Although a TV commercial and a role as a skunk in a school play were Anna Paquin's only acting experience before she was cast in The Piano, her performance in the 1992 flick left no doubt where her talents lay. Her supporting performance brought the 11-year-old an Oscar, and the distinction of being the second-youngest winner of the trophy ever.
The daughter of PE teacher Brian and his English teacher wife Mary, Anna was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on July 24, 1982. The family moved to New Zealand in 1986, where she grew up alongside older siblings Andrew and Katya.
Her stage debut came aged seven with a brief appearance in a school play as a skunk - "I leapt on stage and then skipped off" - but a career as an actress was not in her plans. "I wanted to be prime minister of New Zealand," she says. "Or, failing that, a lawyer."
Though mostly educated Down Under, Anna who was a keen musician, playing the viola, cello, and piano completed her high-school education in Los Angeles, where she moved with her mother, brother and sister after their parents divorced.
A part in a TV commercial led to her auditioning for the role of Holly Hunter's daughter in The Piano, a role which, to her amazement, she secured, despite competing against 5,000 applicants. An even bigger surprise came when she learned her performance has been recognised with a best supporting actress Academy Award. "I was in a state of shock," she admits. "I thought I was going to sit in the audience clapping with everyone else while some other actor went up to get the award. Instead, I was the one going up there, in front of hundreds of people."
In the wake of her Oscar win high-profile movie offers came in thick and fast. In 1996 she starred as a young Jane Eyre in the movie of the same name, and shortly after appeared in Fly Away Home.
Taking a hands-on approach to her career, Anna chooses each new project independently and is keen to ensure each one brings a new challenge. She extended her horizons with 1999 romantic comedy She's All That before taking on the role of Rogue in the X-Men trilogy, alongside fellow Canadian Shawn Ashmore, Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman.
Despite her Hollywood success, Anna lead a fairly normal life unlike many other young starlets. She's found time to hone her French-language skills and enjoys hobbies such as running, swimming, downhill skiing, reading and knitting while continuing to earn plaudits for her acting skills. In 2008 there was further recognition of her talents when she received her second Golden Globe nomination for her role in TV movie Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.