daring performance artist who strikes up a provocative relationship with series regular Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose). The same year, she shared an onscreen romance with Colin Firth's recovering coma patient in the stylish psychological thriller "Trauma" (2004).
For the screen adaptation of David Mamet's "Edmond" (2005), Suvari played a small but pivotal role as a prostitute in the episodic story of one man's (William H. Macy) journey of self-discovery and destruction. She was seen by somewhat wider audiences in director Tony Scott's hyperkinetic pseudo-biopic "Domino" (2005), playing the assistant to a television producer in the based-in-fact chronicle of a model-turned-bounty hunter (Keira Knightley). She was an unexpected addition to the ensemble cast of the Queen Latifah vehicle "Beauty Shop" (2005), although it was one of her more successful feature films in recent years. Working steadily, she took on a supporting role in the Jennifer Aniston comedy "Rumor Has It" (2005), a gimmicky riff on the movie classic "The Graduate" (1967) that failed to live up to its inspiration, despite a strong cast and director Rob Reiner. Follow-up comedies "Caffeine" (2006) and "Standing Still" (2006) began a trend of direct-to-DVD projects.
Suvari delivered a strong performance in "Stuck" (2007), a darkly comedic thriller in which she played a high-as-a-kite nursing worker who hits a homeless man with her car and leaves him embedded in her windshield to die in her garage. Sticking with dark material, she also starred in a remake of George Romero's gory zombie classic "Day of the Dead" (2008). A poorly received adaptation of Michael Chabon's "Mysteries of Pittsburgh" (2008), featuring Suvari as the eccentric girlfriend of an aimless young man (Jon Foster), hit the festival circuit early that same year, as did an interpretation of Ernest Hemingway's erotic drama "Garden of Eden" (2008), for which Suvari cropped her lustrous blonde locks. After a pair of guest turns in episodes of the crime-comedy "Psych" (USA Network, 2006-14) and the modern gothic "American Horror Story" (FX, 2011- ), Suvari reconnected with her old school chums ten years later in "American Reunion" (2012).
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
First acting roles, appeared on "Boy Meets World" (ABC) and "Minor Adjustments" (UPN)
Played the recurring role of brash Sergeant Jim Marsh's daughter on ABC's "High Incident"
Played a young girl abused by her uncle Adolf in Philippe Mora's "Snide and Prejudice"
Film debut in Gregg Araki's "Nowhere"
Appeared in episodes of the medical dramas "ER" (NBC) and "Chicago Hope" (CBS)
Acted opposite Natasha Lyonne in "The Slums of Beverly Hills"
Played virginal choir girl Heather in the Weitz brothers' ensemble comedy "American Pie"
Played the only friend of a lonely girl with telekinetic powers in "The Rage: Carrie 2"
Portrayed Kevin Spacey's fantasy object, seductive cheerleader Angela, in Sam Mendes' "American Beauty"
Played Rob Lowe's rebellious teenage daughter in the NBC disaster miniseries "Atomic Train"
Co-starred with "American Pie" veteran Jason Biggs in Amy Heckerling's college-set comedy "Loser"
Co-starred in Francine McDougall's crime comedy "Sugar & Spice"
Played the female lead opposite Justin Chambers in "The Musketeer"
Co-starred with Jason Schwartzman and Mickey Rourke in "Spun"
Landed recurring role as a fellow art student of Claire Fisher's on the HBO series "Six Feet Under"; earned a Screen Actors Guild nomination
Cast opposite Keira Knightley in "Domino," about model-turned-bounty hunter Domino Harvey
Played Jennifer Aniston's younger sister in Rob Reiner's "Rumor Has It..."
Appeared in the comedy "Beauty Shop," starring Queen Latifah
Co-starred in the indie comedy "Standing Still"
Co-starred with Freddie Prinze Jr. in Michael Corrente's "Brooklyn Rules"
Shaved her head to play the lead role in the feature adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "The Garden of Eden"
Appeared in the film version of Michael Chabon's novel "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh"
Played Elizabeth Short, the infamous Black Dahlia on the first season of "American Horror Story" (FX)
Reprised role of Heather along with original cast in "American Reunion"