Childhood & Early Life
Deborah Kara Unger was born on May 12, 1966, in Vancouver, British Columbia, to a scientist mother and a gynecologist father. She was a rebellious kid and a troublesome young girl, which was a major cause of concern for her parents.
Despite being a naughty young kid, she was a highly intelligent student and at the age of 11, jumped two grades in school. However, she was frequently intimidated by the older kids in class, but rather than being depressed about it, she often tried to blend in and act like an older girl.
She arranged a fake ID for herself that fudged her age by adding a few years to her actual age. She used her fake ID to buy cigarettes for herself. As a kid, she was mostly independent and had even worked at ‘McDonald’s.’
Her curious nature had her entering casinos at the age of 16, and she claims that those little experiences helped her become more mature and intelligent than the other kids of her age. She also excelled in academics and graduated from high school with flying colours.
Subsequently, she enrolled at the ‘University of Victoria’ to pursue her studies in philosophy and economics. While in college, she developed an interest in films and acting. Soon, she joined the NIDA, a reputed Australian training institute.
She was aware that the admission process of the institute was strict and that no Canadian had ever managed to get through to the institute. However, to her pleasant surprise, her application was accepted and she became the first Canadian to be accepted by the prestigious Australian institute.
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Soon after she graduated from the institute, she started working in the Australian entertainment industry. She made her acting debut, with the then-newbie actor Nicole Kidman, in the miniseries ‘Bangkok Hilton,’ in 1989. The following year, she made her film debut with ‘Till There was You.’ Although the film was not a success at the box office, her performance was critically acclaimed.
After starring in a few more Australian films and TV series, she moved to Hollywood in the early 90s and started auditioning for better roles. In 1993, she bagged a role in the anthology drama series ‘Hotel Room.’ The drama was co-created by acclaimed filmmaker David Lynch, and Deborah played a key role in the second part of the series.
In 1994, she starred in the low-budget film ‘State of Emergency’ and followed it up with a role in the big-budget fantasy film ‘Highlander III: The Sorcerer.’ The film, a box-office failure and a critical disaster, was a major blow to Deborah, who had just started her career as an actor.
In 1996, David Cronenberg signed her for the psychological thriller ‘Crash,’ which was a sexually charged thrill ride. Deborah played the leading female part in the highly controversial film, which received polarized ratings from critics and the audiences. The same year, she appeared in two more films, namely, ‘Keys to Tulsa’ and ‘No Way Home.’
Acclaimed director David Fincher approached her to play a leading role in the 1997 thriller ‘The Game,’ which has managed to gain a cult following since its release. In the film, she appeared alongside two of Hollywood’s biggest superstars, Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. She followed it up with an independent film ‘Luminous Motion,’ where she played the unnamed role of a mother.
In 1999, she became part of another major Hollywood blockbuster film ‘Payback.’ She played the key role of ‘Lynn Porter’ in the film, which also starred Mel Gibson in the lead role. The film turned out to be one of the most successful films of the year.
In 1998, she appeared in a major role in the ‘HBO’ series ‘The Rat Pack,’ which was critically and commercially acclaimed. In the late 90s, she appeared in the Denzel Washington-starrer ‘The Hurricane’ and in the award-winning drama ‘Sunshine.’
So far, it seemed as if she was striking the right balance between big-budget Hollywood blockbusters and low-budget content-driven films. At the time, she auditioned for various roles alongside actors such as Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, but they were not of much help.
In the early 2000s, her career took a drastic turn when she started focusing on low-budget independent features. She appeared in ‘Signs and Wonders,’ a psychological thriller, which was featured in many film festivals across the globe.
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In 2001, she starred in the independent anthology ‘Ten Tiny Love Stories’ and followed it up with ‘Leo’ and ‘Between Strangers.’ She received widespread acclaim for her performances in films such as ‘Thirteen,’ ‘Hollywood North,’ and ‘Paranoia 1.0.’ With time, she established a huge name for herself in the low-budget film industry.
When asked about her affection toward indie cinema, she claimed that she found it fulfilling to support fresh talent, as they are not supported by most film industries around the globe.
She was nominated for a ‘Genie Award’ for the ‘Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role’ for her performance in the 2002 indie film ‘Between Strangers.’ In 2004, she received a ‘Method Fest’ award for her performance in the critically acclaimed film ‘Emile.’
From the mid- to the late 2000s, she continued appearing in critically acclaimed films such as ‘Things That Hang from Trees’, Silent Hill,’ ‘The Alibi,’ ‘Walled In,’ and ‘The Way.’ By then, she had made a name for herself in the industry. She refused to abide by the usual industry standards and worked only when the roles moved her emotionally.
In 2011, she returned to Canada to star in the medical series ‘Combat Hospital,’ and in 2012, she appeared in a major role in ‘Silent Hill: Revelation.’
In the following few years, she starred in the film ‘Fury’ and followed it up with two television films, namely, ‘The Hollow’ and ‘Dangerous Arrangement.’
In 2017, she starred in ‘Jackals’ and opposite Nicolas Cage in the action thriller ‘Vengeance: A Love Story.’