Blonde, blue-eyed, and looking for all the world like Heather Graham's little sister, Mena Suvari made her film debut with a small role in Gregg Araki's 1997 Nowhere. The same year, Suvari, who was born in Newport, RI, on February 9, 1979, appeared in two other films, Snide & Prejudice and Kiss the Girls. After another small role, in The Slums of Beverly Hills (which starred her future American Pie co-star Natasha Lyonne), Suvari landed her breakthrough role playing the forthright, virginal Heather in the 1999 sex comedy smash American Pie. The same year, the actress (who had also done television work on shows such as E.R. and Chicago Hope) won further recognition with a lead role as the teenaged object of Kevin Spacey's middle-aged affections in the hugely acclaimed American Beauty. With yet another lead role that year, this time in the made-for-TV disaster film Atomic Train, Suvari seemed perfectly poised on the well-trod brink of stardom. Her profile received another boost in 2000, thanks to starring roles in Sugar & Spice and Loser, the latter of which saw her starring as the apple of American Pie co-star Jason Biggs' eye. That same year, the then 21-year-old actress made headlines of a different sort with her marriage to Richard Brinkman, a cinematographer 17 years her senior. The marriage would only last until 2005, but that wouldn't stop Suvari from a series of projects during that time, ranging from a quirky role in the comedy Beauty Shop to an arc on the popular TV series Six Feet Under. Gravitating more and more toward challenging, left of center roles, the actress would go on to choose parts like the supporting role of Richie Berlin in the 2007 Andy Warhol/Edie Sedgwick biopic Factory Girl, and corn-rowed hardened criminal Brandi Boski in 2008's Stuck.
As the first decade of the new millennium drew to a close, it became clear that Suvari was finally free of the somewhat limiting image of the pretty, blonde starlet that her breakthrough roles in American Pie and American Beauty had pigeon-holed her into. She would enjoy memorable roles in everything from the zombie flick Day of the Dead to the WWII period drama The Garden of Eden, based on the Hemingway novel. Suvari would also make appearances on TV series like Sex and the City, Psych, The Cape, and American Horror Story - on which she played the infamous "Black Dahlia" murder victim Elizabeth Short. By 2012, Suvari was gearing up to remember her roots, with an all-star installment in the American Pie fanchise, American Reunion.