Try as she may, 17-year-old Claire Danes can't shake the angel image. She played an angel in one of her first paying gigs, a music video for Soul Asylum. She played the angelic sister, Beth, in Little Women, and in her most widely known role to date, on the TV show My So-Called Life, she was an angst-ridden teen called Angela. Now, amid the racy urban grime of Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, she wears white, has a room full of china angels and dons wings for a part. But she insists, "I'm human. I think people see me as sweeter and softer than I do."
The innocent aura coexists, in person, with a more knowing and world-weary affect (after all, she was raised by artist parents in a loft in Manhattan's SoHo district and has been acting professionally since age 6). In one breath she confidently states a sophisticated opinion of Juliet ("more one-dimensional than people might expect") and in the next worries about how her looks are discussed in the press.
Hollywood, of course, just laps her up. Her mix of fragility and spine is perfect for that movie staple, the wise child. She already made five feature films and won a Golden Globe for her television work. Currently she can be seen in the film To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, in which she outshines far more experienced actors, including Michelle Pfeiffer. Next year she'll be working with Oliver Stone and Francis Ford Coppola. In fact, Danes is so hot she has a promotional deal with Prada's Miu Miu line, which ensures that she has as many free extra-groovy clothes as she wants. All this, and she just completed her SATs.
But life isn't perfect. She'd like to get more sleep and watch more TV. Plus, she doesn't have a boyfriend. And even as she describes Juliet as "like a princess locked away in a tower, protected and isolated from the world," she admits it sounds like her life too. However, she notes an important difference: "My life has changed dramatically, but hers was always like that."
Originally transcribed by: Andi Wolf Dolphin
© Time 1996