|March 26, 1972|
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Born on March 26, 1972 in San Francisco, CA, Mann was raised primarily by her thrice-married real estate agent mother while having no relationship with her biological father. After graduating from Corona del Mar High School, she decided to become an actress and began her training under Joanne Baron, a noted disciple of Sanford Meisner. She began her career at 17 by appearing in a number of commercials which included one for a nail polish brand called Nouvage. Soon after Mann became a member of the famed comedy improve group, The Groundlings, where she worked alongside the likes of Will Ferrell, Melissa McCarthy and Maya Rudolph. On the small screen, she landed a semi-regular role as Nurse Mary on the short-lived hospital drama, "Birdland" (ABC, 1994), which was canceled after only seven episodes. Despite the setback, Mann continued plugging away and found that her natural beauty, talent and comedic gifts made others want to work with her. She appeared in a string of underwhelming duds, including writer-director Isabel Coixet's indie romantic comedy "Things I Never Told You" (1996), but her luck was about to turn around.
Mann finally caught a huge break, beating out 500 other aspiring actresses to win the role of Matthew Broderick's girlfriend in "The Cable Guy" (1996), a dark buddy comedy starring Jim Carrey as a crazed cable guy who ingratiates himself into the life of a down-and-out average Joe (Matthew Broderick) smarting over a breakup with his girlfriend (Mann). It was on the set of that film that Mann caught the eye of her future husband, producer Judd Apatow. Blown away by Mann at her audition, Apatow reportedly marveled to a friend after she left the room that she may be the future Mrs. Apatow - an off-handed comment that, in hindsight, proved prescient. After a year-long courtship, the two married in 1997. Lucky moviegoers were able to see more of Mann than they had bargained for when she starred as the bodacious Ursula Stanhope, the lovely American heiress smitten by Brendan Fraser, in "George of the Jungle" (1997), a live-action adaptation of the eponymous 1960s cartoon. Eager to start a family with her new husband, "George of the Jungle" would be Mann's last film for two years. Following the birth of their first daughter, Iris, in 1997, Mann returned from her hiatus two years later to play a deliciously rich bitch role in the Adam Sandler comedy, "Big Daddy" (1999).
Entering the new millennium, Leslie appeared in Michael Rymer and Hunter Carson's comic drama set in the fashion world, "Perfume" (2001), co-starring with Paul Sorvino, Jeff Goldblum and Carmen Electra. She followed up playing Jason Lee's longtime girlfriend in Bruce McCulloch's crime comedy "Stealing Harvard" (2002). Following another brief hiatus to have her second daughter, Maude, in 2002, Mann elevated her profile as a drunken floozy who falls into an alcohol-induced slumber while behind the wheel in Apatow's directing debut, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005). Audiences and critics collectively wondered just who was this actress who seemingly had no shame, throwing up on her horrified date (Steve Carrell) with gusto. But Mann once again displayed impeccable comic timing and stole the scene from Carell's titular virgin. The comedy became the surprise comedy hit of the season, raking in over $109 million at the box office. Mann rejoined her husband for another surprise comedy hit, "Knocked Up" (2007), where she played the married older sister of a woman (Katharine Heigl) suddenly pregnant after a one-night stand with an unkempt slacker (Seth Rogen). Though her role was in support of Heigl, Mann - along with onscreen husband Paul Rudd - once again stole the show and raised her profile, thanks to the critical and commercial success of the film.
From there, Mann had a supporting turn in the underwhelming "Drillbit Taylor" (2008), starring Owen Wilson and produced by Apatow, and was the ex-wife of a 37-year-old (Matthew Perry) who undergoes a chance transformation in "17 Again" (2009). From there, she starred opposite Adam Sandler in Apatow's underappreciated dramedy "Funny People" (2009), in which she played a struggling stand-up comic who takes a liking to a man (Sandler) living out his comedy dream after learning he has a fatal blood disease. After the family comedy, "Shorts" (2009), directed by Robert Rodriguez, Mann was the unloved wife of a closeted gay man (Jim Carrey) sent to prison where he falls in love with a fellow prisoner (Ewan McGregor) in "I Love You Phillip Morris" (2010). She landed a voice role as Linda Gunderson in the animated "Rio" (2011) and returned to television after a near 20-year absence with a 2011 episode of the award-winning comedy "Modern Family" (ABC, 2009- ). She went on to play the lovely wife of a family man (Jason Bateman) who magically switches places with a carefree slacker (Ryan Reynolds) in the poorly received comedy "The Change-Up" (2011). Reprising her character from "Knocked-Up," Mann was the star of Apatow's "This Is 40" (2012), a spin-off that focused on Mann's harried wife and mother to Paul Rudd's struggling father and husband. The film received strong reviews for its mature, but genuinely funny comedy and Mann's performance was often singled out as well.
By Shawn Dwyer