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Mena Suvari 'identified' with American Beauty character detailing her drug use to deal with abuse

Mena Suvari 'identified' with American Beauty character detailing her drug use to deal with abuse

"I knew how to play that role because I was so schooled in it"

**Content warning: This article contains references to sexual and drug abuse**

While it's fairly common for actors to put themselves in their character's shoes - one actor revealed just how much she tragically 'identified' with her most famous role.

Mena Suvari's portrayal of Angela Hayes in 1999's American Beauty saw a breakout performance for the young star.

And the actor has since came forward with her story.

Mena Suvari revealed she 'identified' with the American Beauty character.
Jinks/Cohen Company

Suvari, 44, has appeared in a whole host of different films and television shows throughout the years from cult-classic American Pie to the award-winning American Horror Story series created by TV legends Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk.

It seems that a handful of Suvari's titles seem to have 'American' in front of them - and kicking off the pattern was none other than Sam Mendes' romance-drama, American Beauty.

The actor was just 19 years old when she was cast as cheerleader, Angela Hayes, in the Oscar-winning drama.

She starred alongside co-stars Wes Bentley, Thora Birch and Kevin Spacey, who portrayed Lester Burham - who is the father of Birch's character, Jane, and later becomes infatuated with Angela.

The actor was just 19 years old when she was cast as Angela Hayes.
Jinks/Cohen Company

While the film sky-rocketed the teenager into an overnight success, there were some much darker issues happening behind the scenes.

In her 2021 memoir, titled The Great Peace, the actor opened up about her 'harrowing, heartbreaking coming-of-age story'.

Namely, she revealed the details about her drug abuse and how she self-medicated with illegal substances as a result of childhood trauma.

She wrote: "I took drugs to numb myself from the pain. Alcohol. Pot. Coke. Crystal meth. Acid. Ecstasy. Mushrooms. Mescaline.

“It was my way of detaching from the hell of my existence - and surviving.”

Recalling her traumatic youth, Suvari explained that the sexual abuse began at just 12 years old. The abuser, she writes, was a close friend to the family.

"No one stopped him from being alone with me in my bedroom," she stated, "No one cautioned me."

Suvari revealed the sexual abuse began when she was just 12 years old.
Jinks/Cohen Company

She went on to reveal that the boy was three school years her senior and had persuaded Suvari to join him in a secluded guest room.

After getting her alone, the boy then made several sexual advances towards Suvari.

Recalling the devastating experience, the actor said: "I saw him put on the condom and felt my heart sink into a dark abyss."

After her abuser repeatedly ignored her cries for him to stop, Suvari seemingly totally detached herself from the tragic event.

"I shut my eyes," she continued, "and when I opened them again, he was climbing off me and walking into the bathroom to take off the condom."

After sexually assaulting her, he then told everyone at their school that she was a 'w***e'.

Speaking to The Guardian last year, Suvari said: "That sucked the life out of me. I think that was just excessive confirmation that no one was going to save me, no one was going to do anything for me."

"That sucked the life out of me."
Jeffrey Mayer / Alamy Stock Photo

Years of substance abuse subsequently followed, leading the actor down a path of self-medication to deal with the trauma she had experienced.

She told the outlet: "I think I was desperate. I felt completely helpless, and hopeless."

Suvari later said that she 'identified' with Angela, who becomes the object of desire for Spacey's character.

"I knew how to play that role," she explained, "because I was so schooled in it."

"‘Oh, you want me to be sexually attractive?’ Done," she added. "I felt unavailable in a million other ways, but I knew how to play that card."

While a well-loved character on set, Suvari revealed that she would go home to 'the worst relationship of [her] life'.

"It was very dark for me at that time."
Jinks/Cohen Company

"It was very dark for me at that time, [and the film] felt like a respite, because I could go to work and be important there," the actor added.

Suvari decided to chronicle her experiences to inspire other survivors to speak up about their own abuse and seek help in dealing with it.

If you want friendly, confidential advice about drugs, you can talk to FRANK. You can call 0300 123 6600, text 82111 or contact through their website 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, or livechat from 2pm-6pm any day of the week

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact The Survivor’s Trust for free on 08088 010 818, or through their website

Featured Image Credit: AJ Pics / Jeffrey Mayer / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Celebrity, Film and TV, Drugs