|Actor, Producer, Writer, Music|
|May 9, 1979|
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Born on May 9, 1979 in New York, NY, Dawson was raised by her father, Greg, a construction worker and her mother, Isabelle, a professional vocalist. Her upbringing, however, was anything but conventional. When she was six, her parents became squatters in an empty building which they spent years transforming into a habitable living space by rewiring the electricity and drawing water from a nearby fire hydrant. Some years later, while hanging out with friends on the stoop of her building, Dawson attracted the attention of screenwriter Harmony Korinne and controversial director Larry Clark, who had heard the 15-year-old laughing uproariously. Almost on the spot, she was cast in "Kids" (1995), Clark's dark and much-criticized look at New York teenagers indulging in sex, drugs and endless amounts of trouble. The unseasoned Dawson was a standout amongst the ensemble cast, playing Ruby, a free-speaking sexually promiscuous teen who tests negative for HIV, while her best friend, Jeannie (Chloë Sevigny), is not so lucky. "Kids" was both praised and derided for its depiction of American urban youth, making Dawson in demand with a much larger audience than was expected. Though her performance was appropriately chilling, it was her unsettlingly attractive appearance that separated her from the rest.
Despite the initial impact she made with her debut performance, Dawson remained uncertain about what to do next, even though agents and casting directors were banging on her door. She spent some time away from distractions in Texas, then was encouraged by her grandmother to study acting at the acclaimed Lee Strasberg Institute. She then landed her next major role in Spike Lee's "He Got Game" (1998), playing a bewitching, but opportunistic girlfriend to an uncommonly talented basketball player (Ray Allen) eager to get her share of his potential fame and wealth. After appearing in the New York-based episodic comedy "Side Streets" (1998), Dawson paired up with Prince for his timely re-release of his 1980s hit single, "1999." The remixed version featured Dawson in an introductory voiceover, offering commentary on the state of the world on the cusp of a new millennium. Later that year, she was featured in the New York City high school hostage drama "Light It Up" (1999), playing a brainy, cool-headed student trying to encourage moderation in an explosive situation. Meanwhile, her first stab at lighthearted romantic comedy fare proved disappointing after a small role as a stoner in "Down to You" (2000).
Despite the setback of "Down to You," Dawson's career was assuredly on the rise. She landed a co-starring role in the Edward Burns romantic comedy "Sidewalks of New York" (2000), then was cast as Valerie in the live-action adaptation of "Josie and the Pussycats" (2001). Dawson made the jump to blockbuster territory with the summer sequel hit "Men In Black II" (2002), playing a waitress who lures the attention of Agent Jay (Will Smith) after witnessing an alien attack at her restaurant. She next made the mistake of starring as a naïve, futuristic singer who gets involved with a retired smuggler and nightclub owner (Eddie Murphy) in "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" (2002), one of the biggest box office disasters of all time. Dawson fared much better as the girlfriend of a man (Edward Norton) spending his last day of freedom before doing a seven-year prison sting in Spike Lee's excellent crime drama "The 25th Hour" (2002). Following her breakup with rap mogul Jay-Z that same year, Dawson played a South American rebel leader in "The Rundown" (2003), before a small part in "Shattered Glass" (2003).
Dawson delivered a fiery performance as Alexander the Great's (Colin Farrell) hellcat wife Roxanne, which - along with her erotic, but violently charged nude scenes - were among the best elements in "Alexander" (2004), Oliver Stone's failed epic about the conflicted conqueror struggling to find purpose through never-ending imperial conquest. As the niece of a professional cartoonist, Dawson was naturally drawn to appear in director Robert Rodriguez's visually arresting adaptation of writer-artist Frank Miller's crime noir comic book series "Sin City" (2005), playing the dominatrix prostitute/"warrior woman" Gail in "The Big Fat Kill" sequence. She then had an arresting, carnally-charged turn as the alluring heroin-addicted dancer Mimi Marquez in the big screen adaptation of the smash Broadway musical "Rent" (2005), revealing an aptitude for song and dance. Although the film's cast was populated by many of the stage play's original players, Dawson pulled the rug out from under them all. Returning to her low-budget roots, she played the owner of a fast food joint who develops feelings for career-slacker Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) after a one-night stand in Kevin Smith's "Clerks II" (2006).
After co-starring in "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" (2006), a low-budget drama about a successful writer (Robert Downey, Jr.) returning home to Astoria, Queens, where he encounters the ghosts of his turbulent past, Dawson was one of four friends (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Tracie Thoms and Zoë Bell) stalked by a psychopathic stuntman (Kurt Russell) who mows people down with his '69 Dodge Charger in the "Death Proof" segment of "Grindhouse" (2007), directed by Quentin Tarantino. Dawson made the jump to actor-producer on "Descent" (2007), an independent drama about a bright and promising young college student (Dawson) whose life falls apart after being brutally raped by a frat boy (Chad Faust). She next had a successful stint in blockbuster territory with "Eagle Eye" (2008), a techno-thriller about two strangers (Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan) brought together by a mysterious phone call that leads both down an increasingly dangerous path to them becoming fugitives. Dawson next co-starred in "Seven Pounds" (2008), playing a woman with a heart condition who complicates a guilt-ridden IRS agent's (Will Smith) plans for suicide after he falls in love with her.