Erica Lei Leerhsen is an American actress, best known for her lead roles in the box-office hit The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the sequels Wrong Turn 2: Dead End and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. She is also known for her acting on television, such as her lead role in The Guardian and several guest appearances, including The Sopranos, Alias, and others. She was also voted #96 in 2001's Maxim Hot 100 and is referred to as one of todays "Scream Queens" as she has starred in numerous horror movies.
Leerhsen was born in New York City, New York on Valentine's Day, and raised in Ossining, Westchester County, New York, along with her two sisters, Nora and Debbie, by their father Charles Leerhsen, a long time editor of celebrity publication Us Magazine (which became Us Weekly in March 2000). She attended St. Augustine's School and Ossining High School (where she sang in the choir) and graduated from Boston University College of Fine Arts in 1998. She earned BFA (summa cum laude) in acting the same year.
After graduation, Leerhsen's first role was as Sarah in a 1999 short film Junior Creative, which received several good reviews. During its production, she got the lead role of a practicing witch in the controversial Horror sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, though she originally auditioned for the part that eventually went to Kim Director. She went to the audition with short blonde hair, and, as director Joe Berlinger described it, "completely Gothed-out", but ultimately was given the role of Erica. It was Berlinger who decided to make her character a long-haired redhead.
Following Blair Witch 2, Leerhsen appeared in the third season of The Sopranos, where she played a lesbian tennis instructor who falls for Drea de Matteo's character. She then joined the cast of the well-acclaimed TV show The Guardian, however she left the show in the middle of the season to continue with pursuing her career. In the same year she had a supporting role in Woody Allen's Hollywood Ending.
Leerhsen was honored with the title "Arrow in the Head's Mistress of the Year 2003". That year saw the release of the successful horror remake The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in which Leerhsen had a lead role as one of the doomed teens. During her screen test for the film, her screams were so loud that people on other floors of the building called the police to report that a young woman was being attacked. The same year she returned to acting on television with a guest appearance on Alias, and then reunited with Woody Allen in his new film, Anything Else.
In 2004, Leerhsen starred in an independent Thriller The Warrior Class, where she played Anson Mount's love interest. The film got released on DVD on February 6, 2007. Months later, she started acting in theaters, and appeared in Woody Allen's A Second Hand Memory, which attracted attention from a wider adult audience and received good reviews.
A year later, Leerhsen starred along Michael Pena in an independently-made Toronto Film Festival-smash Little Athens, which got released on DVD on November 21, 2005. The same year she had a guest appearance on Jennifer Love Hewitt's television show Ghost Whisperer, and starred in Mozart and the Whale, which was released in limited theaters on April 14, 2006.
The year 2006 opened with Leerhsen's guest appearance on CSI: Miami. Shortly after, she was landed a starring role in Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, the successful 2007 sequel to the 2003 horror film Wrong Turn, where she did a lot of her own stunts. The sequel got released on DVD on October 9, 2007 in USA, and January 8, 2008 in UK.
Before filming Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, Leerhsen shot a Horror/Thriller Living Hell, where she played a hazmat specialist. The film premiered on the SCI FI Channel on February 23, 2008, and got released on DVD on June 10 in USA.
In 2007, Leerhsen starred in an indie film Lonely Joe, which has been said to be a Supernatural Horror/Thriller "in the veins of Saw and The Sixth Sense", and has been slated for an unknown 2009 release. Her most recent projects have been a Thriller The Message, and 3 upcoming films: an Aussie Horror/Thriller The Fury, Shiver, a Thriller directed by Lucky McKee, and a horror film Slaughter.
Leerhsen enjoys running, playing basketball and Yoga. She currently lives in Los Angeles and is good friends with actress Emily Deschanel, with whom she went to the same college.
Commenting on the characters she often plays, Leerhsen has said: "It's weird because I always seem to be dead. I'm gonna have to change that because I wouldn't want to be typecast."