|December 5, 1975|
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Born on Dec. 5, 1975, Patton was raised in Los Angeles, CA, the daughter of a schoolteacher mother and lawyer father. She loved playing make-believe as a child, and parlayed that and her passion for movies into her training at the Hamilton High School Academy of Music, a performing arts high school, where she performed in school productions. After attending the University of Southern California's summer film program between her junior and senior years of high school, Patton began to make short films. This led to a spot on the PBS series "The Ride," which followed four young filmmakers across the country as they documented young life in America. After some time at the University of California, Berkeley, Patton decided to pursue her love of filmmaking at the University of Southern California's prestigious film program, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1997.
Like many recent film-school grads, Patton got her foot in the door with work as a production assistant. She began to climb the ladder on the short-lived "The Howie Mandel Show" (syndicated, 1998-99), the Freddie Prinze, Jr. comedy "Boys and Girls" (ABC, 2000), and the Discovery Health Network's "Medical Diaries" (2000-02). The diligent worker advanced to the role of segment producer and worked on the series for two years until its cancellation in 2002. But despite being on the road to success behind the scenes, Patton could not quite let go of performing. In her down time, she began studying with an acting coach. In 2003, Patton landed some major exposure when she appeared naked on the cover of R&B singer Robin Thicke's album, A Beautiful World. The pair had been dating since they were teenagers, and married in 2005. (The couple announced their separation in February 2014.) That same year, Patton made her film debut with a small supporting role in the hit romantic comedy, "Hitch" starring Will Smith and Eva Mendes, and had another small part in the lesser-seen independent drama, "London" (2005).
Patton landed a regular series role as a detective on the Fox crime drama, "Murder Book" (2005), but that series proved short-lived as well. The ambitious actress rebounded with the leading role of a sultry, mysterious nightclub singer in the Prohibition-era musical "Idlewild" (2006). Though the role required Patton to sing (her vocals were dubbed by a professional singer), her charisma impressed the filmmakers, and she held her own opposite seasoned stage performers Andre Benjamin and Big Boi of the group Outkast. Fresh off that success, Patton went on to earn a Best Breakthrough Performance award from the Black Reel Awards for her prominent role as a young woman in peril opposite Denzel Washington in the Tony Scott thriller, "Déjà Vu" (2006). Patton's amazingly fast journey to the Hollywood inner sanctum continued when she was cast in the female lead opposite Kevin Costner in the improbable political comedy "Swing Vote" (2008), in which she played an ambitious television news reporter following the story of a single father whose vote will determine the next president of the United States.
In a brief career misstep, Patton starred alongside Kiefer Sutherland in the critically reviled horror film "Mirrors" (2008), but that movie was long forgotten by the time she gave a stunning performance as a nurturing teacher to a despairing abused teenager (Gabourey Sidibe) in "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" (2009). Lee Daniels' film adaptation was a critical sensation, taking home the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and a People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. Patton followed up the heavy-hitting drama with the romantic comedy "Just Wright" (2010), about an affair between a professional basketball player (Common) and his physical therapist (Queen Latifah).
After a one-off 2010 appearance on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ), Patton continued to further her film career with a starring role in the well-received urban comedy "Jumping the Broom" (2011). Her breakthrough performance, however, came later in the year when she was featured as Jane Carter, a highly skilled secret agent, in the blockbuster action/adventure sequel "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" with Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner. Now recognized by a much wider audience, Patton starred in the lauded yet overlooked thriller "Disconnect" (2012) and portrayed Denzel Washington's love interest in the high-profile action movie "21 Guns."