Hailed as one of the most talented child actors of the 1990s, Mischa Barton had carved out the beginnings of an enviable career on the screen and stage by the time most kids her age were being allowed to see PG-13 movies on their own. Possessing blonde hair, blue eyes the color and approximate size of Wedgewood saucers, and precocious intelligence, Barton first came to the attention of critics and audiences as the ten-year-old heroine of John Duigan’s Lawn Dogs (1997), a drama that cast her as an alienated girl whose friendship with an earthy lawn boy (Sam Rockwell) creates controversy in her exclusive neighborhood. Born January 24, 1986, in London, England, Barton was raised in the city until the age of four, when her father took a job on Wall Street that relocated the family to New York. Following the move, she began working as a child model and taking summer camp acting classes; after being spotted by a talent agent, the aspiring actress got her first professional break on the New York stage in 1994, when she played Vodya Domik, one of the lead characters in an off-Broadway production of Tony Kushner’s Slavs! Earning rave reviews for her performance, Barton went on to perform in a number of plays, including the Lincoln Center production of James Lapine’s Twelve Dreams and Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare at the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theatre, which cast her in the lead role of a street urchin opposite Dianne Wiest. While she was building a career on the stage and as a model for the likes of Calvin Klein, Barton was also beginning to accumulate a number of screen credits. After doing a year-long stint on the popular soap opera All My Children, she had her first publicized screen role in the little-seen New York Crossing (1996), in which she starred as an Upper East Side schoolgirl opposite Tina Majorino and Karen Black. The film was released in 1997, the same year that Lawn Dogs came out to fairly strong reviews that resulted in the first shades of publicity for Barton. A starring role as a 13-year-old who holds up a bank alongside her boyfriend followed in 1999, in the independent drama Pups; unfortunately, the film was released only two days before the tragic killing spree at Columbine High School, and unsurprisingly, failed to earn much in the way of distribution. That same year, Barton appeared in supporting roles in both Notting Hill and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, the latter of which cast her as the ghost of a sickly girl.
Barton’s increasing recognition was subsequently reflected by her involvement in a number of screen projects. Included amongst them was Skipped Parts (2000), a coming-of-age comedy which cast her as a sexually precocious 14-year-old who is in a hurry to lose her virginity. The film also starred Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brad Renfro, and Drew Barrymore.