|August 7, 1982|
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Born Aug. 7, 1982 in Lochnivar, New South Wales, Cornish grew up on a large farm with her parents and four siblings. "Boredom" was the answer she gave for pursuing a career in front of the camera, and after winning a contest through the Aussie teen magazine Dolly, she landed an agent and began auditioning for roles on Australian television. Her first critical notices came at the age of 15 when she played a quadriplegic in the television series "Children's Hospital" (Two Network, 1997). Two years later, Cornish - who had since moved away from her parents at the age of 16 - was honored by the Australian Film Institute for her performance in a 1999 episode of the police drama "Wildside" (Australian Broadcast Corporation, 1997-99). Despite the acclaim, Cornish devoted an equal amount of her time to her studies and planned to become a veterinarian.
A string of impressive roles in Australian features quickly followed her AFI win - she was a sexually charged poetess who goes missing in the lesbian-themed mystery "The Monkey's Mask" (2000); a venomous schoolgirl in the black comedy "Horseplay" (2003), and a young drug casualty in the rave-culture drama "One Perfect Day" (2004) - but it was "Somersault" (2004) that made critics around the world stand up and take notice. An often disturbing drama about a teenage girl's headlong dive into sex and the people around her who seem all too willing to take advantage of her naiveté, Cornish's performance earned her raves at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as awards at numerous film festivals in her native country and around the world.
Two years later, Cornish's success in "Somersault" paid off in spades with high-profile roles in a string of attention-garnering features. She co-starred with fellow Aussie superstars Heath Ledger and Geoffrey Rush in "Candy" (2006), a stylized romance between a heroin-addicted poet (Ledger) and a painter (Cornish). She also showed off a flawless American accent as a California teenager searching for her father in "A Good Year" (2006), Ridley Scott's adaptation of the Peter Mayle novel about a businessman (Russell Crowe) who inherits a vineyard and its offbeat neighbors.
After "A Good Year," Cornish became involved in two projects - one of which garnered considerable press (mostly of the prurient-investigative kind). "Stop Loss" (2007) was the film, directed by "Boys Don't Cry" helmer Kimberly Peirce, that she was working on in the United States when reports surfaced that she and co-star Ryan Phillippe were engaged in an affair. The alleged incriminating evidence came to light shortly after Phillippe and his wife, Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon, had announced their separation in the press - which naturally led the media to speculate that Cornish was the crux of their marital discord. Her representatives openly and sternly denied any wrongdoing on the part of the actress, but there was no denying the fact the two were a couple after a discreet amount of time had passed and they were seen together, openly affectionate in public.
Back on screen, Cornish co-starred in "The Golden Age" (2007), director Shekhar Kapur's follow-up to "Elizabeth" (1998), in which she portrayed Elizabeth Throckmorton, secret wife to Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) and lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett). Her starring role as the lover of iconic poet John Keats in Jane Campion's "Bright Star" (2009) brought Cornish significant notice, including Best Actress nominations from the British Independent Film Awards and the Satellite Awards, as well as dark horse Oscar talk.