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Michelle Monaghan : Model of Distinction
by Nancy Simon

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Granted many fashion models ultimately try their hand at acting. However, only a select few prove capable of successfully making the transition. Fortunately, the 28-year-old, Iowa-born, long-locked brunette, Michelle Monaghan, has more going for her than just good looks. Presently, on-screen in both KISS KISS BANG BANG and NORTH COUNTRY, it appears as if she can also act.

Being described as her breakthrough role, in the film noir KISS KISS BANG BANG, Monaghan plays the raven-haired, Harmony. Opposite Robert Downey Jr., her character's childhood crush, and Val Kilmer, a gay detective, Harmony, an aspiring actress, is embroiled in the mysterious circumstances surrounding her sister's suicide. From Monaghan's memorable nude scene to her slightly provocative, albeit offbeat performance; there's something for everyone.

"To be quite honest, I'm always surprised to get any role. People always ask, 'Is this your breakthrough role?' I think, well G-d, every job I ever get that I've never had is like a breakthrough role for me. That Secret deodorant commercial I did six years ago was a breakout thing for me," stated Monaghan in a KISS KISS BANG BANG premiere press interview.

And in the court room drama, NORTH COUNTRY, Monaghan plays Shelly, a co-worker and friend of blue collar | social justice crusader Charlize Theron (Josey Aimes) who lodges a historical sexual harassment lawsuit against the mine where she works. While the role is not huge in terms of screen time, it does afford Monaghan a chance to showcase her range while playing a woman who, along with Theron's Aimes' character, is reprehensibly abused.

"To me it wasn't stepping down. I guess on the page it's a smaller role, but it was such a prominent role to me. And it was a completely different character than anything I've ever played. Also the caliber of actors (Academy Award® winners Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand and Sissy Spacek) and working with NORTH COUNTRY's director Niki Caro (WHALE RIDER) was amazing. There are no small jobs, only small actors. I mean, it's such a cliché thing, but it truly is as an actor," said Monaghan.

Instead of immediately coming onto the scene full throttle and landing such plum roles, Monaghan's little locomotive that could first needed to steadily gain steam. After leaving her hometown of Winthrop, Iowa, (population 900) Monaghan moved to Chicago where, for a time, she studied journalism at the city's arts-focused Columbia College and, during her off collegiate-time, earned money as a catalogue model.

Later moving to New York City, and pursuing a career of both modeling, she appeared in a Secret underarm deodorant commercial, et al; and acting, she landed small roles in both television shows, i.e., Boston Public and feature films, UNFAITHFUL (2002) and THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (2004).

Along with the upside, like any actor, Monaghan has also had to accept the downside of the business. While having filmed scenes for both CONSTANTINE (2005) with Keanu Reeves and SYRIANA (2005) with George Clooney, Matt Damon and Amanda Peet– her part was cut in both films due to contextual reasons, i.e., plot lines and post-production audiences research polls.

Not a direct reflection on Monaghan or her abilities, she continued to land roles, albeit mainly first name only parts, such as Lindsay in UNFAITHFUL (2002), Kim in THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (2004), and Gwen in MR. AND MRS. SMITH (2005).

Plus, ironically garnering similar girlfriend roles, in both the multi-generational film, IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY(2003), as Peg Maloney, the love interest of Michael Douglas' son and WINTER SOLSTICE (2004), as Stacey, the supportive paramour of widower Anthony LaPaglia's son played by Aaron Stanford; Monaghan was given ample room to more fully develop her characters. And, doing so in convincing style, she successfully captured the attention of critics, media and adoring fans.

Evidence of her high-profile following includes: GQ Magazine proclaiming her their "Woman on our Mind"; Giant Magazine dubbing her the "Hottest breakout star in 2005"; and fans creating Michelle Monaghan web sites relaying tidbits about her upcoming films, premieres and personal life. Phrases being bandied about to describe her new found status include: "Most refreshing actress in years, "Rising Star", and the most often used, "Newest IT Girl."

Of her thrust into the mainstream, Monaghan states, ``It's amazing! I can't lie. It's a special time right now, especially since people are responding to the films in a very positive way."

And only destined to gain additional notoriety, Monaghan as has been cast in the forthcoming MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (M:I-3 - due out in theatres May 2006) with Mr. recently engaged, Tom Cruise, and the recently announced addition, Billy Cruddup (ALMOST FAMOUS).
While former Felicity star Kerri Russell plays the film's female action star, of her role as Cruise's love interest Monaghan says, "I can't talk that much about it. I joke that if I do, I'll self-destruct in 30 seconds."
Fashionably astute, Monaghan appears to be making all the right moves where her career is concerned. While no hawking products in-between television shows or feature films, she is now an integral part of the main attraction. Not exactly one to unabashedly revel in her new-found fame, Monaghan seems to be taking it one glorious day at a time...

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A capsulized profile on an emerging talent, i.e., actor/director in the film world and a snippet as to why he or she is destined to soon become a household name.


Other Columns
Other columns by Nancy Simon:

EMILE HIRSCH: Young Upstart

SIENNA MILLER:B-day Girl\ Factory Girl

DJIMON HOUNSOU: A Diamond in the Rough

ABBIE CORNISH: Who's That Girl?

DARREN ARONOFSKY: Daring to go further

All Columns


Nancy Simon
A Chicago-based freelance writer and film enthusiast, Nancy has an insatiable curiousity and knack for picking out talented, promising individuals.


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If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Nancy Simon by clicking here.


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