Ashley Judd was 15 years old when her mother Naomi and sister Wynnona signed a record deal as The Judds. As their music career took off, Ashley attended school, then turned to acting. After a recurring role on TV drama Sisters, she made her film breakthrough in 1993's Ruby in Paradise. Judd soon proved her box office value with hit movies Kiss the Girls (1997) and Double Jeopardy (1999).
Actress Ashley Judd was born Ashley Tyler Ciminella, on April 19, 1968, in Los Angeles, California. Her father, sports broadcasting producer Michael Ciminella, left the family before she was four years old; Ashley moved with her mother, Naomi Judd, and older sister, Wynonna Judd, to her parents' native state of Kentucky soon after.
She was 15 when her mother and sister signed their first record deal, with RCA, as the country-singing duo the Judds. While Naomi and Wynonna were away on tour, Judd often stayed with her maternal grandmother and paternal grandparents; she sometimes lived with her father, who was based in Louisville. She also traveled with the Judds, reportedly earning $10 per day to clean the duo's tour bus.
The studious Judd attended college at the University of Kentucky, where she majored in French and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Judd considered joining the Peace Corps but was encouraged by Wynonna, among others, to try her luck in Hollywood. She moved to Los Angeles in 1990, where she began studying acting at the prestigious Playhouse West school. After two years of study, Judd won a small role in the disappointing Christian Slater vehicle Kuffs (1992), which was enough to earn her a Screen Actor's Guild card.
In 1991, Judd had a recurring role on the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation. From 1991 to 1994, she appeared on the popular television drama Sisters, as the daughter of one of the lead characters, played by Swoosie Kurtz.
Judd made her big-screen breakthrough in 1993, when she played the title role in the well-received independent film Ruby in Paradise, which won that year's Grand Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. She then turned in critically acclaimed supporting performances in Smoke (1995), starring Harvey Keitel; Heat (1995), starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Val Kilmer; and A Time to Kill (1996), starring Matthew McConaughey and Samuel L. Jackson. In addition to starring roles in the little-seen Normal Life (1996) and The Locusts (1997), Judd also played Norma Jean Baker (opposite Mira Sorvino as Baker's legendary alter ego, Marilyn Monroe) in Norma Jean and Marilyn, which aired on cable TV in 1996.
Ashley put her reputation as "the other Judd" behind her for good with the release of the hit 1997 thriller Kiss the Girls, co-starring Morgan Freeman. The film made over $60 million and established Judd as a credible action heroine. Though the low-key drama Simon Birch (1998) met with a mediocre reception, Judd cemented her status as a box office draw with the 1999 action thriller Double Jeopardy, in which she played a vengeful housewife and mother who is framed for the so-called murder of her treacherous husband. Though Double Jeopardy, which co-starred Tommy Lee Jones, got terrible reviews, it stayed atop the box office for a number of weeks and grossed a total of $116 million.
Though both of her next efforts -- the thriller Eye of the Beholder (2000) and the sentimental Where the Heart Is (2000) -- were greeted with far less than an enthusiastic reception, Judd's star is continued to rise. In 2001, she starred in Someone Like You, a romantic comedy for which she reportedly received a career-high salary of $4 million. She has also starred in such films as The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), and Bug (2006).
In fall 2003, she made her Broadway debut as Maggie in a revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Judd lives on a 100-year-old farm in Tennessee, close to both Naomi and Wynonna. In addition to McConaughey, she has also been romantically linked to De Niro and the pop singer Michael Bolton. In April 2000, Judd announced her engagement to Dario Franchitti, a Scottish race car driver. The couple married in Scotland in December 2001.
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