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Wonder Girl
by Tiffany Rose (Looks - August, 1999)

While most girls are trying to discover what they want to do with their life, 20-year-old Claire Danes has already found her vocation -she has a string of successful movie hits on her CV, including Little Women and Romeo & Juliet, not forgetting the smash hit TV show, My So-Called Life. Her social life ain't bad either. Claires' leading men include Matt Damon in The Rainmaker and her good bud, Leo Dicaprio. Her next film is Brokedown Palace, where she stars alongside Kate Beckingsale as a girl duped into drug smuggling while travelling in Thailand.

LOOKS catches up with the wonder girl and finds out what its like to have the world at your feet.

What kind of role model do you think you present to young girls?

Well, I just read this article someone wrote about me, and it said that I now have this sexy, wild image! I don't know. I can be overly earnest, but I'm learning not to be, because I think it's no fun.

Hopefully, people see me as an actress and not as a celebrity. I want them to think, "oh wow, she's made some good movies," not, "she wears awful clothes."

How do you feel about your fame?

The most difficult thing about being called a celebrity is the image you apparently project. people confuse my characters with who I really am, but there is a way to balance that. There's a way to maintain a personal life.

How's your new house going?

I bought a place over a year ago in Soho in New York. I gutted it out, so it's taken a very long time to put a few walls up. It's very frustrating, because it was completed about the same time I left for college and started living in New Haven! Oh well, I'm exercising my patience.

Do your parents mind you living on your own?

Of course -they're parents! Yeah, the whole thing was delicate. They can't help but have some hurt feelings. But, ultimately, it's the most healthy and natural thing. I stop by my parents house every once in a while.

You're a very good friend of Winona Ryder. Were you responsible for introducing her to Matt Damon?

Yeah, I actually was the first one to introduce them, and they met up again, but without me being there.

Are you still maintaining a friendship with Leo?

Uh, yeah, I see him every once in a while.

Do you feel that you've missed out on school because your career took off at such an early age?

Yeah. I have friends who took a similar route to me. They feel they should have waited until they were more mature before they embarked on this journey. But then, I have other friends who decided solely to focus on their education and now they're having a hard time getting jobs. They laugh at me when I start complaining about work.

Don't you sometimes feel like just going out to clubs and having fun like other girls your age?

Sure I do. The other day, my friends and I decided to wear wigs when we went clothes shopping, and then we kept them on when we went out at night. We were just walking around and happened to pass this restaurant, where I noticed some guy taking pictures of us. I thought, "Ooh, young artsy photographer taking pictures of eccentric young people," but then I realised he was taking pictures of me - he was a paparazzo. I felt so na•ve and dumb! Then it was printed in the tabloids the next day as "Claire Danes - Wild Child" [laughs]. I was just having a good time, wearing a wig!

Were you familiar of the story Les Miserables before you made the movie?

No, I wasn't. I mean, I read the book after I signed to do the movie. At the same time as I was making the film, I was also working with a tutor, as I was still in high school. We incorporated the book into the curriculum and that was my English course for that semester.

How did you feel about going to university?

When I went to Yale last autumn, I was terribly nervous, but also really excited. I now realise it was more about allotting some time for myself, to gain some distance from the business, and divorce myself from responsibility for a while.

What did you want to study?

Anything that has to do with the study of human nature, like philosophy or psychology -it's pretty similar to acting. When I was seven, my plan was to be a therapist. It still may happen, but probably not![laughs]

What did you enjoy doing as a child?

When I was a kid, I did so many things - I drew, I danced, I played the piano, I did gymnastics. This business can be so consuming - you find yourself progressing in one field and you neglect to pursue other kinds of creative expression.

At what age did you realise you wanted to act?

When I was five, I had a revelation: I realised that acting was what I wanted to do. Actually, my first memory was watching Madonna on TV when I was alone in my parents' room. I jumped up on my bed and felt incredibly inspired. I started singing along, and thought: "Oh, that's when I want to be, I wanna be a rock star!" Then I thought about it and realised I could act professionally, too. So, I sort of stuck to that plan.

Do you realise that most guys are completely smitten with you?

Cool! Awesome! I'm doing this because I love to act. People keep offering me job, so I must be doing something right. And I happen to have chosen a profession that's quite lucrative, and it's always fun to hear guys are smitten with me! [giggles]

How did you meet your boyfriend, Australian rocker Ben Lee?

I'm a huge fan of his music. I listen to him obsessively and I've always had a major crush on him. I asked the director of Romeo & Juliet to put one of his songs on the film's soundtrack. That didn't quite work out, but when Ben was recording an album in LA, he faxed me a "thank you" letter, as he'd heard about my plug. He asked me out for a coffee and things just blossomed from there.

Is this your first serious relationship?

No, I had one when I was 15. This is my most mature relationship.

Do you sing along with your boyfriend?

No, I have a hideous voice!!

Is he one of those rockers who's covered from head to toe in tottoos and piercings?

No, he's just this little Australian dude. He's very clean-cut and wonderful.

Is it difficult to see him, if he's in Australia all the time?

We pretty much spent six months together, as I wasn't working. I toured, hung out and saw the world with him.

So you're a groupie?

I am! [laughs] No, I'm more than that. I'm a featured groupie!

© Looks 1999