Family & Companions
Branded "the next big thing" when she came out of nowhere to star in the hit "Coyote Ugly" (2000), Piper Perabo struggled to live up to the expectations placed on her. The beautiful, appealing actress, who won plaudits for her performances as a passionate lesbian boarding school student in "Lost and Delirious" (2001) and impressed with her brief role as Hugh Jackman's doomed wife in "The Prestige" (2006), had difficulty sustaining her career momentum. Although she acquitted herself well in undemanding-but-lucrative fare like "Cheaper by the Dozen" (2003), its sequel (2005) and "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" (2008), Perabo was unable to consistently land quality roles in high-profile projects. With her lead role on the spy action drama "Covert Affairs" (USA Network, 2010-14), fans hoped that the same innate star quality that helped Perabo break into show business would finally cement the stature long expected of her.
Born Oct. 31, 1976 in Dallas, TX but raised in Toms River, NJ, Piper Lisa Perabo was the daughter of Mary Charlotte, a physical therapist, and George William Perabo, a poetry professor and dean. Growing up in an artistic family helped push Perabo (named after the actress Piper Laurie) to follow her love of acting to college, where she studied theater at Ohio State University. Her big break came by accident the summer before her senior year, when she accompanied her actor boyfriend to a New York audition. She caught the eye of a casting director, who asked her to read and eventually hooked her up with a manager. Perabo finished her senior year back in Ohio, getting a friend to drive her to Columbus and then taking the 17-hour bus trip to New York City for every audition she could land. After graduation, she moved to the Big Apple, working a series of menial jobs - bagel maker, cocktail waitress - and living on a friend's couch. Amazingly, after being in town for just one month, she landed her first movie.
Sharp-eyed critics took note of Perabo in "Whiteboyz" (1999), in which she played the serious-minded Midwestern girlfriend of Danny Hoch's hip-hop gangsta wannabe. Although the film was not widely seen - Hoch accused the studio of burying it - Perabo managed the amazing feat of leaping from indie actress to big studio star the following year. In the live-action/animation adaptation of the classic cartoon "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" (2000), she was cast as a rookie FBI agent, aptly named Karen Sympathy. The film boasted an enviable cast, including Robert De Niro as Fearless Leader, Jason Alexander as Boris Badenov, and Rene Russo as Natasha Fatale, as well as a $76 million budget. It barely recouped half that amount amidst a massive critical drubbing. Luckily for Perabo, Hollywood had a short memory, and her next role was in a big enough success to erase any black marks against her.
Inspired by a real-life bar run by beautiful, tough dancers, "Coyote Ugly" (2000) told the story of a shy small-town girl Violet (Perabo) who moves to NYC to become a songwriter, and ends up working at the titular - literally - bar. Audiences flocked to the flashy movie, more for its music-video-caliber sequences than story, but the film and its soundtrack were huge hits. Although Perabo herself was able to sing, producers chose to use country superstar LeAnn Rimes' voice - singing in a pop timbre in lieu of her famous twang - instead. Still, Perabo won an MTV Movie Award for her role. Serious about not getting typecast as an ingénue, Perabo filmed the well-reviewed lesbian romantic drama, "Lost and Delirious" (2001). She wowed critics with the intensity of her performance as the dramatic, passionate Paulie, one half of a star-crossed romance at a girls' boarding school.
Perabo's career momentum hit a snag with her next project, the ill-fated comedy "Slap Her.She's French" (2002). Although trailers hit U.S. theaters, the movie was never released theatrically in America, and only surfaced in the States several years later under the title "She Gets What She Wants." Perabo's performance as a French-accented chameleon, intent on ruining the life of an American cheerleader, was clever, and the movie itself was more charming than its troubled release history indicated. Perabo made the identity-confusion thriller "The I Inside" (2003) with Sarah Polley and Ryan Phillippe, but returned to the multiplexes as Steve Martin's eldest daughter Nora in the comedy smash "Cheaper by the Dozen" (2003). Although she had to compete with 11 siblings for screen time, Perabo enjoyed a large subplot in the film, and was able to participate in a low-comedy highlight when her fiancé, Ashton Kutcher, fell prey to the outrageous practical jokes of her younger siblings. While reviews were lukewarm at best, audiences loved the film and made it an enormous hit.
Although she continued to work, casting directors did not seem to know what to do with Perabo. She made a string of forgettable projects, including the romantic drama "Perfect Opposites" (2004), "George and the Dragon" (Syfy, 2004), where she played a medieval princess guarding a baby dragon; and a thankless role as an early victim in the horror film, "The Cave" (2005). The actress proved she still had the ability to sparkle in the low-key charmer "Imagine Me & You" (2005) as a newlywed who realizes she is a lesbian and falls for her florist (Lena Headey). She notched another massive hit with "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" (2005), where she played the now-married Nora, expecting a baby of her own and attending the ultimate family summer vacation. Perabo earned another high-profile role as Hugh Jackman's doomed magician's assistant wife in "The Prestige" (2006). With a tony cast including Scarlett Johansson, Christian Bale, Michael Caine and David Bowie, Perabo may have had a small part, but the film was a hit and received strong, if mixed, reviews.
It seemed as if she would move from strength to strength when her next project, "Because I Said So" (2007) hit theaters. Starring a recently career-revitalized Diane Keaton, the film followed Mandy Moore as her luckless-in-love daughter who endures her mother's obsessive schemes to marry her off. Perabo and Lauren Graham played Keaton's other daughters; themselves already happily married and all too eager to share graphic recaps of their respective sex lives with her. Despite all the winning actresses and elements assembled, critics were merciless with the final product and the film bombed. Perabo was better received in a fun guest spot on the hit show "House" (FOX, 2004-12). Playing a vegan nutritionist named Honey, Perabo caught the titular doctor's attention for what she thought was a job interview but turned into more of a date.
The actress found herself in a strange place career-wise - famous enough to work, but under-the-radar enough to not always score the juiciest roles as well as saddled with the weight of enormous expectations. Although her turn in Neil LaBute's play "reasons to be pretty" was well received, onscreen she took a large role in the family hit "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" (2008) as Jamie Lee Curtis's irresponsible niece who loses the pampered pooch. She did supporting work as Paul Walker's wife in "The Lazarus" (2008) and as a victim of a global virus in "Carriers" (2009), and filmed a memorable guest-starring appearance on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC, 2001-07; USA Network, 2007-11) as a delusional mother. Her "Criminal Intent" role proved a nice transition for the actress to step into the lead role in her own crime-fighting series, "Covert Affairs" (USA Network, 2010-14). Playing Annie Walker, a brilliant CIA trainee who mysteriously and unexpectedly finds herself promoted to field operative for a special mission, Perabo not only received the chance to topline her own show, but also to prove that she had grown up into a serious, seasoned actress. That was confirmed later in the year when Perabo earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Drama.
Cast (Feature Film)
Made feature debut as the girlfriend of a hip-hop obsessed farm boy in "Whiteboys"
Landed breakthrough role, playing the lead in Jerry Bruckheimer produced "Coyote Ugly"
Portrayed rookie FBI agent Karen Symphony in "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle"
Starred in Lea Pool's "Lost and Delirious" as a lesbian high school student who goes mad when her roommate rejects her
Played a foreign exchange student in the teen comedy "Slap Her, She's French"
Played the eldest daughter of twelve in feature adaptation "Cheaper by the Dozen"
Reprised her role as the eldest daughter of twelve in the comedy " Cheaper by the Dozen 2"
Starrred in the thriller "The Cave" opposite Cole Hauser and Morris Chestnut
Cast as a magician's assistant in Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige"
Played Mandy Moore's sister in "Because I Said So"
Co-starred with Guy Pearce in the thriller "First Snow"
Lent her voice to the live-action comedy "Beverly Hills Chihuahua"
Played supporting role in Neil LaBute's Broadway play "Reasons to be Pretty"
Starred as a rookie CIA agent sent to Washington on USA Network's "Covert Affairs"
Nominated for the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama ("Covert Affairs")
Cast opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis in sci-fi action "Looper"
Starred in the horror film "Into the Grizzly Maze"
Joined the cast of the thriller serious "Notorious"