Independent film ingénue Jena Malone began her career at age 12, but avoided the path of preciousness in favor of emotionally challenging roles in often-bleak stories of families in crisis. Her film debut in the gritty memoir of childhood abuse, "Bastard out of Carolina" (Showtime, 1996) immediately earned critical notice and led to a string of acclaimed cable television movies showcasing Malone's remarkably mature performances as resilient young girls. Following a few mainstream offerings including the chick flick "Stepmom" (1998), Malone spent her teens amassing an impressive resume in independent films like the psychedelic "Donnie Darko" (2001), the satirical "Saved!" (2004) and Sean Penn's lauded "Into the Wild" (2007). With "Pride and Prejudice" (2005) and the military drama "The Messenger" (2009), Malone wisely explored her range and made a relatively seamless transition from her troubled onscreen childhood to versatile young adult roles.