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Asia Argento Biography

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Birth Name: Asia Argento
Born: 09/20/1975
Birth Place: Italy

There was drama swirling around Aria Asia Anna Maria Vittoria Rossa Argento from nearly the moment she was born on Sept. 20, 1975. The daughter of acclaimed Italian film director Dario Argento, known for his stylish and violent horror films, and his companion and muse, actress-writer Daria Nicolodi, her name was refused by the city registry of Rome, who listed her as "Aria" instead of Asia. Her childhood was marked by loneliness - her parents' work kept them away from her for long periods of time, and their split in 1985, when Argento was 10, pushed her further into depression that culminated in her running away from home as a teenager. Her relationship with Dario Argento was particularly contentious; in interviews, Argento stated that she began acting primarily as a means of gaining her father's attention, and he only began acting paternally towards her after he cast her in his films. Literature became her solace, with books offering her the comfort denied to her by the real world. She began experimenting with poetry at an early age and published a book of her work at the age of eight.

A year later, Argento made her acting debut in the TV miniseries "Sogni e bisogni (RAITRE, 1985). Her first collaboration with her father came in 1986 with a bit part in "Demons 2," a horror film he produced for director Lamberto Bava. At 14, she landed her first starring role in Cristina Comenici's "Zoo" (1989), a coming-of-age drama about a zookeeper's daughter who aids a Gypsy refuge. In 1992, she vaulted to more mature roles after a critically acclaimed performance as a sheltered teen who struggles to break free of her personal demons in "Close Friends." A year later, she starred in her father's thriller, "Trauma" (1993), as a troubled young woman on the trail of a serial killer. Its limited international released served as her introduction to American audiences.

Argento soon garnered a reputation for challenging, often uncompromising roles that balanced deep emotional reserves with an earthy sexuality. She won David di Donatello Awards - the Italian equivalent of the Oscar - for 1994's "Perdiamoci di vista!" and "Traveling Companion" (1996) as, respectively, a physically disabled young woman and a promiscuous waitress who finds stability in an unusual friendship with a memory-challenged professor (Michel Piccoli). She also mastered French to play the 17th century spy Charlotte of Sauve in the blood-soaked historical drama, "Queen Margot" (1994), which furthered her international profile. That same year, she also began experimenting with direction, beginning with the short "Prospettive" (1994).

Off camera, Argento also made a name for herself with provocative interviews and photo layouts. She spoke openly about her difficult childhood, bouts with agoraphobia, her dislike of her native country, and her desire to direct an adult film, while striking a decidedly sexualized look in fashion shoots and on festival red carpets. Her onscreen roles began to echo this persona; she raised eyebrows when her character in her father's gruesome thriller "The Stendahl Syndrome" (1996) was savagely raped and tortured, then played seductresses in Abel Ferrara's exhaustingly self-reflective "New Rose Hotel" (1998) and Michael Radford's "B. Monkey" (1998), She made her directorial debut with "Scarlet Diva" (2000), an explicit if overheated drama about an actress who sinks into various degradations in the course of her life and career. Argento was soon minted as a 21st century sex kitten, and as was often the case, Hollywood came calling.

Her American studio debut came with "xXx" (2002), a starring vehicle for Vin Diesel as an extreme sports athlete recruited to infiltrate an Eastern European anarchist group. Argento played a former Russian agent working within the group who becomes Diesel's love interest. Though a major hit with American audiences, Argento resisted follow-up offers to play similar roles in action films; instead focusing her attention on directing. A sexually explicit video for Marilyn Manson's single "(s)AINT" (2003) was banned from airwaves, and its follow-up, an adaptation of controversial author JT LeRoy's "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things" (2004), topped its predecessor with its unrelenting catalog of drug usage, pedophilia, religious cults and cross-dressing children. Argento also starred in the film as Leroy's mother, a teenaged stripper and drug addict who becomes increasingly insane over the film's running time. The film's limited theatrical run was largely hampered by revelations that LeRoy and his harrowing autobiographical stories were a construct by writer Laura Albert and her associates.

Argento worked steadily in America and Europe over the next few years, primarily in independent films. She was the Courtney Love stand-in for Gus Van Sant's "Last Days" (2005), a fictionalized biopic of rocker Kurt Cobain, then returned to the action field for "Land of the Dead" (2005), the fourth film in horror director George A. Romero's socially conscious zombie film series. Sofia Coppola cast her as the disgraced Comtesse du Barry, mistress to Rip Torn's King Louis XV in "Marie Antoinette" (2006), while she earned critical acclaim as another mistress - albeit a more vengeful one - in Catherine Breillat's "The Last Mistress" (2007). Her ubiquity on the international scene was noted at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, where she was top-billed in no less than three films - the Breillat picture, Olivier Assayas' convoluted noir "Boarding Gate" (2007), and Abel Ferrara's "Go Go Tales" (2007), a screwball comedy about the patrons and employees of a strip club.

That same year, she again reteamed with her father for "Mother of Tears," the long-awaited third film in his cult trilogy about a trio of powerful witches that included "Suspiria" (1977) and "Inferno" (1980); the phantasmagoric gorefest was marked as a return to form for Dario Argento, who had spent much of the previous two decades trying to win back the fan base he had claimed in the 1970s. She appeared to be settled firmly in European film by this point, with the French thriller "Diamond 13" (2009), co-starring Gerard Depardieu, among her more prominent efforts. In 2010, she was cast opposite Nick Nolte and Marilyn Manson in "King Shot," a surreal crime film by legendary underground director Alejandro Jodorowsky and produced by David Lynch. However, the project was soon cancelled due to lack of funding. Argento's name was bandied about in the American press as a contender for the role of Goth computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher's American remake of the Swedish thriller "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2009), but relative unknown Rooney Mara was eventually cast in the part.