No mere also-ran from Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, the young Miss Lynskey is a force with whom to reckon.
Kate Winslet's name pops first to mind at the mention of Peter Jackson's 1994 stunner, Heavenly Creatures. But that cult classic about a pair of killer adolescents also marked an indelible screen bow for Melanie Lynskey, a then-16-year-old New Zealand high schooler chosen over 600 other contenders.
"Making that movie, working with brilliant Peter and amazing Kate, were like gifts from God," says Lynskey, today a captivating, petite 21-year-old with a winning Down Under twang, What Lynskey found out, though, was that even heavenly gifts exact a price. "Right after all the wonderful attention for Heavenly, I spent three long months in Hollywood auditioning with skinny gorgeous, terrifying girls. Casting directors would look me over, sigh and say, "You were so good in that movie, but I don't know what else to do with you.' I got fixated on how I looked, whether I was thin enough or my face was too wide. It was awful."
After missing out on such hoped-for projects as The Crucible, Scream and Cousin Bette, Lynskey returned to New Zealand, and to a new variety of doubt: "Acting was all I'd ever wanted to do, but after an amazing director for whom I was auditioning told me, 'I'm getting nothing from you. Something's destroyed you,' I broke down crying, saying, 'I've just had the worst time in Hollywood.' She advised me, 'Go away for three months and reclaim yourself.'" So that's what Lynskey did mixing practical strategies like voice lessons and a healthier diet with soul-searching.
Lynskey then came back to Hollywood, and after playing Drew Barrymore's unwicked stepsister in the revisionist fairy tale Ever After: A Cinderella Story, she got her footing. She'll next turn up opposite Edward Furlong in the comic road adventure Detroit Rock City, in which she plays a Cleveland girl who does the nasty in a church confessional en route to a big, climactic KISS reunion show. "That scene won't dispel the fears of my grandmother who says, 'The movies have changed you, Melanie. But its more of a teen movie than a KISS movie. When I got cast, I called my best friend saying, 'I'm doing a movie about KISS, those guys with their tongues out, but I don't think I even want to know their music. It turns out I knew their music, I just hadn't put it together with those costumes and that makeup."
With her career nicely heated up, Lynskey has chosen to live in London with her Welsh actor boyfriend, Andrew Howard, whom she met while both were shooting a movie version of The Cherry Orchard. "Some actors only like doing what they know they're good at, but not me," she concludes. "I want to be like Julianne Moore and get to do things that scare me--and keep on doing them until I'm very old."