Madeline Zima was born in New Haven, Connecticut, to parents Dennis and Marie, and is the sister of actresses Vanessa Zima and Yvonne Zima. “Zima”, a Polish surname, is her mother’s maiden name; Madeline’s maternal grandfather was of Polish descent, while her other ancestry is Italian, German, and Irish.
She and her sister Vanessa were discovered by Woody Allen for his movie, Alice (1990). She actually quit show business, the week when she was urged to come in for her sixth call back for The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992). She came back for one more audition and booked the role of “Emma”. She booked the movie and has never stopped working since. It was both Madeline and Julianne Moore’s first film and was directed by Academy Award-winning director and writer, Curtis Hanson. Madeline won critical notice for her first film role.
Madeline followed that dramatic thriller with a short film that Daryl Hannah directed. It was a Sundance favorite called The Last Supper (1995), where Madeline, as a tiny wily child, scared away her mother’s abusive boyfriend by convincing him that she and her mother were cannibals. She followed that with the comedies, Mr. Nanny (1993), Our Song, a pilot with George Hamilton, and finally The Nanny (1993). By this time, the pilot of The Nanny (1993) was picked up and Madeline moved from New York to L.A., when The Nanny (1993) became a hit show.
She has starred in TV films: The Secret Path (1999). Her sister, Yvonne Zima played the seven-year-old counterpart to her characters. She played the daughter of the late John Ritter and Marg Helgenberger on Lethal Vows (1999).
After a worldwide search in all English-speaking countries, Madeline was the choice to play Lucille Ball as a teenager, in the CBS mini-series, Lucy (2003) (aka “Redhead”). She followed that up playing the wicked stepsister of Hilary Duff in A Cinderella Story (2004).
In a return to television, she agreed to play the mysterious and destructive character “Mia” on the hit Showtime series, Californication (2007).
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