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Claire Danes Biography


Home > Actresses > D > Danes, Claire > Biography


Birth Name: Claire Danes
Born: 04/12/1979
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA


A native New Yorker, Danes was born April 12, 1979, and raised in then up-and-coming SoHo by artistic parents. She was learning modern dance at six, and at age nine, began taking acting classes at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. Her career began in off-off-Broadway productions "Happiness," "Punk Ballet" and "Kids on Stage," for which she choreographed a solo dance piece. Danes attended the prestigious Dalton School and went on to the Professional Performing Arts School during junior high. While there, she truly became a professional by making her television debut on "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010), portraying a volatile teen involved with a sleazy photographer. The same year, with only one TV credit to her name, Danes auditioned for "My So-Called Life" and was chosen over a large pool of actresses to play the lead character of 15-year-old Angela Chase, suburban teenager. ABC delayed their commitment to the show, and it was not until the following year that ABC followed up its pilot with additional episodes. Danes made the inevitable move to Los Angeles. When the show debuted in the fall of 1994, it joined a television lineup virtually devoid of teen-targeted programming.

Despite the network's uncertainty on how to promote the show and their reluctance to understand the potential audience, word-of-mouth brought in devotees who connected to the honest depiction of teen life as one filled with difficult day-to-day challenges. Just as popular was the portrayal of Angela Chase as a realistic teen, full of doubt and anxiety and searching for an identity. The show earned a cult following and an avalanche of critical kudos, but ABC hoped for larger numbers and a wider demographic. That, coupled with Dane's already waning interest in the grueling TV shooting schedule, led to the show's cancellation after only 19 episodes. There was an outpouring of efforts by fans to save the show, and while it did not produce any results, it proved to other networks - notably the fledgling WB - that there was a demand for teen-targeted dramas on television. And in 1994, Danes was recognized with an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series - Drama, for her role in the influential series.

When "My So-Called Life" ended, Danes stayed in Los Angeles and attended the Lycee Francais, while at the same time, fielded offers for feature film work. She won strong notices for her movie debut alongside Susan Sarandon and Winona Ryder as the doomed sister Beth in Gillian Armstrong's well-received adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" (1994). Danes had a small role as a younger version of Anne Bancroft's character in another female ensemble, "How to Make an American Quilt" (1995), and followed up with a small role as the wise-beyond-her-years daughter of Holly Hunter (and granddaughter of Bancroft) in Jodie Foster's "Home for the Holidays" (1995). Foster's endorsement helped Danes win the plum role of Juliet opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrman's "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet" (1996), a highly stylized and purposefully anachronistic retelling of the classic story. Danes' continued popularity with young audiences was evidenced in her slew of MTV Movie Award nominations, while critics also recognized her performance.

From that hot blockbuster Danes moved on to independent film, playing a teen neglected by her grieving father (Peter Gallagher) in the misfire "To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday" (1996) and starred opposite Jude Law in the coming of age romantic drama "I Love You, I Love You Not" (1997). Oliver Stone cast her as a white trash princess in his uncharacteristic flop "U-Turn" (1997), while the same year, Francis Ford Coppola tapped her to play an abused wife who falls for young lawyer Matt Damon in "John Grisham's 'The Rainmaker'" (1997). The co-starring turn also resulted in a short-lived romance between Danes and Damon, after which she spent the subsequent four years involved with musician Ben Lee. After voicing the English language version of Hayao Miyazaki's acclaimed Japanese anime "Princess Mononoke" (1997), Danes continued to show a penchant for character-driven drama, playing Cosette in Bille August's adaptation of "Les Miserables" (1998) and starring as an unmarried and pregnant Polish-American in the indie family saga "Polish Wedding" later that year.

Danes was accepted to Yale University in the fall of 1998, and spent two years there working towards a psychology major while continuing to shoot films during her off time. The maturing actress also began to branch out onscreen, surprising audiences with her role as drug offender-turned-crime fighter in Scott Silver's big screen update of the 1960s TV series, "The Mod Squad." She followed up with the harrowing "Brokedown Palace" (1999) co-starring with Kate Beckinsale as teens duped into importing drugs into Thailand. In 2001, Danes left Yale in favor of full commitment to acting, returning to screens in the coming-of-age indie comedy "Igby Goes Down" (2002) as a prep school girl caught between two drastically different brothers. The same year, Stephen Daldry tapped Danes for his critically acclaimed adaptation of "The Hours" (2002), based on the novel about several generations of women whose lives are interconnected through the Virginia Woolf novel, Mrs. Dalloway. Tasked with working alongside Meryl Streep and Ed Harris, Danes held her own and was included in the Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast.

The 2003 sci-fi drama "It's All About Love," which teamed Danes romantically with Joaquin Phoenix, was a critical and box office disappointment and Danes followed up with another surprising choice in the action-packed sequel, "Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines" (2003). After filming "Stage Beauty" (2004), in which she played a 17th Century actress entangled with fellow thespian Billy Crudup, Danes found herself in the tabloid crosshairs when Crudup left his very pregnant girlfriend Mary-Louise Parker and began a relationship with her. Next she was paired onscreen with polar opposite suitors - a successful sophisticate (Steve Martin) and a Bohemian dreamer (Jason Schwartzman) - in the subtle and smart adaptation of Steve Martin's bestselling novella, "Shopgirl" (2005). Danes was nominated for a Satellite Award for her starring role as a retail worker and aspiring artist, and followed up that critical success with the popular holiday ensemble comedy "The Family Stone" (2005). She turned out another fresh-scrubbed New Englander performance in the curiously unappealing adaptation of Susan Minot's "Evening" (2007), and around the time of the film's production, she and boyfriend Crudup called it quits. Danes was not single for long, however, having met Hugh Dancy on the set of the film. She eventually became engaged to the British actor.

The year 2007 also marked Danes' Broadway debut, appearing as Eliza Doolittle in a revival of "Pygmalion." Although her co-starring role alongside Richard Gere in the crime thriller "The Flock" (2007) did not make it to theaters, Dane experienced considerable success with the adaptation of Neil Gaiman's fantasy film, "Stardust" (2007). In another period piece, she portrayed an aspiring actress in Orson Welles' famed Mercury Theater in "Me and Orson Welles" (2009), a fictionalized account of the director's early years, helmed by Richard Linklater. After a long absence from the small screen, Danes reappeared in "Temple Grandin" (HBO, 2010), starring in the true story of an autistic woman who became a pioneer in the cattle industry, a role that earned her Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie. With cable television now offering meatier roles for the talented actress, she signed on as a series regular on the psychological thriller "Homeland" (Showtime, 2011- ), on which she played a CIA operative who suspects that a former captive of Al-Qaeda (Damian Lewis) may be a threat to national security. For her impressive work, she nabbed another Golden Globe, this time for Best Actress in a Drama Series, and followed up with an Emmy win in the same category later in 2012. The Hollywood Foreign press recognized her work again with another Golden Globe win for her work in season two.




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