Jennifer Connelly

Also Credited As:

Jennifer Lynn Connelly
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Biography

Though she had been a model and performed in over a dozen movies since she was 12 years old, actress Jennifer Connelly spent most of her early life trying to make a name for herself. While certainly known in Hollywood, Connelly remained relatively anonymous to the public at large until her major breakthrough with a gutsy performance in "Requiem for a Dream" (2000). Prior to that role, Connelly had several brushes with potential stardom, …
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Job Title

Actor, Other

Born

Jennifer Lynn Connelly on December 12, 1970 in New York City, New York, USA

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Though she had been a model and performed in over a dozen movies since she was 12 years old, actress Jennifer Connelly spent most of her early life trying to make a name for herself. While certainly known in Hollywood, Connelly remained relatively anonymous to the public at large until her major breakthrough with a gutsy performance in "Requiem for a Dream" (2000). Prior to that role, Connelly had several brushes with potential stardom, especially with her turns in "The Rocketeer" (1991) and "Inventing the Abbotts" (1997), both of which could have seriously launched her career had they been hits. But it was her Oscar-winning performance as the tortured wife of a brilliant mathematician suffering from schizophrenia in "A Beautiful Mind" (2001) that put Connelly on the map for good. Since that time, she churned out other award-worthy performances - notably "House of Sand and Fog" (2003) and "Reservation Road" (2007), while taking on the occasional blockbuster like "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (2008), certainly making Connelly one of the most compelling, yet underrated actresses of her time.

Born on Dec. 12, 1970 in New York, NY, Connelly was raised an only child in Brooklyn Heights by her father, Gerard, a clothing manufacturer in the Garment District, and her mother, Eileen, an antiques dealer. She began her schooling at Saint Ann's School, a private institution that focused on the arts, but left after the first grade when her father decided to leave the garment industry and move the family upstate to Woodstock, NY. In 1980, after spending a brief, but idyllic time in the famed hippie enclave, Connelly's family moved back to Brooklyn Heights, where she returned to Saint Ann's. Thanks to a family friend who worked as an advertising executive, Connelly - who was already a beauty, with dark hair and striking green eyes - began a modeling career when she was 10, posing for catalogues and magazine covers all throughout her adolescence. She worked for several renowned photographers, including Bert Stern, Cristophe Jouany and Cristina Ghergo, and graced the covers of numerous magazines, most notably Seventeen and Muppet Magazine.

When she was just 12, Connelly made her film debut in Sergio Leone's gangster epic, "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984), playing a younger incarnation of Elizabeth McGovern's character. At the time, Connelly had no particular ambitions on becoming an actor - she essentially fell into it and continued to make movies because she was lucky enough to be asked to be in them. While continuing to model, she had her first starring role in the Italian-made horror thriller, "Creepers" (1984), playing a telepathic American student at a Swiss boarding school who is able to communicate with insects, which leads to helping an entomologist (Donald Pleasance) and the police track down a serial killer. Connelly next starred alongside pop star David Bowie and an assortment of bizarre Jim Henson creatures in "Labyrinth" (1986), in which she played an imaginative 15-year-old who wishes her brother (Toby Froud) into a fairy tale world ruled by a goblin king (Bowie) and is forced to traverse a complicated maze in order to get him back. Though not a box office hit, "Labyrinth" earned a cult following, which helped raise Connelly's stature as young actress to watch.

That same year, Connelly starred as the bright one among a trio of friends - rounded out by Byron Thomas, Maddie Corman - in the lightweight teen sex comedy, "Seven Minutes in Heaven" (1986). By the time she made the romantic comedy "Some Girls" (1989) with Patrick Dempsey, Connelly had graduated Saint Anne's and matriculated into Yale University, where she spent two years as an English major. She transferred to Stanford University to study acting with Roy London, Howard Fine and Harold Guskin, but never graduated. Meanwhile, she continued to star in feature after feature, appearing in her first substantial adult role in Dennis Hopper's seductive thriller, "The Hot Spot" (1990), then as the voluptuous town beauty in the teen comedy "Career Opportunities" (1990). She was perfectly cast in "The Rocketeer" (1991), playing a would-be 1940s Hollywood starlet whose boyfriend (Bill Campbell) is a young test pilot trying to keep a rocket-powered backpack out of the hands of a Nazi spy (Timothy Dalton) posing as an actor. Though the film failed to take off at the box office, Connelly and co-star Campbell became an on-and-off item after the shoot. Meanwhile, in 1992, Connelly starred alongside Jason Priestly in the music video for Roy Orbinson's posthumous release, "I Drove All Night."

Although she was seemingly on the verge of a major career, Connelly had difficulty finding that one breakthrough role to catapult her into the public eye; particularly as an adult actress. During this period, Connelly concentrated more on her Ivy League studies, before resuming her film career once she rediscovered her passion for acting and decided to leave Stanford. Back on track, the actress made a rare foray into television with "The Heart of Justice" (TNT, 1993), in which she essayed the role of femme fatale in this thriller about a reporter trying to uncover the motive behind a murder-suicide involving upper society victims. She next co-starred in John Singleton's message drama, "Higher Learning" (1995), playing a college freshman and lesbian who attracts the attention of a fellow student (Kristy Swanson), followed by the role of Nick Nolte's doomed mistress in "Mulholland Falls" (1996). Connelly came close to that one defining role with "Inventing the Abbotts" (1997), delivering a fine turn as Eleanor, the self-styled "bad girl" middle sister of a trio of beauties (Liv Tyler and Joanna Going) from a wealthy family who all succumb to the charms of the town's working class bad boy (Billy Crudup). She next played the seemingly real wife of an amnesiac (Rufus Sewell) trapped in a bizarre futuristic world of "Dark City" (1998).

After a brief hiatus to give birth to her first son, Kai, whom she had with photographer David Dungan, Connelly returned to the big screen with three high profile art-house films. After again playing a radical haunting her old lover (Crudup) in "Waking the Dead" (2000), she starred in Darren Aronofsky's dour character drama, "Requiem for a Dream" (2000), portraying a wannabe fashion designer with a spiraling drug habit who ultimately submits to degrading herself for her habit. In a role most other actresses would have refused to consider, Connelly finally made her breakthrough as an adult. Following a brief turn as the mistress of famed modern artists Jackson Pollock (Ed Harris) in "Pollock" (2000), Connelly made her debut as a series regular in the short-lived New York City-set serial "The $treet" (Fox, 2000), a behind-the-scenes look at a stock brokerage firm. The actress then had one of her best-reviewed roles, playing the patient and loving wife of an eccentric math genius diagnosed with schizophrenia (Russell Crowe) in "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), loosely based on the real-life relationship between Alicia Nash and her husband, Nobel laureate John Forbes Nash, Jr. Connelly racked up numerous end-of-the-year accolades, including a Golden Globe and a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

After a short stint away from the spotlight, in which she began dating and eventually married "A Beautiful Mind" co-star Paul Bettany, Connelly portrayed Betty Ross, the tortured love interest in "The Hulk" (2003). Based on the famed Marvel comic book creature, director Ang Lee attempted to graft serious pathos onto the rampaging monster - unfortunately with little success. Despite the impressive credentials of Connelly, Lee and star Eric Bana, "The Hulk" was a rare Marvel misfire. In a role more suited to her talents, Connelly turned in a riveting performance in "House of Sand and Fog" (2003), playing a troubled, substance-abusing woman whose family beach home is wrongfully auctioned off by the government, pitting her in a heated battle of wills against the new owner - a former high-ranking Iranian official (Ben Kingsley) - with haunting results. Connelly's complex portrayal resulted in another flurry of critical acclaim and awards buzz, though much of acclaim went to co-stars Kingsley and Shohreh Aghdashloo. Next was the high class entry into the horror genre with "Dark Water" (2005), in which she played a protective single mother who moves into a dilapidated and disturbing apartment house and finds herself tormented by inexplicable events involving dark, shadowy water.

Connelly next co-starred in Todd Field's darkly comic, but emotionally compelling adaptation of Tom Perrotta's novel, "Little Children" (2006), playing the wife of a stay-at-home dad (Patrick Wilson) who struggles with her husband's affair with a former graduate student and stay-at-home mom (Kate Winslet). In "Blood Diamond" (2006), Connelly was a feisty and idealistic American journalist in the midst of chaos in civil war-torn Sierra Leone in the 1990s who - while trying to expose the scandal-ridden diamond companies - falls for a smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio) looking for a rare pink diamond with a poor fisherman (Djimon Hounsou) - a quest that will change the lives of all three forever. While "Blood Diamond" was gathering Oscar buzz in late 2006, Connelly began filming "Reservation Road" (2007), a tragic tale about two families brought together when the father of one family (Mark Ruffalo) kills the son of the other in a hit-and-run accident. In a rare sojourn into blockbuster territory, Connelly starred opposite Keanu Reeves in the 21st century remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (2008).