Adelia Darby is an American film actress, best known for her roles in Easy A, 21 Jump Street, and Birdman or (the unexpected virtue of ignorance).
Darby was adopted as an infant by Juliet Carson-Darby, an opera singer, and Thomas Darby, a dermatologist. she is one of three children. as a child, she performed with her church choir and received classical vocal training, hoping to follow in her mother's footsteps. she began participating in community theatre when she was ten years old, and played parts including dorothy in the wizard of oz, amy in little women, and the title character in cinderella with chicago's children's theatre workshop, a company specializing in productions starring young actors. Darby attended Hinsdale Central high school where she was a member of the forensics team and key club, and participated in school plays. despite describing herself as a "hapless nerd" as a teenager, Darby was voted prom queen her senior year. following her graduation in 2005, she attended pepperdine university, studying broadcast journalism, but dropped out after a semester to focus on her acting career. to make ends meet, she held jobs including a waitress at sizzler restaurants, a sales associate at hollister, and a night auditor for hilton hotels. she recalls: "my parents weren't too happy about my decision to drop out of school... they said, 'why can't you do both, you can go to auditions and still go to class' -- now what they meant by that was 'you're not really landing anything anyway so what are you doing dropping out of school for this' [laughs] -- but because of that i had it in my head that i could not go back and ask them for help no matter what, even though they would have helped, so i would work wherever anyone was willing to pay me," adding, "i learned a lot about working with people that way, though. you start to forget what fear is after you've stared down so many angry women wanting to speak to your manager."
2007-2009: career beginnings
darby made her feature film debut in a supporting role as jonah hill's love interest in the comedy superbad (2007). the film was a commercial success, earning her the young hollywood award for exciting new face. she followed this performance with an appearance in the independent film what just happened, which premiered at sundance and was an official selection for the cannes film festival, and a supporting role in the universaly panned prom night, a remake of the 1980s original horror film. despite prom night's negative reviews and 8% rotten tomatoes ranking, darby has said working on the film was "a great experience", specifying "there is something so fun and campy about slasher films that's best if you lean into it and enjoy it for what it is, and i think we all did that. horror films are one of my favorite genres to watch because there's so much you can do with them -- they can be satrical and funny, they can be really dark, they can be political, you can make them on a shoestring budget or go to town with the special effects... there's no one expectation of what scary can be, and that's really interesting to me." in 2009, she had a small role as a spirit haunting her former lover in the romantic comedy ghosts of girlfriends past.
in 2010, darby's breakthrough came with a starring role in easy a, a teen comedy in which she played olive penderghast, a high school student who becomes the center of a scandal when false rumors begin to circulate that she is sexually promiscous. after reading through the script before it was optioned for production, which she considered "one of the best [she] had ever read", she pushed for a meeting with will gluck. "i was, like, embarrassingly enthusiastic because i was so excited gushing about how fresh this script felt," she recalls of their first meeting. "when we were finished, i called my agent and told her he probably though i was going to nomi malone a bunch of actresses to get that part." darby ended up being one of the first actresses to audition for the role of olive. the film was a rousing success, easily making back more than double its budget in its opening weekend. much of it's success was credited to darby in the leading role, her performance reviewed as "irresistably charming" and "a star... around whom Hollywood could build some pretty good movies". the role earned her a nomination for a BAFTA Rising Star Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, and won the MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance. comparatively, her other film of 2010, super, a black comedy which premiered at the toronto international film festival in september but was not released in american theaters until the following year, was considered a box office flop. darby called the two movies "two very different kinds of comedy" but said she could not choose a preference of one over the other, joking that "the good news is i don't have to, and neither do you."
2013-present: widespread recognition
in 2013, she starred alongside shia labeouf in charlie countryman, which premiered at the sundance film festival. darby referred to the project as "a chance to try something different than what i'm used to... i love comedy and i'm happy that i've made a career mostly out of making people laugh, but every actress wants to push their boundaries." the film received mostly poor reviews, with John Anderson of Variety calling it "profoundly unnecessary". 2014's barefoot, a romantic comedy where she played a sheltered and unstable mental hospital patient, had a similarly cold reception and was criticized for being "sexist" and "offensively infantilizing". her performance in woody allen's magic in the moonlight received mixed reviews, as did the film itself, with some praising her as charming and others arguing her line deliveries and vocal cadences too modern to be convincing in a period film.
the black comedy birdman was darby's final film of 2014 following what the actress described as "an excruciating period of self doubt". she recalls: "i was so invested in what other people thought about what i was doing that i wasn't taking much time to think about how i was feeling about what i was doing. there were times when i would say to myself 'this is it, no one likes what i'm dishing out and i need to figure out what i'm going to do with my life now', and it was hard to step back and look at things objectively when i felt like there was a cloud hanging over me that i couldn't shake... in hindsight, none of it was as terrible as it felt in the moment, but that's not what you're thinking about when you're in the moment." she was featured in the film as sam thompson, a recovering addict and daughter of the lead character. birdman received widespread critical acclaim and was nominated for nine categories at the 87th Academy Awards, making it the most successful film of the awards. it won four of the nine categories, including best picture. darby received numerous accolades for her performance, including nominations for an academy award, a bafta, a golden globe, a screen actors' guild award, and a critics' choice movie award for best supporting actress. it is considered by many to be her best performance to date, with some referring to it as "a confirmation of her potential" and proof that "given the right script, darby is one of the most talented actresses of her generation".
although her performance in 2015's black mass was mostly well received, darby's other two films of the year -- the mystery drama irrational man, her second time teaming up with woody allen, and aloha, a star-studded romantic comedy -- were considered to be critical and commercial failures. the latter in particular came under fire for its casting of darby as allison ng, a character who is specified as being of hawaiian and chinese heritage. though darby initially defended her casting, referencing her "mostly vague heritage" as an adopted child, she later apologized and expressed her regret over allowing herself to be miscast. despite the criticism of the movie and her casting, she was nominated for choice movie actress - comedy for the role at the 2015 teen choice awards. in 2016, she appeared in the action-comedy free fire and the ensemble drama certain women. in 2017, she joined the cast of kong: skull island, the second installment of Legendary Studios' MonsterVerse.
darby will star in the road trip drama kodachrome, to be screened in the Special Presentations section at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival in september. she is set to star in cruella, a live action spin-off of disney's one hundred and one dalmatians, as well as love may fail, based on the matthew quick novel. she will reunite with former co-star jonah hill in the upcoming netflix series maniac, which she will star in and executive-produce.
as her career in hollywood films has developed, darby has come to be considered a successful and popular actress, known for starring both in high-profile mainstream productions and low-budget independent films. media publications have described her as having "a charisma with its own gravitational pull" and praised her "effortless charm" both on and off screen. a 2012 article on darby called her "a natural talent with an insistence on never taking herself too seriously", calling to attention in particular her "ability to turn dynamic performances out of writing that, in the hands of a different actor, could easily fall flat."
Darby was vocal in criticizing American censors for cutting scenes in the 2013 film charlie countryman where her character received oral sex from the title character, despite making no cuts to the film's many violent scenes. she specified: "we were told the scene was altered because seeing a man give a woman oral sex made people 'uncomfortable' -- even though there's plenty of that in movies where men are on the receiving end and no one has any problems -- but scenes with gratuitous violence, people being murdered and having their heads blown off, those were fine. for some reason the societal expectation is that women should be ashamed for enjoying sex, or that we're only there to be fucked and say 'thank you' and that's it, and it's so strange to me that a woman receiving sexual pleasure is considered more offensive than a person being murdered in clear sight. this isn't a one time thing, it's a reoccuring problem, and it's time women put their foot down and say that enough's enough."
A Jezebel article in 2015 branded Darby "the proud face of white feminism" for her "[interest] in supporting the rights of women but... showing a lack of awareness (or worse, voluntary ignorance) toward intersectionality" after she defended her whitewashed casting in the film aloha. she was especially harshly criticized for using her adoption as an excuse in a statement where she claimed that "not knowing my birth parents and their backgrounds means there's no guarantee that i'm not part asian." darby later apologized for this statement, calling it "a misguided attempt to make light of a situation that isn't funny." another op-ed on the controversy stated that "no one is trying to argue that adelia darby cares about women... we are arguing that she cares about one kind of woman: the rich, privileged, white kind. adelia darby cares about protecting adelia darby." a huffington post piece continued the debate, saying "time and time again we've seen [darby] praised for her willingness to step up to bat and her generous charitable giving, but if she really wants to show she's an actress who cares, she should consider bringing that enthusiasm to a demographic outside of her own."
down to earth and unafraid of embarrassing herself in the name of a good laugh, adelia has earned her reputation in hollywood for being easy to work with and fun to be around behind the scenes. she's friendly with fans, charming on camera, and genuinely has the best of intentions, but a lack of awareness of what lies beyond her personal bubble continues to be her downfall as her fans argue what constitutes "enough" when it comes to the actress' social responsibility as a public figure. she has often described herself as a work in progress, on a mission to educate and better herself -- and it's not that she isn't, but how much patience are you supposed to have for such a slow learner, no matter how likable she is? (don't ask tumblr, the question has been tearing friendships apart there for years.)