Are the children okay? is Yahoo Entertainment’s video interview series that explores the impact of entertainment on the growth and well-being of former child entertainers, from triumphs to traumas.
If the entertainment industry was a school, Jena Malone would have graduated many times over by now, having accumulated more than 80 credits, in films like Stepmother, For the love of the game and Donnie Darkosince the mid-1990s. And still…
“I never stopped feeling like a kid in Hollywood,” he tells Yahoo Entertainment. “But there’s, like, the moment when you have your first romantic scene or something that’s not a teenage experience. I think those aren’t necessarily for the play. It’s about what you experience, when you start coming into womanhood or into manhood. you or whatever, you just get into yourself in a deeper way, outside of the child’s perspective. That starts to add resonance to what you’re doing.”
Malone considers The messenger, a 2009 drama she made with Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster and Samantha Morton, to be her moment. In it, she plays the girlfriend of a US Army sergeant on leave from the Iraq war. The critically acclaimed film hit theaters in November 2009, the month Malone turned 25.
Started acting at 10 – knew he wanted to do it as early as 5 – first appeared in Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone” video and in a 1996 episode Chicago Hope. In the same year, she starred as a little girl who endures physical and sexual abuse Bastard out of Carolina, for which she was nominated for a SAG Award. And the work kept coming, including playing Susan Sarandon and Ed Harris’ daughter Anna in 1998 Stepmother. They were divorced and Harris’ character was seeing Julia Roberts, whom Anna resented at first. It was a hit.
“I think I was about 12 years old when I started getting recognized,” Malone says. “I think it was Stepmother that really changed that moment for me. I’m glad I experienced it when I was tiny, because then I started talking to him more. He didn’t throw me away.”
By the time she was 15, in real life, a court had granted Malone emancipation from her parents after she said her mother had “wasted” her earnings through “excessive spending and mismanagement,” according to court documents obtained by The Associated Press.
She also managed to remain professionally successful during that difficult child star transition, appearing in films such as the cult favorite Donnie Darko (2001), Civil War Drama Cold Mountain (2003) and Saved!, a 2004 teen comedy, as he came of age. Now 37, she has co-starred in many of his films Hunger Games franchise, the thrillers of 2016 Nocturnal animals and The Neon Demonas well as Billy Bob Thorton’s Amazon show, Goliathlast year.
In her new movie Adopting Audrey — released August 26 — she plays an adult woman who gives herself up for adoption.
“I find that Audrey’s conundrum, or rather the part she questions, is, what do I need as an adult from the relationship with my parents?” Malone asks. “Because that seems like a fairly normal part of the human puzzle. I think that’s what drew me to it.”
Malone has reconciled with her parents since that court case.
“I have a better relationship with my parents now than ever before,” she says.