Jena Malone talks about her life as a child star

Are the kids okay? is Yahoo Entertainment’s video interview series exploring the impact of show business on the development and well-being of former child artists, from triumphs to trauma.

If the entertainment industry were a school, Jena Malone would have already graduated several times, having accumulated more than 80 credits, in films such as Stepmother, For the love of the game and Donnie Darkosince the mid-1990s. And again…

“I never stopped feeling like a kid in Hollywood,” she told Yahoo Entertainment. “But there’s, like, the moment where you have your first romantic scene or something that’s not a teenage experience. I think it’s not necessarily about the project. It’s about what you’re going through, when you start to go into your femininity or your masculinity or whatever, just go into yourself in a deeper way, out of the child’s perspective. It starts to add resonance to everything you do.

Malone considers The messenger, a 2009 drama she did with Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster and Samantha Morton, was that moment for her. She plays the girlfriend of a US Army staff sergeant on leave after the war in Iraq. The well-reviewed film hit theaters in November 2009, the month Malone turned 25.

She had started acting at age 10 – she knew she wanted to by age 5 – first appearing in Michael Jackson’s ‘You Are Not Alone’ video and a 1996 episode of Chicago Hope. In the same year, she starred as a little girl who experiences physical and sexual abuse in Carolina Bastard, for which she was nominated for a SAG Award. And the jobs kept coming, including the role of Susan Sarandon and Ed Harris’ daughter Anna in 1998. Stepmother. They had separated and the character of Harris saw that of Julia Roberts, who Anna resented at first. It was a success.

Julia Roberts and Jena Malone star in ‘Stepmom’ in 1998. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

“I think I was around 12 when I started getting recognition,” Malone says. “I think it was Stepmother it really changed that moment for me. I’m glad I experienced that when I was little, because then I was able to have a bigger conversation with him. It didn’t discourage me.”

At age 15, in real life, a court granted Malone emancipation from his parents, after he said his mother had ‘wasted’ her income through ‘overspending and mismanagement’, according to court documents obtained by The Associated Press.

She also managed to remain professionally successful during this delicate time as a child star in transition, appearing in films such as the cult favorite Donnie Darko (2001), civil war drama cold mountain (2003) and Checked in!, a 2004 teen comedy, as she reached adulthood. Now 37, she has co-starred in several films in the hunger games franchise, thrillers 2016 nocturnal animals and The neon demonas well as on Billy Bob Thorton’s Amazon show, GoliathLast year.

Jena Malone, middle, attends an after party

Jena Malone, middle, attends a party after the “Saved!” premiere, with co-stars Macaulay Culkin and Mandy Moore, on May 13, 2004, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

In his new movie Adopt Audrey — released August 26 — she plays a grown woman who sets out to be adopted.

“I find that Audrey’s enigma or rather the place she questions is: what do I need as an adult from the relationship with my parents?” Malone asks. “Because that seems like a pretty normal part of the human enigma. I think that’s what drew me to it.”

Malone has reconciled with her own parents since that court case.

“I have a better relationship with my parents now than ever,” she says.

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