An actress whose fragile, fine-boned beauty has often gotten her cast as emotionally vulnerable, put-upon girlfriends, Claire Forlani has done strong work in this capacity in such films as Basquiat and Meet Joe Black. The daughter of an Italian father and a British mother, she was born in London on July 1, 1972. At the age of 11, she began studying dance and drama at London’s Arts Educational School, where she trained for the next six years. She began her professional acting career in 1991, when she appeared in a number of productions for British television.
After relocating with her family to San Francisco in 1993, Forlani made her American acting debut with a small but memorable role in the TV miniseries JFK: Reckless Youth (1993) as a young woman who dances her way into the heart and hormones of the young president. She subsequently had a minor part in Police Academy – Mission to Moscow (1994), and then landed more substantial work in Mallrats (1995) after impressing director Kevin Smith with her flawless impression of an immature young American. Forlani’s work in Mallrats gave her enough exposure to garner the attention of various casting agents, as evidenced by her central role as the all-too accommodating waitress girlfriend of Basquiat’s (1996) eponymous artist (Jeffrey Wright).
The actress remained in troubled girlfriend mode for The Last Time I Committed Suicide (1997), in which she played Beat icon Neal Cassady’s suicidal paramour, and then literally flirted with death in Meet Joe Black (1998). The film cast Forlani in her biggest role to date, that of a young doctor who falls in love with Death, as personified with blond highlights by Brad Pitt; although the film itself was the object of much critical ire, Forlani escaped relatively unscathed. After playing yet another imperiled girlfriend in Mystery Men (1999), Forlani switched gears to play a neurotic college student who ends up in bed with her best friend (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) in the romantic comedy Boys and Girls (2000).