Perhaps best known for his work as a black-clad muse for Gregg Araki, James Duval has built a career on playing alienated, melancholic lost boys. Part of his ability to capture such alienation comes from the actor's own real-life experiences: of French, Vietnamese, Native American and Irish descent, he was constantly picked on by schoolmates while growing up. A native of Detroit, Michigan, where he was born on September 10, 1973, Duval made his way to Hollywood, where, eighteen and down on his luck after a band to pursue an acting career, he had his fateful encounter with Araki. The two met in a café that Duval frequented; Araki approached him, asked if he was an actor, and proceeded to cast him in Totally F***ed Up, the first installment of his so-called "teen-angst trilogy." The 1993 film, which focused on a group of alienated gay teens in Los Angele, was a cult hit, giving its director cult status and Duval more employment opportunities. After a turn as a biker in Mod Fuck Explosion, Jon Moritsugu's 1994 tale of urban teen dysfunction, Duval again collaborated with Araki, this time on The Doom Generation (1995). Cast as Jordan White, a lamb-for-the-slaughter role Araki had written specifically for him, the actor again got to demonstrate his capacity for disillusioned brooding and his readiness to take on less than salubrious subjects. The second installment of Araki's "teen-apocalypse" trilogy, The Doom Generation was also the most controversial, mainly due to its liberal inclusion of graphic violence--the most shocking of which centered on Duval's character.
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No such controversy surrounded Araki and Duval's subsequent collaboration, 1997's Nowhere. The last of the trilogy, it starred Duval as yet another bored, alienated Los Angeles teen and covered Araki's familiar stomping grounds of sexual experimentation, urban disillusionment, and the search for true love amid L.A.'s cultural wasteland. It met with a degree of success on the independent circuit, further establishing Duval as one of Araki's most visible mouthpieces. Aside from his work with Araki, Duval has also appeared in a number of independent films, including SLC Punk and Doug Liman's Go (both 1999). He has also made the occasional foray into mainstream film, appearing in the 1996 summer blockbuster Independence Day. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi