Lyonne is likely to get lots of what she wants. After breaking out as Woody Allen's daughter in 1996's Everyone Says I Love You, she manages to steal Slums from costars Alan Arkin and Marisa Tomei. And she realized her biggest dream of all when she bought a Manhattan studio apartment earlier this year. "The only thing I ever wanted is to own a home in New York," she says.
Of course dreams don't come true overnight. The Great Neck, N.Y., native began acting at age 6, landing the role of Opal on Pee-wee's Playhouse. When she was 8, her father, Samuel, a former boxing promoter, moved the family to Israel, where Lyonne helped out by "walking around the ring as a card girl in a little skirt and tights and little boots." Her parents soon divorced, and Lyonne returned to New York City with mom Ivette, a product licensing consultant, and brother Adam, now 25. But she was miserable wearing long skirts and praying three times a day at her Manhattan yeshiva. "I wouldn't mind burning down the school," she says.
Fortunately she chose to burn up the screen instead, landing a spot on As the World Turns and making her film debut opposite Meryl Streep in 1986's Heartburn. The unattached, self-proclaimed neurotic seems happier these days. "I'm testing the American dream," she says. "I'm just going to watch movies and make movies till I die—even if people don't want me to anymore."