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Why Dana From True Lies Looks So Familiar

True Lies was one of the biggest movies of 1994, reuniting the Terminator franchise's James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger for an action comedy that's popular enough today that people are still wondering why True Lies 2 never happened. The film tells the story of Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger), a secret agent who hides his real job from his family; they think he's a computer parts salesman. His wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) feels bored and neglected, so Harry secretly arranges for her to have her own (staged) spy mission, which of course goes wrong and leads to Harry and Helen being captured by terrorists. Harry has to come clean about who he really is and save his family before it's too late.

Harry and Helen have a daughter named Dana, who plays an important role in the film's climax when Harry rescues her from terrorists by flying a helicopter up to the under-construction skyscraper where they're holding her. You may not remember or recognize her as a tween in True Lies, but the actress who played Dana went on to great success as one of Hollywood's go-to tough girls. 

That's right: Dana is played by Eliza Dushku, who you may recognize from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bring It On, Dollhouse, and many other movies and TV shows.

Eliza Dushku is Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel

Arguably Dushku's most enduring role is Faith on the influential supernatural series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel. Faith was introduced in Buffy's third season as a slayer who served as a dark counterpart to Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Faith, an isolated and self-hating young woman with a traumatic upbringing, represents what Buffy could have been without her friends in the Scooby Gang to help her make the right choices.

Faith is a morally complex character who does bad things, but for understandable reasons. "I have thousands of fans who tell me Faith saved their lives, shaped their identities, helped them understand who and what they were and are," Dushku told Metro in 2017.

After Buffy ended in 2003, franchise creator Joss Whedon and Angel executive producer Tim Minear approached Dushku about starring in a Faith-centric spin-off, but she turned it down to try other things in her career. Fate brought her and Whedon together again on a another project, however.

Eliza Duhsku is Missy Pantone in Bring It On

Dushku's other most enduring role was the punky newcomer who brings it alongside Kirsten Dunst in the classic 2000 cheerleading comedy Bring It On.

Dushku plays Missy Pantone, a cheerleader for the Rancho Carne High School Toros. Her entrance is incredibly "bank." She shows up to the cheerleading tryout "looking like a roadie for Social Distortion" per her character description in the script, with braided hair, a painted-on tribal tattoo, and a whole lot of attitude, immediately getting the straitlaced cheerleaders' hackles up. 

Though she lacks cheerleading experience (or enthusiasm), she has incredible gymnastic ability, making a "Front handspring-stepout, roundoff back handspring stepout, roundoff back handspring full-twisting layout" look easy. You see, Missy just moved to town from Los Angeles, and Rancho Carne doesn't have a gymnastics team, so cheerleading is her last resort. Missy is also the one who points out that the Toros' routine is plagiarized from the East Compton Clovers.

Director Peyton Reed told Thrillist that the film's choreographer dashed his dreams of having Dushku learn how to do the complex series of flips in time for filming. After that, the hardest part was finding a stunt performer who looked enough like Dushku to make it believable.

Eliza Dushku is Jessie Burlingame in Wrong Turn

Like any late '90s-early '00s icon worth her salt, Eliza Dushku starred in a slasher movie. She was the final girl in 2003's Wrong Turn, playing Jessie Burlingame, a camper in the West Virginia woods who gets captured by cannibals and has to fight her way to freedom. By this point in her career, Dushku's reputation for playing scrappy women was well-established, which Dushku reflected in real life by doing her own stunts as much as possible. Dushku's character has the privilege of delivering the final blow to the baddy in this campy slasher, a role that clearly suits the performer's style.

Wrong Turn is a lesser entry in the genre that came at the end of the era's teen cut-'em-up wave, though in true horror fashion it still spawned five sequels and a just-released reboot. Dushku's character survived at the end of the first Wrong Turn, but she never appeared in any of the subsequent movies.

Eliza Dushku found her Tru Calling

The show Dushku chose instead of the Faith spin-off was Tru Calling, a supernatural medical procedural that was very different from the type of roles she was known for at the time. In an interview with IGN before the show's premiere, she said that the character of Tru Davies was closer to who she was in real life at age 22 than Faith, who was who she was five years earlier. "I'm less defensive and I'm more confident in who I am and who I'm trying to be and who I'm gonna be in life and I think that that's kind of where Tru is," Dushku said.

Tru was a medical student who worked in a morgue who discovered that she had the power to talk to dead people and relive days in order to try to stop them from dying. She starred alongside a young Zach Galifianakis, who apparently didn't want to be there. The show ran for two seasons on Fox from 2003 to 2005.

Eliza Dushku is Echo on Dollhouse

In 2009, Dushku reunited with Joss Whedon for this science fiction series he created specifically for his Buffy-era muse. "I called Joss, who was actually the only person on my mind and we went to lunch where I asked him to write me the coolest show that he has ever written and he accepted," Dushku told The TV Addict at the time. Dushku was a producer on the show.

Dushku played Echo, a woman who supposedly voluntarily signed a contract to wipe her memory for five years and become a blank-slate special operator that could be programmed with temporary memories and personalities and rented by people who would use her for criminal or other unsavory purposes. The corporation that provided this service operated out of safe houses called "Dollhouses." Echo, however, could remember parts of who she really was, which was a problem for everyone.

By Whedon's own admission, the ambitious series never fully put all of its ideas together in a coherent way, and it failed to secure an audience. It was canceled after two seasons.

Dushku is Veronica Dawson on Banshee

After Dollhouse, Dushku experienced a bit of a career downturn, appearing in at least one pilot that never went to series and mostly shifting to voiceover work. She also took a step back from Hollywood, returning to her hometown of Boston to attend college. Her most notable role during this time was a recurring arc on the final season of cult favorite Cinemax action series Banshee in 2016. She plays Special Agent Veronica Dawson, an FBI agent who goes to the titular town in search of a serial killer. It was a classic Dushku role, a character plagued by personal demons who wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty.

It took her a little bit of work to get back in fighting shape for the action-packed show. "I had my freshman 15," the grown-up college student joked to DuJour. But the show had trainers on retainer, and she got back into it in no time. It was even a bit of a full-circle moment for Dushku: "The stunt coordinator Marcus Young was one of the first vampires I staked on Buffy back in the day," she said.

Catch Eliza Dushku in True Lies, and see one of the films that started it all for the star.