Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Bithday Mena (Suvari)!

Ms Mena

With Thora

American Beauty

"Carrie II"

"American Pie"

"Sugar & Spice"

With William Macy in "Edmond"

Bikini... enough said

Climbing the Swiss Alps

This morning it is my great pleasure and honor to wish happy birthday to one of my favorite actresses, Ms. Mena Suvari!
Mena Alexandra (or Adrienne, which ever you prefer) Suvari was born very early in life in Newport, Rhode Island, where Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy used to hang out in the summer. According to who you talk to her first name comes from either a British Aunt, or an Egyptian godmother, who were named after a five star hotel in Egypt, the Mena House Oberoi, which is located in Giza, right near where the big pyramids are. No one knows where the hotel got its name.
No one.
Her dad, Ando, was an Estonian-American psychiatrist, and her Greek-American mother, Candice, a nurse. Mena, her parents, and her three older brothers lived in a old house that was haunted. Many do. The ghosts were very nice though, Mena has said. Still, living in a haunted house can be a little disconcerting (no privacy), so the family packed up and moved to South Carolina, as many do. The boys went to the prestigious Citadel Military Academy, and the studious daughter wanted to be either a doctor, astronaut, or an archaeologist, until a modeling agency stopped by her all-girls school and kidnaped her when she was 12 years old. She was signed by the Wilhelmina modeling agency in New York City and spent several years traveling up and down the East Coast to attend fashion shoots. When she was 13 she appeared in a "Rice-A-Roni (the San Francisco treat) commercial.
The family moved to Los Angeles, and Mena attended Providence High School in Burbank, and graduated in 1997.
Much like her character in "American Beauty," Angela Hayes, Mena was interested in a career in show business, and when she was just 16 years old, before she finished high school, she began appearing in guest roles on the television shows of the time, like "Boys Meet World," "Minor Adjustments," and "ER."
Mena broke into feature films in 1997's "Nowhere." A low budget film with a great cast, about crazy high school kids. Along with Mena, there was James Duval, Debi Mazar, Jordan Ladd, Ryan Phillippe, Heather Graham, Traci Lords, Shannen Doherty, Rose McGowan, Beverly D'Angelo, and Christina Applegate as "Dingbat," fresh off "Married with Children." I must see this movie.
She went on to play a small role in one of the Morgan Freeman/Ashley Judd thrillers, "Kiss the Girls," which I've seen numerable times but can't remember seeing her. I shall have to look harder I suppose. Next she was cast in a supporting role in the independent dramedy "Slums of Beverly Hills," which was released in 1998, and which I like quite a bit, but still can't remember seeing her in it (what's the matter with me?!). I remember Alan Arkin. I remember Marisa Tomei (who can forget?!), and I certainly remember Natasha Lyonne, who as chance would have it, would appear with Mena in another film the very next year, called "American Pie."
1999 was a banner year for Mena. She began her "patriotic phase" (In fact, in 2000 the Entertainment Weekly magazine named her the "most patriotic artist," of that year). She started this off by being cast in that year's Academy Award for Best Picture winning film, "American Beauty," along with Kevin Spacey (Best Actor), Annette Bening (robbed), Thora Birch, and Chris Cooper. The movie was a huge critical and financial success. It cost 15 million to produce, raked in a total of 130 million in the U.S., and 226 million worldwide, for a total of $356,000,000.00. Not a bad return on the initial investment. Here's a clip featuring Mena:
To say the film changed the career's of almost everyone involved would be an understatement. All of the main actors in the film have consistently worked since it was released. The director, Sam Mendes, won the Best Director award for his first feature. Annette, although nominated for Best Actress, lost to Hilary Swank in "Boys Don't Cry." Still she's nominated again for last year's "The Kids are Alright," which we'll find out about later this month. For Mena, she gained international attention for her performance (as did Thora, whose mother is the wonderful 1970's actress, Carol Connors, a favorite of mine), and received a BAFTA Award (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and was also nominated for the "Favorite Actress - Newcomer" at the 2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards ( before Blockbuster went bankrupt).
Still in 1999 she made two other films. "The Rage: Carrie 2," a sequel to the 1976 horror film classic "Carrie," in which Mena plays the protagonists best friend who commits suicide by jumping off a roof. She continued her patriotic bent by appearing in that year's teenage sex comedy, "American Pie," which was also a huge success. It cost 11 million to make, brought in $102.5 million in the States, and almost $134 million worldwide, for a grand total of $235,483,004.00. This film also began a popular franchise with two other films coming later, one of them being 2001's "American Pie 2," in which Mena appeared. But before that, in 2002, Mena got her first lead role in "American Virgin," with Robert Loggia. This would conclude her "American" movies... for the time being.
Ms. Suvari has continued her amazing career in films such as "Loser," with Jason Biggs (American Pie), "Sugar & Spice," with some of my other favorite actresses, Alexandra Holden, Marla Sokoloff, Marley Shelton, and Melissa George (who I'm secretly in love with because of what she said in "Dark City," "Shoot," instead of some other expletive). The film concerns a bunch of teenage cheerleaders who rob a bank, which almost anyone can relate to.
Mena has also appeared in "Spun," with our late friend Brittany Murphy, "Sonny," with this year's Best Actor nominee, James Franco, and directed by Nicholas Cage. She starred in another film with another Best Actor Nominee for this year, Colin Firth, in 2004's "Trauma." She returned to television that year with a recurring role in the HBO drama, "Six Feet Under," which was produced by the writer of "American Beauty," Alan Ball.
She has appeared in "Beauty Shop," with Dana Owens, better known as Queen Latifah, and Alicia Silverstone. She was cast in 2006's "Factory Girl," a biographical film concerning Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol. In 2007 Mena played a character based on the very real murderer Chante Jawan Mallard, who hit a homeless man with her car in 2001 who became stuck in her windshield and instead of driving him to a hospital she took him to her house and let him die in her garage, in the film "Stuck." She battles those crazy zombies on speed for the third and final remake installment of George Romero's Dead series of films (each original film being produced in a different decade, 1968, 1978, 1985), "Day of the Dead."
Love those zombies!
In 2008 she also performed in a film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's ninth novel, "The Garden of Eden," which has nothing to do with the Garden of Eden. Here's a short interview with Mena wherein she talkes about her entire career up to this point:
"You May Not Kiss The Bride," starring Mena, Vinnie Jones, Rob Schneider, Katharine McPhee, a comedy, will be released sometime this year.
Another poker player, Mena is also involved with charities concerned with breast cancer, violence against women, and she tours high schools as a "Circle Of Friends" spokesperson, encouraging kids to quit smoking. All honorable causes to be sure.
Last June she got married for the second time to Italian-Canadian concert promoter, Simone Sestito. Now she can go to concerts for free.
Mena used to live in Venice, California, by the beach, but no one knows where she lives now. She could literally be anywhere.
And... everyone here at Joyce's Take wishes her continued good health and fortune, and a very happy birthday!
Happy birthday Mena!

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