In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Mena Suvari became one of the brightest stars in the Hollywood universe. Filled with promising projects, she even managed to be nominated for a Bafta or Actors Guild Award thanks to her role as Angela Hayes in American Beauty. The scene in which she was submerged in a bathtub covered in red rose petals became movie history. Then Suvari was barely 20 years old and, thanks to movies like that, to the American Pie or to the series Six feet underground, managed to carve out a niche in the industry. A position that he did not manage to maintain in the following two decades, where his roles have been mostly limited to more discreet series or television movies.
However, the development of his professional career was not Suvari’s first concern. After that sweet and sensual appearance, a combination highly promoted in the cinema a couple of decades ago, the young woman from Rhode Island hid a personal life anchored in terror. From his early teens he suffered abuse, which was perpetuated during his youth. She was constantly abused by several men, which led her to use drugs. A story that Suvari had not revealed until now, with his memoir, The Great Peace (The great peace, in Spanish), which will go on sale next July 27 and of which the magazine People has obtained an exclusive advance. “Between the ages of 12 and 20 I was a victim of continuous sexual abuse,” he says in the book, as the magazine reports.
Suvari, now 42 years old, says she lived “a double life.” “Every time I was going to shoot, every time they interviewed me, I was acting, all the time. It was another role for me: in which I did that I was well, “he says. The abuses started when he was in the sixth grade at school, that is, when he was 12 years old. She had just moved with her family to South Carolina and felt like “the new girl,” someone who was “trying to fit in,” she says. Then a friend of one of her older brothers began to persecute her and then pressure her to have sex. She remembers repeatedly refusing, until a month before she was 13 years old, he put her in a bedroom at home and raped her.
The memories of Suvari are very painful. “Part of me died that day,” he recalls. “He used me, he had fun with me and then he got rid of me. He called me a whore. I did not come to see sex as something healthy. The moment to do it escaped me. And that, coupled with the fact that I did not feel heard or perceived, established the concept I had of myself. That was my worth, “he says. In fact, guilt and shame followed her as she began to blame herself for “allowing that to happen.”
Suvari says that only work helped her. At the age of 15 and his broken family (his mother had left home, his father was going through “a physical and mental decline”) he moved to Hollywood to make his way. Her agent, whom she considered a supportive figure and whose name she avoids, also wanted to have sex with her. And, meanwhile, her self-esteem plummeted, because she did not consider herself valid for anything or anyone. His anguish took refuge in raves, big parties and nightclubs, and fell into drugs, self-medicating with “whatever” he found. “I was trying to survive,” he says.
Far from improving, the situation worsened when at the age of 17 she met her partner for three years, and during all that time he abused her both sexually and psychologically, she explains, telling how he forced her to take women home. to introduce them into their relationships and to make threesomes. “I remember thinking that maybe that’s what relationships were: the yelling, the insults, the abuse,” Suvari now reflects in her memoirs.
“I thought that I had brought all that, somehow,” he assures in the volume, believing that from one abuser to another everything had been “a process of destruction.” Acting, she says, was what saved her, gave her the opportunity to express herself when she needed it most, and gave her that double life: “Functional on the outside and on the inside, desperately trying to heal me.” And also the fact of breaking up with that man, quitting drugs and starting therapy, as well as surrounding herself with friends who saw her with different eyes.
After overcoming that stage, between 2000 and 2005, Suvari was married to the German director of photography based in the US Robert Brinkmann, 18 years older than her. After that, in 2007 he began dating Simone Sestito, a music producer whom he married in June 2010 in Rome and from whom he separated in January 2012. With neither of them he had children. Five years ago he met, while shooting the movie I’ll be home for christmas, to a colleague from the art department named Michael Hope whom she married two years later, in August 2018, and with whom she had her first child this past April.
Now that her life is much less damaged, Suvari can see it in enough perspective to write her memoirs, and admits that she was “tired of fighting and hiding all her life.” Therefore, he hopes that this writing inspires and helps those who go through the same to get out of the pothole, “to see its value.” “If I can lessen someone’s pain, I want to do it, because I didn’t have anyone to do it for me.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.