Back in 1994, a cute-as-a-button 11-year-old stood on the podium at the Academy Awards, gasping with shock and delight.
For a few heart-stopping moments, she was so overcome with the announcement she’d won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress that it seemed her words would never come.
Then, suddenly, she gathered herself and delivered a short, but perfectly-formed acceptance speech.
That little girl, of course, was Kiwi actress Anna Paquin.
Since then, Anna has gone on to carve out a successful career in Hollywood, appearing in blockbuster movies like X-Men and much-loved classics like Almost Famous. And this month, that little girl in the sparkly blue hat, who for a moment was lost for words, turns 40.
Now living in Los Angeles, married and a mum-of-two, Anna can’t help but look back on the events that set her on her current path with a certain amount of head-shaking.
“It’s pretty random,” she says of her Oscar win for her role as the precocious Flora in Dame Jane Campion’s acclaimed film The Piano.
It happened, she says, “before I really had any idea what the significance was. Now, it’s just, ‘Okay, that’s kind of a funny story.
That time I accidentally became an actress and they gave me that nice, gold, shiny statue for my first job!'”
Born in Canada on July 24, 1982, Anna arrived in New Zealand with her family at the age of four and in 1991, it was her older sister who saw a newspaper advertisement announcing that a film director was looking for a little girl to play a key role in a movie.
Anna’s only acting experience at that point had been as a skunk in a school play, but she had nothing else to do that day so tagged along with her sister to the open audition to see what all the fuss was about.
She was chosen from around 5000 candidates and the rest, as they say, is history.
Even after her Oscar win, Anna wasn’t certain she was headed for a screen career, but offers kept on coming.
She moved with her mum to the US as a teenager, finishing her high school education there, and completed a year at Columbia University before packing in her studies to concentrate on acting.
Her star had already well and truly risen when, in 2008, she landed the role as waitress Sookie Stackhouse in the cult TV series True Blood.
The role won her a Golden Globe and it also changed her life in more far-reaching ways – just months after filming began, she and co-star Stephen Moyer began dating. The pair initially kept things under wraps. “We didn’t want to take anything away from the show,” she tells.
In 2010, the pair tied the knot and two years later Anna gave birth to twins, daughter Poppy and son Charlie, now nine.
Fiercely private Anna has vowed never to share photos of her kids, explaining, “I want the right to say that they’re not fair game. Don’t mess with my cubs.”
She has, in the past, described herself as “neurotic” when it comes to her privacy, but soon after her wedding she revealed she was bisexual, saying she felt compelled to speak out for LGBTQ+ rights.
“If you’re going to talk about some cause in a way that’s meaningful, you should identify why it means something to you,” she said in 2012. “For a bisexual, it’s not about gender. That’s not the deciding factor for who they’re attracted to.
“If I had fallen in love with a woman and lived happily ever after, I would still be bisexual. That wouldn’t erase that.”
Stephen, 52 – also dad to Billy, 22 and Lilac, 20, from previous relationships – has never batted an eyelid at her sexuality.
“We’re each other’s best friends,” shares Anna. “We’re incredibly lucky that we found each other. We want nothing but good things for each other.”
In addition to acting, Anna has added producing to her repertoire. “I’ve been doing this a very long time, so it has felt like a kind of natural evolution,” she says.
But “selfishly I don’t want to have to ever spend time away from my children. My husband and I take turns, but basically it’d be nice to work more here [LA]. I don’t have a crystal ball, but right now, my family – and what’s right for my kids – is top of my list.”