I can still hear my dad lumbering down the hall, searching for me.
"Amy," he called. "A letter got returned to you in the mail."
I'd spent hours decorating the envelope, filling the block letters in with colored pencils, drawing puffy flowers and uneven stars. But the postal service had crudely blacked out her address with a Sharpie. All my hard work was for naught. Jena Malone did not get my fan letter.
It was 1998, and I'd just seen Malone — at 14, just one year my senior — in "Stepmom." She was sassy-but-vulnerable, and I promptly decided I wanted to be her. I brought a photograph from her appearance on "Late Show With David Letterman" to the hair salon before my bat mitzvah. And then I decided to write to her, hoping she'd opt to be my AOL pen pal.
Needless to say, I was kind of devastated when I saw the letter had been stamped "Return to Sender" and promptly stuffed it in a drawer under my bed. That's where it remained until this month, when I found out Malone would be a panelist on The Times' Young Hollywood round table. It would be embarrassing, but I knew what I had to do: I would give her my fan letter. And I would make her read it. In public.
She did, gamely giving the audience a dramatic reading while crouched on the floor with the letter in her hands.
"I'm so glad we get to do this," she said, offering me a hug.
Here's the letter:
January 2, 1998
Hey! My name is Amy, and I'm a huge fan of yours. I saw you in "Ellen Foster" a while back, and you were so amazing in that. It must have been hard to portray such a troubled girl. You were also awesome in "Stepmom." How great of an experience was it to work with Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts? I can only imagine! I have the dream of becoming an actress one day, and seriously, you have truly inspired me even more to fulfill my dream. Thank you.
I also saw you on the David Letterman show last night. You seem so cool and like a great friend to have. I know you have such a busy schedule, but if you could possibly write back to me, you would make me so incredibly happy. I've enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope so it would be easier for you.
Anyway, what bands/singers do you like? Do you have an e-mail address? Well, I won't waste anymore of your time. Never forget that you sincerely are a talented, smart, cool, beautiful actress and I admire you for that. Thank you for reading this.
A big fan,