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Anna Busts a Move

Seven Years have passed since Anna Paquin won an oscar. Now, at age 18, she's cool, ready for school, and nobody's fool. James Servin observes the transformation

James Servin

Anna Paquin is getting down and venting full rock n' roll rage. The scene: photographer Terry Richardson's studio, in downtown Manhattan, on the gritty Bowery, doors away from CBGB. The Bowery calls to mind Blondie and Patty Smith, photographer Nan Goldin, designer Stephen Sprouse. Now Anna Paquin adds her imprint. The New Zealander who won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award at age 11 for The Piano at age 18 has blossomed with roles in X-men, Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous and Gus Van Sant's Finding Forrester. Standing nearly six feet tall in Louboutin heels, brimming with a self-awareness that's so full on it has an innocence of its own, she's still got the little-girl face, but the once-cherubic mouth has taken on a smoldering quality. She seems very much of her own age and very much not; it's the contradiction between worldliness and youthfulness that's sending out sparks.

She's brought along some CDs to play while Richardson takes her picture. No, there aren't any new-age instrumentals from The Piano. Let's see, she's got some Black Sabbath, some Xappelin. But she begins the photo session with the Violent Femmes, snarling along to "Blister in the Sun": "Why can't I get just one kiss, why can't I get just one kiss?" She continues through the song, mm-hmm, knowing all the lyrics. In a way, "Blister in the Sun" could be the theme song of her character in X-men. Rogue is a genetic mutant doomed to have no love life, since everyone she touches cracks, crusts over, and is temporarily drained whie she takes their essence.

Watching that film, I wondered about how the part might affect Anna Paquin's personal life, if only in a subliminal way. "My family teases me," Paquin says, with a New Zealand accent adding an almost elfin charm to her sentences. "They say, 'Now you'll never date!'"

Is she dating? "Yes," she says, the adds, "Come on, I'm 18." Being 18 to Anna Paquin means a number of things: for one, she no longer travels with her mother. That's a plus in the direction of freedom. A possible minus, she points out, is that at 18, child labor laws are no longer in effect, and those cushy 10 hours a day on the set are history. "I feel exactly my age, whatever 18 is," she says, "18 is good."

She has reason to feel pumped: Paquin has successfully navigated the treacherous waters of child stardom. After The Piano, she continued to work, pulling in decent reviews for her costarring turns opposite Sean Penn in Hurlyburly and a flock of geese in Fly Away Home. They were small but sure steps, career-wise, on the road to X-men, which has freed her from the prison of being forever remembered at age nine. Her peer group, the audience she most wants to relate to, most likely never saw her in The Piano. But millions of eighteen year olds caught her in X-men, and she's getting noticed on the street. "Put it this way," she says. "In the last two weeks, I have not been stopped once and asked, 'Are you the little girl in The Piano?' I get 'Rogue!'" She looks down and smiles for a moment, "Oh my God, I'm going to be getting this when I'm 52."

Nylon, October 2000