With her wild curls, gawky build, and street-smart attitude, Natasha Lyonne presents a refreshing departure from the many blow-dried, plasticized young actors of her generation. Since appearing in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You in 1996, Lyonne has consistently wowed critics with her intelligent, no-nonsense portrayals of teenage girls who are anything but typical.
Born into a conservative Jewish family on April 4, 1979, in New York City, Lyonne spent her childhood in New York and Israel. She broke into show business early with her role as Opal on Pee-Wee's Playhouse (1986). Her first film of any import (aside from Heartburn (1986), in which she had an uncredited role) was 1993's Dennis the Menace. It was her next film, Everyone Says I Love You, that won Lyonne initial recognition. Critics praised her portrayal of Woody Allen's daughter, praise that was magnified with her role in Tamara Jenkins' The Slums of Beverly Hills (1998). The film won almost unanimous critical praise, as did Lyonne's endearingly jaded portrayal of Vivian Abramowitz. The success of Slums was inversely proportional to that of Lyonne's next film, Krippendorf's Tribe, which also starred Richard Dreyfuss and Jenna Elfman. However, the disappointment of that movie was more than made up for by Lyonne's following project, the very successful American Pie. As the wise and weary Jessica, Lyonne, in the minds of many critics, stole the show with her all-too limited appearance. Fortunately, thanks to both the film's success and her consistently solid performances, it was virtually ensured that critics and audiences alike would be able to see a great deal more of her, though her roles in the sequels American Pie 2 and Scary Movie 2 amounted to little more than glorified cameos, almost unrecognizably so in the case of the latter.