Panettiere, Hayden

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Panettiere, Hayden



B orn Hayden Leslie Panettiere, August 21, 1989, in Palisades, NY; daughter of Skip (a firefighter) and Lesley (an actress) Panettiere.

Addresses: Office—c/o NBC-TV, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112.


A ctress on television, including: One Life to Live, ABC, 1994-97; How Do You Spell God? (movie), 1996; Guiding Light, 1996-2000; A Will of Their Own (miniseries), 1998; Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke (movie), 1999; If You Believe (movie), 1999; Chestnut Hill (movie), 2001; Ally McBeal, 2002; Normal (movie), 2003; Malcolm in the Middle, 2003-05; Tiger Cruise (movie), 2004; Lies My Mother Told Me (movie), 2005; Heroes, 2006—. Film appearances include: The Object of My Affection, 1998; A Bug’s Life (voice), 1998; Message in a Bottle, 1999; Dinosaur, 2000; Remember the Titans, 2000; The Affair of the Necklace, 2001; Joe Somebody, 2001; Raising Helen, 2004; The Dust Factory, 2004; Racing Stripes, 2005; Ice Princess, 2005; Mr. Gibb, 2006; The Architect, 2006; Bring It On: All or Nothing, 2006; Shanghai Kiss, 2007; Fireflies in the Garden, 2008. Created bag for Dooney & Bourke, 2007; spokesperson, SaveTheWhalesAgain. org.

Awards: Young Artist Award for best performance in a feature film—supporting young actress, Young Artist Foundation, for Remember the Titans, 2001; Young Artist Award for best performance in a TV series—supporting young actress, Young Artist Foundation, for Heroes, 2007; Saturn Award for best supporting actress in a television program, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, for Heroes, 2007; Teen Choice Award for choice TV actress: drama, FOX, for Heroes, 2007; Feature Film Award for acting, Newport Beach Film Festival, for Shanghai Kiss, 2007; Rising Star Award, Vail Film Festival, 2007; Gretchen Wyler Award, Hollywood Office of the Humane Society of the United States, 2008.


A young actress best known for her role as the indestructible cheerleader on the hit NBC drama Heroes, Hayden Panettiere is also an activist who had an arrest warrant issued in Japan in 2007 for participating in a protest against the slaughter of dolphins. Panettiere began her acting career in commercials and soap operas before moving into film and other television roles. Film highlights include roles in the films Remember the Titans, Raising Helen, and Bring It On: All or Nothing.

Born on August 21, 1989, in Palisades, New York, Panettiere is the daughter of Skip and Lesley Panettiere. Her father worked as a firefighter in New York City. He reached the rank of lieutenant and retired six months before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. Her mother was an actress who appeared on soaps such as All My Children and Loving.

Panettiere began modeling as an infant, and launched her acting career at eleven months with appearances in television commercials. One of her first memories of acting was a mistake she made. Panettiere told the Washington Post’s Bridget Byrne, “I was holding this Christmas tree ball and I broke it . I remember being so embarrassed.”

When Panettiere was five years old, she moved on to a regular role on the soap opera One Life to Live. She played Sarah Victoria Roberts for three years until 1997. Panettiere then was cast in another soap, Guiding Light, in 1996. On this program, she faced new challenges playing Lizzie Spaulding, a character who gets leukemia, is kidnapped, and shoots her mother’s lover. She remained on Guiding Light until 2000.

While appearing on Guiding Light, Panettiere began her film acting career with roles in two films in 1998. In addition to appearing in The Object of My Affection, she provided the voice of Princess Dot in the animated feature A Bug’s Life. She was nominated for a Grammy Award for best spoken works album for children for her reading of the related A Bug’s Life Read-Along.

In 2000, Panettiere garnered more critical notice for her work as Sheryl in the film Remember the Titans. Her character was the tomboy daughter of a white football coach who loses his position to a black coach when high schools are combined in 1971 Virginia. Panettiere’s Sheryl is rude to and yells at the new coach, played by Denzel Washington, but her already extensive background in acting meant that Panetierre was not daunted to work opposite the Oscar winner.

While Remember the Titans received much praise for handling its sensitive subject matter, not all of Panettiere’s film roles were so highly regarded. In the roundly panned revenge comedy Joe Somebody, she played the daughter of a newly divorced single dad played by Tim Allen.

Critics still took note of Panettiere’s talent. Reviewing Joe Somebody in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Jerry McCormick wrote, “Panettiere, so brilliant as the coach’s daughter in Remember the Titans, continues her little-girl-who-knows-more-than-the-adults routine and once again, it works. She’s truly the brightest spot in the film.”

In addition to films, Panettiere appeared in a number of television movies and a miniseries in the late 1990s and early 2000s. One praised role was in the 1999 television movie Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke in which she played a lonely heiress. Panet-tiere returned to series television in 2002 when she joined the cast of the hit show Ally McBeal. Panet-tiere played the titular character’s long-lost ten-year-old daughter, Maddie, the result of a fertility mess.

Though Panettiere was 12 years old, she found it somewhat difficult to play someone only two years younger. She told Kathryn Shattuck of New York Times, “It’s always really challenging to play someone younger than you are. Maddie is very sophisticated, and she acts like a 12year-old. But she looks and dresses like the 10year-old that she is.”

While spending a year playing Maddie on Ally McBeal’s last season then performing in a recurring role as a geeky but powerful girl on Malcolm in the Middle from 2003 to 2005, Panettiere continued to act in films. In 2004, she played teen rebel Audrey in the romantic comedy Raising Helen. Her character was one of three recently orphaned siblings who are being raised by their somewhat clueless aunt.

Panettiere somestimes suffered for her career choice in school. She attended schools in New York until the age of 14, and was often a reluctant part of the popular group. By this time, her peers were tormenting the young performer because of her career. She told the Daily Record’s Terry Gilfillan, “At school I was teased a lot because I was an actor. They used to be awful. I went through a big period where I was tortured at school. Absolutely just ripped apart. It was very hard for me but I think it made me a stronger person and I’m glad that it happened.” Because of this situation, as well as her career, Panet-tiere was home schooled to complete her high school education.

Not letting personal problems deter her, Panettiere took on a very different role in 2005 when she played a young girl living on a horse-racing farm in the family oriented comedy Racing Stripes. Her character’s life is changed when a zebra who thinks he is a race horse comes to the farm, and she trains him to race despite her father’s objections to riding any animal. Panettiere had to ride both horses and zebras for the film, and enjoyed the experience. She told Stephen Schaefer of the Boston Herald, “Definitely, this was the strangest movie I’ve ever made. I loved it and it was amazing to work on because I’m an animal fanatic and I could take care of the baby zebras.”

Also in 2005, Panettiere was in a very different type of sports movie. In Ice Princess, she played the unhappy daughter of an ice skating coach mother who is living her skating dream through her. While the film was panned as appealing only to its target pre-teen audience, some critics noted Panettiere’s performance took the film to a different level. In the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle commented, “The best thing about Ice Princess is the performance of Hayden Panettiere . She’s only 16, but she has a way of thinking on camera and conveying a mix of emotions simultaneously that jumps off the screen.”

While critics were noticing Panettiere and her acting ability, she had not broken out into the general public’s consciousness yet. This situation changed in 2006 when she was cast in a featured role in the ensemble science fiction drama Heroes, about super-hero characters who are learning to deal with their powers and place in a troubled world. Panettiere explained the show to Dave Walker of the Times-Picayune: “The show is about people crossing paths and how small the world really is. It’s not just about our powers. It’s about mankind. It’s about the world. If we don’t succeed [in saving it], the world will be completely changed and pointed in a different direction, and for the most part it’s not for the good . It’s about doing what’s right and what we’re kind of meant to do.”

On Heroes, Panettiere played Claire Bennett, a cheerleader who can instantly recover from any injury. She joked about her often-killed but self-healing character to Alex Strachan of the Ottawa Citizen, “I die all the time. So it’s no big deal. I feel like Kenny in South Park. Like ‘Oh my God, they killed Claire.’” Heroes became a number-one show for NBC, and was soon extremely popular worldwide.

Panettiere used the popularity of Heroes to build her film career. She hoped the television role would help her land better films, telling the New York Daily News’ Marisa Guthrie, “It’s definitely changed things. That’s one of the reasons I did the show, because all of the movies I wanted to do went to actors who had that following from a TV show.” Among the films she chose to do was the 2006 indie The Architect in which she played the insightful daughter of an idealistic designer living in Chicago. In 2008, she appeared in Fireflies in the Garden, which co-starred Julia Roberts and Emily Watson.

In addition to acting, Panettiere also launched a singing career. Signing a deal with Hollywood Records, she spent three years working on her de-but album, set to drop in late 2008, and co-wrote most of the songs on the release. She contributed songs to various movie soundtracks as well. Panet-tiere also agreed to star in the Dooney & Bourke 2007 holiday ad campaign, and designed a bag for the company. She told People, “I wanted to do something people haven’t seen from Dooney & Bourke before, so my bag is red patent leather. It’s funky and fun and it looks squeaky clean, sort of like a brand-new car.”

Panettiere also used her newfound fame to draw attention to causes which were important to her, including animal charities such as ICUN Wildlife Foundation and the Whaleman Foundation. To that end, Panettiere participated in a Save the Whales protest in Japan in October 2007. The activists confronted Japanese commercial fishing boats on a dolphin hunt in Taiji Wakayama. The group swam towards dolphins being herded into a cove by the fisherman so they could be killed.

For her participation in the event, an arrest warrant was issued for the actress. Despite the warrant, Panettiere vowed she would participate in such protests again. She was also surprised by the media attention she received in the States. She told Monica Corcoran of the Los Angeles Times, “In Hollywood, you have to wear no underwear to get any publicity. So I didn’t expect it to get so much attention. Even [gossip blogger] Perez Hilton blogged about it!” Early in 2008, Panettiere was given an activism award from the Hollywood Office of the Humane Society of the United States, the Gretchen Wyler Award.

Panettiere became a favorite of paparazzi as her fame increased (in part because she was dating actor Stephen Colletti for some time), but she vowed not to become like other young Hollywood starlets who lived fast and ended up in rehab. She told Cindy Pearlman in the Chicago Sun Times, “Unfortunately in this business when people start getting those [celebrity] perks, they sort of head down the wrong road. They lose track of what’s important. They forget about their craft. They forget about the love of it and sometimes it causes people to slack off and lose focus. I love my craft and what I do. I want to mature in it and get better every time I do it. In the future, I want to be looked at as a respected actress.”



Complete Marquis Who’s Who, Marquis Who’s Who, 2008.


Boston Globe, May 28, 2004, p. C5.

Boston Herald, January 9, 2005, p. 35.

Chicago Sun Times, August 26, 2007, p. D3; November 16, 2007, sec. Features, p. 50.

Daily News (NewYork, NY), December 3, 2006, p. 10.

Daily Record, April 19, 2008, p. 4.

Herald News (Passaic County, NJ), February 24, 2005, p. E12.

Hindustan Times, March 31, 2008.

Independent Extra, April 24, 2008, sec. Extra, p. 10.

London Free Press (London, Ontario, Canada), May 3, 2007, p. T3.

Los Angeles Times, November 25, 2007, p. P10.

New York Times, April 21, 2002, sec. 13, p. 55.

Ottawa Citizen, February 3, 2007, p. K3.

People, October 29, 2007, p. 112.

Philadelphia Daily News, January 14, 2005, sec. Features, p. 36.

San Diego Union-Tribune, December 20, 2001, sec. Entertainment, p. 20.

San Francisco Chronicle, March 18, 2005, p. E5.

Soaps on ABC, April 3, 2008.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, MO), December 21, 2001, p. E1.

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), May 11, 2007, p.17.

USA Today, April 30, 2007, p. 3D.

Vanity Fair, February 2007, p. 125.

Washington Post, October 12, 2000, p. C15.

West Australian (Perth, Australia), September 15, 2007, p. 14.

—A. Petruso