“Heavenly Creatures” was Lynskey’s professional acting debut, nabbing the role as Pauline Parker (of the Parker–Hulme murder case) after a casting director visited her high school. Over 500 young actresses had been seen before Lynskey was chosen, with the film’s co-writer Fran Walsh noting that they knew Lynskey was right for the role immediately. The film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 67th Academy Awards and Lynskey was named Best Actress at the 1995 New Zealand Film Awards. There’s a quiet power in her performance, one that haunted me for years as I tried to process why I felt so seen by her character.
A few years later, Lynskey would pop up in the Drew Barrymore-starring “Ever After: A Cinderella Story.” Lynskey played Jacqueline de Ghent, the less-favored of the wicked stepmother Rodmilla de Ghent (Anjelica Huston). She spends most of the movie being treated poorly by her family, but in a moment of boldness, weaponizes an insult her mother previously laid upon her by saying “I’m only here for the food” in the presence of the King and Queen. It was the first time I had ever seen a character fight back against fatphobic statements made by family members from a character scorned for daring to exist in a body and face that wasn’t the standard. Don’t get it twisted — Lynskey is and has always been stunning, but Hollywood is only interested in a particular type of woman. As author Lucy Grealy describes it, “Beauty, as defined by society at large, seemed to be only about who was best at looking like everyone else.” Melanie Lynskey didn’t look like the rest of the women in Hollywood, but she looked like me, and she immediately became my queen.
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