When Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures was released to international acclaim in 1994, it launched the career of a then-unknown actress by the name of Kate Winslet. Unfortunately, it didn't do the same for Winslet's co-star, the similarly unknown and equally talented Melanie Lynskey. As Pauline Parker, a New Zealand schoolgirl who, along with best friend Juliete Hulme (Winslet), brutally murders her mother, Lynskey turned in a performance that combined sullen adolescent alienation with cold-blooded brutality. Although marked as a promising newcomer, she did not enjoy a subsequent breakthrough of the magnitude of Winslet's but instead worked quietly for a few years, gradually earning belated recognition from audiences and industry figures alike.
Born in New Plymouth, New Zealand, on May 16, 1977, Lynskey was a high school student when she was discovered by Peter Jackson's wife, Frances Walsh, who cast her in Heavenly Creatures. Following the film's success, the fledgling actress moved to Los Angeles, but encountered endless rejection thanks to her non-blonde, non-waifish physique, and after only six weeks returned to her native country. Eighteen months of film, theatre, and English studies at Victoria University followed, as did a supporting role in Jackson's The Frighteners (1996).
A self-professed attitude change -- the result of her friendship with director Gaylene Preston, who encouraged the actress to make herself a stronger person -- also altered Lynskey's approach to acting, and she subsequently won a role in her first Hollywood film, Andy Tennant's Ever After (1998). Cast as the not-so-evil stepsister of Drew Barrymore's Cinderella-like heroine, Lynskey enjoyed the greater recognition the film's success afforded her and went on to supporting roles the next year in Detroit Rock City, in which she co-starred with Natasha Lyonne and Edward Furlong, and Michael Cacoyannis' adaptation of The Cherry Orchard, which also starred Alan Bates, Charlotte Rampling, and Katrin Cartlidge. With another successful independent film, Jamie Babbit's But I'm a Cheerleader (1999), and a Jerry Bruckheimer chick flick, Coyote Ugly, also under her belt, Lynskey began the new decade on a decidedly promising note.