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Biography
Displaying a sort of weary Botticelli beauty and a crisp brand of intelligence, Hope Davis has made a name for herself portraying good women wronged by bad men. Playing such characters in her two breakthrough films, The Daytrippers and Next Stop Wonderland, Davis displayed a remarkable blend of lovable bitterness and cynical charm, endearing herself to legions of art house filmgoers who recognized an unmistakable ring of truth in her performances. Born in Englewood, NJ, Davis had a childhood that was notable in part for her friendship with her neighbor across the street, Mira Sorvino. Davis' first brush with acting came when the two girls -- then eight or nine -- wrote a play and performed it for their neighbors. The actress' next encounter with fame came some years later, in the rather dubious form of her bit part as one of Billy Baldwin's used-and-abused girlfriends in the 1990 film Flatliners. Following a bit role as a French ticket agent in the same year's Home Alone, Davis had yet another dubious brush with fame in Kiss of Death (1995), in a role memorable for the sole reason that it required Davis to be bench-pressed by co-star Nicolas Cage. The following year brought with it more auspicious work in The Daytrippers, an independent comedy in which Davis played the suspicious wife of philandering Stanley Tucci. Co-starring Parker Posey, Liev Schreiber, and Anne Meara, the film was a hit on the independent circuit and Davis was next seen in Michael Lindsay-Hogg's Guy, another small yet critically acclaimed venture. After a bit part in the Ellen DeGeneres flop Mr. Wrong (also 1996), Davis had a substantial role in Bart Freundlich's 1997 drama The Myth of Fingerprints. Despite a stellar cast, including Blythe Danner, Noah Wyle, Julianne Moore, and Roy Scheider, the film did almost no box office and met with very mixed reviews. Davis followed it with another independent feature, The Impostors (1998), which was directed, written, produced, and starred in by her Daytrippers co-star Stanley Tucci. Unfortunately, like Fingerprints, the film was a relative failure despite an excellent cast and strong director. However, Davis subsequently struck indie gold that same year with her starring role in Brad Anderson's Next Stop Wonderland. Critics drooled over her performance as Erin, a nurse recovering from a major -- and bitterly hilarious -- breakup with her activist boyfriend (played with joyful loathsomeness by Philip Seymour Hoffman). The actress managed to make a potentially cold and unsympathetic character into someone the audience could relate to and support, an achievement that Hollywood chose to reward by placing her in a substantial role in the 1999 Jeff Bridges/Tim Robbins thriller Arlington Road. She gained additional exposure that year in Mumford, Lawrence Kasdan's loopy comedy about a small-town psychiatrist with a past. A few more small films followed (most notable among them was Stanley Tucci's Joe Gould's Secret) before Davis was cast as Jack Nicholson's estranged daughter in Alexander Payne's About Schmidt in 2002. Despite some unfavorable reviews, the film was a relative success, and a high-profile one at that, thanks to Nicholson's Best Actor Oscar nomination. Davis followed her turn in that film with a stellar performance in American Splendor (2003), Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's part-documentary, part-feature film about the underground comic book artist Harvey Pekar, played onscreen by Paul Giamatti. Cast as Pekar's wife, the highly neurotic Joyce, Davis pulled off a skillful performance that managed to prevent Joyce's quirks from disintegrating into caricature, and was undoubtedly one of the reasons that American Splendor won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2003 Sundance Festival.
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