Family & Companions
An alluring lead with a knack for playing dangerous women, actress Eliza Dushku rose to popularity on the strength of her performances on youth-oriented television series like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (The WB, 1997-2003) and features like "Bring It On" (2001) and "Wrong Turn" (2003). Dushku began her professional career as an adolescent with supporting roles in "True Lies" (1995) and "Bye Bye Love" (1996), but "Buffy" producer Joss Whedon gave her a defining role as rebellious Slayer Faith on his popular horror-adventure show. Its success translated into a string of features in the early part of the new millennium, but television appeared to hold more interest for the actress. However, both of her turns as series star struggled mightily to find audiences; "Tru Calling" (Fox, 2003-05) folded after just two seasons, while "Dollhouse" (Fox, 2009-10), which marked her reunion with Whedon, barely escaped cancellation after its debut. Despite these setbacks, Dushku remained exceptionally popular with audiences, and assured her status as one of Hollywood's most appealing young performers.
Born to parents of Albanian and Danish heritage on Dec. 30, 1980, Eliza Patricia Dushku (pronounced DUSH-koo) and her three older brothers were raised in Watertown, MA. Her interest in acting began in the first grade with performances at the Watertown Children's Theater, as well as a sign-language interpretation for hearing-impaired guests. Dushku made her feature film debut in 1991's "That Night" after being discovered in a five-month casting search; the 11-year-old played a precocious adolescent who aids her love-struck neighbor (Juliette Lewis) in a relationship with C. Thomas Howell's small town bad boy. The film did not earn a release date until 1993, when Dushku was co-starring with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro in the period drama "This Boy's Life." Her profile gained even more ground the following year, when director James Cameron cast her as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis' sullen daughter in his action-adventure epic, "True Lies" (1994).
Her turn as the feisty Dana Tasker in "Lies" seemed to set a career path for her subsequent roles. Dushku was soon cast in a string of headstrong roles in minor features like "Bye Bye Love" (1995) and "Race the Sun" (1996). Rather than continue in this vein, Dushku took time off from her career to complete high school, after which she gained acceptance at both George Washington University and Suffolk University, where her mother served as a professor.
In 1998, Dushku was tapped by "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" producer Joss Whedon to play Faith in the third season of the popular supernatural action series. Initially planned for just a five-episode story arc, Faith became so well liked by viewers that she was granted recurring status for several seasons; even shuttling between "Buffy" and "Angel" in subsequent years. Like Sarah Michelle Gellar's eponymous heroine, Faith was a Slayer, imbued with superhuman powers to fight the forces of evil that plagued the small town of Sunnyvale, CA. However, unlike Buffy, Faith failed to fit in with the tight-knit group of friends that served as the show's focus, and eventually fell in with the town's evil Mayor, who dispatched her to kill off Buffy's boyfriend, Angel (David Boreanaz). This led to a showdown that put Faith in a coma until the show's fourth season, when she awoke to switch bodies with Buffy and wreak more havoc. Faith was then folded into the "Buffy" spin-off "Angel," where her self-destructive ways lead to several attempts on the vampire-turned-detective's life. Faith made her final return to the "Buffy" universe in its climatic season, where she settled her issues with Buffy and aided in the battle that brought the series to a close. Plans were announced to make Dushku the star of a spin-off series about Faith, but by then, the actress's popularity had translated into feature film roles, so the show never came to fruition.
Faith cast a long shadow over Duskhu's subsequent film roles, which for the most part, followed the same "bad girl with a heart of gold" path as her TV character. She was a rebellious high school girl whose frustration over a lack of gymnastics programs forced her to join the cheerleading squad in the hit comedy "Bring It On" (2001), and one of a quintet of leather-clad animal liberationists in Kevin Smith's raunchy "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001). Eventually, these gave way to more traditional-minded, if less colorful parts, like the popular cheerleader who wins the heart of hapless D.J. Qualls in "The New Guy" (2003) and James Franco's girlfriend in the crime drama "City by the Sea" (2003), which reunited her with Robert De Niro. Duskhu's sultry features were also paid regular tribute in men's magazines like FHM and Maxim.
Despite the modest success of most of her post-"Bring It On" features, Dushku was soon headed back to television; this time as the star of her own series. "Tru Calling" concerned a medical student (Duskhu) whose work at a local morgue triggers not only the ability to converse with the recently deceased, but a means of reliving an entire day in order to uncover the truth about their demise. Despite the presence of Dushku in another supernatural-themed series, "Tru Calling" struggled to find an audience during its network run, and was finally felled shortly before the end of its second season in 2005. Dushku continued to appear in features during her tenure on the series, though they tended towards more introspective, indie-minded fare like "The Kiss" (2003) and "On Broadway" (2006). Her biggest theatrical hit during this period was "Wrong Turn" (2003), a gruesome horror film about travelers who encounter inbred cannibals. In 2005, Dushku also returned to theater in an off-Broadway production of "Dog Sees God," a meta-parody of Charles Schultz's "Peanuts" comic strip. The play attracted attention in 2006 when Duskhu, along with several other cast members, quit after allegations of abuse by its producer, which were later dismissed.
Duskhu continued to explore the indie film world for her next few efforts; she received solid reviews for her turn as a poet with a crush on a kidnapped college student in "Nobel Son" (2008), and reunited with several of that film's stars, including Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman, for the equally praised comedy "Bottle Shock" (2008). She also gained notice for both her performance and an unexpected nude scene in "The Alphabet Killer" (2008), a gritty thriller about a rash of real-life unsolved murders in New York during the 1970s, which also served as her debut as producer. But most of these efforts were overshadowed by the news that the actress had signed a development deal with Fox in 2007. Her first effort towards a new series was "Nurses" (2007), a pilot for director P.J. Hogan about the personal lives of hospital nurses, but it failed to progress beyond that phase.
Later that year, "Buffy" fans were excited by the news that Dushku had reteamed once again with Whedon for a new science-fiction/action series called "Dollhouse," for which Dushku would also serve as producer and executive producer. The show, about a young woman whose memories and abilities are programmed for various top-secret assignments before being wiped clean after completion, earned considerable attention for Whedon's participation and Dushku's alluring promotional photos. Unfortunately, audience interest proved elusive. By mid-season, critics were sensing a cancellation in its future, but a last-minute reprieve from Fox extended its life to the 2009-2010 season. In addition to "Dollhouse," Duskhu's plate remained full with feature work, including the Spanish-made horror film "Open Graves" (2009), and a spate of voice-overs for computer games like the Xbox 360/Playstation 3 action-adventure, "Wet" (2009).
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Art Department (Feature Film)
Feature debut in the coming-of-age drama "That Night" opposite Juliette Lewis (released in 1993)
Had a featured role in "This Boy's Life" as the daughter of Robert De Niro's character
Cast as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis' daughter in "True Lies"
Had an early TV credit in the CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation "Journey"
Played Paul Reiser's troubled daughter in the divorce-themed feature "Bye Bye, Love"
Acted in the ensemble of the Hawaii-set teen comedy-drama "Race the Sun"
Had a recurring role on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (WB) as a morally corrupt fellow slayer named Faith
Co-starred with Kirsten Dunst in the cheereading comedy "Bring It On"
Reprised the role of Faith in a two-episode arc on the "Buffy" spin-off "Angel" (WB)
Cast in Kevin Smith's "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back"
Acted in the teen comedy "The New Guy"
Re-teamed with Robert De Niro in the crime drama "City By the Sea"
Cast as a city morgue worker who relives the past in "Tru Calling" (FOX)
Co-starred in the indie horror thriller "Wrong Turn"
Starred in the off-Broadway production, "Dog Sees God"
Co-starred with Macaulay Culkin in the dark comedy, "Sex and Breakfast"
Co-starred in the independent feature, "On Broadway"
Re-teamed with Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman in "Bottle Shock"
Co-starred in "Nobel Son" opposite Alan Rickman, Danny DeVito and Bill Pullman
Played the main character in Joss Whedon's short-lived FOX series, "Dollhouse"; also executive produced