Vera Farmiga

Also Credited As:

Vera Ann Farmiga
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Biography

From her first appearance on movie screens in the mid-1990s, actress Vera Farmiga built up a long resume and increasing critical note for dramatic work in largely independent films. Like many independent film actresses, Farmiga was passionate about exploring a wide range of complex, nuanced lead characters; also like those same actresses, her options were limited in the world of male-dominated Hollywood films. Farmiga stuck to her dramatic …
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Job Title

Actor, Director

Born

Vera Ann Farmiga on August 6, 1973 in Essex County, New Jersey, USA

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About

From her first appearance on movie screens in the mid-1990s, actress Vera Farmiga built up a long resume and increasing critical note for dramatic work in largely independent films. Like many independent film actresses, Farmiga was passionate about exploring a wide range of complex, nuanced lead characters; also like those same actresses, her options were limited in the world of male-dominated Hollywood films. Farmiga stuck to her dramatic convictions and over more than a decade, she advanced from memorable supporting roles in films including "15 Minutes" (2001) to the acclaimed lead in "Down to the Bone" (2004), a little-seen film about a working class mother battling drug addiction. As her film festival street cred grew, Farmiga caught the eye of more character-driven filmmakers and had the chance to appear before larger audiences in studio films like "The Departed" (2006) and "Up in the Air" (2009), where she showcased her fine work at crafting layered, realistic female characters.

Farmiga was born to Ukrainian parents on Aug. 6, 1973, and raised in a close-knit Ukrainian community in New Jersey as the second-oldest of seven children (her youngest sister is American Horror Story starlet Taissa Farmiga). Deeply tied to her culture growing up, Farmiga was six years old before she learned English, and as a teen, she toured with a Ukrainian folk dancing group. She also became active in school theater when an injury prevented her from playing soccer. Farmiga immediately found acting to be a great emotional release, so following her 1991 graduation from Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, she further pursued her interest in drama at Syracuse University's School of Visual and Performing Arts. Farmiga's professional stage career began soon after college, with a run as Miranda in an American Conservatory Theater production of "The Tempest," and her first Broadway gig as an understudy in the play "Taking Sides." She followed up with a well-reviewed featured turn in the 1997 off-Broadway production, "Second-Hand Smoke." From a supporting role in the CBS "Hallmark Hall of Fame" TV movie "Rose Hill" (CBS, 1997), Farmiga was cast in a starring role alongside a then-unknown Heath Ledger on the medieval adventure series, "Roar" (Fox, 1997), playing a former slave-turned-dreadlocked battler. Farmiga was a fan favorite on the short-lived genre program, and following its early demise, she made her big screen debut in the drama "Return to Paradise," starring Joaquin Phoenix, Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn as international travelers who run afoul of the law in Southeast Asia.

In 2000, Farmiga returned to the big screen in a supporting role as the daughter of a restaurant owner (Richard Gere) dating a woman half his age (Winona Ryder) in the lambasted romance, "Autumn in New York" (2000). She fared better in the indie crime drama "The Opportunists" (2000), where she had a major role as the daughter of a New York ex-con (Christopher Walken) trying to go straight. With the film "15 Minutes" (2001), Farmiga really had a chance to shine with her performance as a Czech immigrant who witnesses a crime and falls for the investigating detective (Edward Burns). Winning critical raves and audience notice for her supporting turn, Farmiga raised her profile and was cast as a regular on the NBC drama "UC: Undercover" (2001-02), taking center stage as a strong-willed and crafty undercover investigator who keeps her cool even in the toughest of situations. While short-lived, the series did give Farmiga an enviable opportunity to take on a fully realized, three-dimensional leading female character, and it led to a leading role in the indie feature "Love in the Time of Money" (2002), a New York-set dramedy also featuring Steve Buscemi and Michael Imperioli.

The increasingly visible actress was featured in the offbeat independent film "Dummy" (2003), starring as the love object of an aspiring ventriloquist (Adrien Brody), as well as returned to television with a regular role on "Touching Evil" (USA, 2004), a short-lived procedural about an agent (Jeffrey Donovan) of the Organized and Serial Crime Unit who solves high profile crimes. Farmiga turned out another performance as a smart, independent-minded woman in HBO's "Iron Jawed Angels" (2004), the award-winning biopic based on the true story of women's rights activists Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and Lucy Burns (Frances O'Connor) and their struggle to earn American women the right to vote. For her starring performance as a working class mother struggling to keep her marriage together and raise two sons while hiding her cocaine addiction in "Down to the Bone" (2004), Farmiga was recognized with a Best Actress nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards and won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Closing out what was a banner year for the actress, Farmiga was seen in a memorable supporting role as the daughter of a liberal senator (Jon Voight) in Jonathan Demme's remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" (2004).

Kicking off another successful year, Farmiga began 2006 with a role as a Romanian prostitute in Anthony Minghella's "Breaking and Entering" (2006), starring Jude Law and Juliette Binoche, and a more vulnerable than usual performance in "Running Scared" (2006), as the wife of a low-level mobster (Paul Walker) mixed up in the fatal shooting of a corrupt cop. Her highest profile project that year, however, was the gritty Martin Scorsese film, "The Departed" (2006), loosely based on the excellent Hong Kong action thriller, "Infernal Affairs" (2002). Farmiga joined an all-star cast - after Scorsese had to convince the studio to take a chance on an "unknown" actress - including Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson. In the box office hit, she played a police psychologist who gets involved with several Boston cops (DiCaprio, Damon) who are working to infiltrate a crime syndicate run by a deviant Irish mobster (Nicholson). Full of taut twists and turns and anchored by outstanding performances, "The Departed" earned huge helpings of critical kudos, including a Best Newcomer nomination from the Empire Awards for Farmiga and a National Board of Review Award for Best Ensemble.

Farmiga's teaming with Sam Rockwell as the parents of a disturbed child in the thriller "Joshua" (2007) came and went without much notice, but "Never Forever" (2007), starring Farmiga as a woman willing to go to great lengths to save her marriage, won the Jury Prize at the Deauville Film Festival. She was singled out for an excellent performance in the indie drama "Quid Pro Quo" (2008) and took home a British Independent Film Award for Best Actress for her starring role in the Holocaust film, "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" (2008). Rod Lurie next cast Farmiga as lead in his political thriller, "Nothing But the Truth" (2008), as an undercover CIA operative trying to keep her identity secret from a prying journalist (Kate Beckinsale). In a surprisingly commercial appearance, Farmiga played the mother of an adopted "bad seed" in the thriller "Orphan" (2009) before striking the perfect balance between artful, character-based film and Hollywood exposure with Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" (2009). In what was hailed as the best performance of her career thus far, Farmiga was paired with George Clooney as the wry, smart and tempting woman who causes an ever-traveling executive to rethink his non-committal lifestyle. For her work in "Up in the Air," Farmiga swept that year's nominations with a Golden Globe nod for Best Supporting Actress as well as similiar nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association, and most importantly, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, who bestowed her with an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress opposite her also nominated "Up in the Air" co-star, Anna Kendrick.