Clea Duvall was born in Los Angeles on September 25, 1977. DuVall's teenage years presented her with many challenges. Her parents divorced when she was twelve, and, when her mother remarried, DuVall moved out because she did not feel at home in the newly-reconstituted family, dropping out of high school and getting her own apartment. An only child, she sought entertainment in movies and television programs, which she consumed voraciously, memorizing entire scenes from movies. Though a rather shy person, DuVall decided she wanted to be an actress, and returned to high school, this time the Los Angeles High School of the Arts. However, the rigors of independent living (she had to work to support herself) meant that she could spend little time in class, and, as a result, she fared poorly in the school.
Nonetheless, DuVall had intensity, commitment and strong natural talent, and soon after graduating, the roles began to come, at first guest spots in television programs and small roles in small films. Soon her first major role came, in Robert Rodriguez's successful 1998 take on the alien-body-snatcher genre, The Faculty (1998), which featured many other up-and-coming young actors such as Elijah Wood and Josh Hartnett, as well as a strong cast of established adult performers. DuVall played Stokely, a bizarre, tough Goth Girl. This role was typical of DuVall's casting - the outsider, attractive though in an edgy and sometimes slightly disturbing way. (DuVall is pretty and can be glamorous, or can appear rough-around-the-edges, for a role.) Similar roles came in But I'm a Cheerleader (1999) as a tattooed lesbian and Girl, Interrupted (1999) as a mental patient.
DuVall is a complex person - soft-spoken and friendly, yet tough and independent - and she ably lends this complexity to her characters, making her a popular casting choice. She continues to turn in strong performances in such productions as the ensemble thriller Identity (2003), the HBO Gen-X supernatural series Carnivàle (2003) and the critically-praised 21 Grams (2003). DuVall is a chain smoker and a close friend of director Jamie Babbit. She is no relation to veteran actors Robert Duvall or Shelley Duvall.