Who Is Ashley Judd?
Born in Los Angeles, California, in 1968, Ashley Judd grew up in Kentucky. She was 15 years old when her mother, Naomi, and sister, Wynnona, signed a record deal as the Judds. After a recurring role on TV drama Sisters, Ashley Judd made her film breakthrough in 1993's Ruby in Paradise. She proved her box office value with the hit movies Kiss the Girls (1997) and Double Jeopardy (1999), and later appeared in Divergent (2014) and its sequels. In 2017, Judd was among the first women to reveal she had been sexually harassed by producer Harvey Weinstein, for which she was included as part of the group named Time's Person of the Year.
Early Life and Career
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 4 years old; Ashley moved with her mother, Naomi Judd, and older sister, Wynonna Judd, to her mom's 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 went on to star in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), and in 2003, she made her Broadway debut as Maggie in a revival of Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Judd continued to appear in an array of films over the years, from the horror flick Bug (2007) to the family-friendly Dolphin Tale (2011) to the action-thriller Olympus Has Fallen (2013). In 2014, Judd was among the featured performers in the dystopian blockbuster Divergent, and she subsequently appeared in two sequels.
Judd lives on a 100-year-old farm in Tennessee, close to both Naomi and Wynonna. In addition to McConaughey, she has 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, and they were married in Scotland in December 2001. In 2013, the couple announced they were divorcing.
A sports fan, Judd is known for her support of the University of Kentucky men's basketball team. In 2015, she became the first woman to voice the opening of NBC's Kentucky Derby coverage.
Accusations and Lawsuit Against Weinstein
In October 2017, Judd was one of the first women to publicly say she had been sexually harassed by powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Her decision to come forward sparked a wave of accusations against Weinstein, and helped inspire a social movement in which women everywhere shared stories of unwanted advances and forced sexual activity. In December, Judd was among "The Silence Breakers" recognized by Time in its annual Person of the Year issue.
The following April, Judd sued Weinstein, alleging that the influential producer derailed her career by spreading lies after she rebuffed his sexual advances. Her case was bolstered by the account of director Peter Jackson, who decided against giving her a prominent role in his monstrously successful The Lord of the Rings trilogy after Weinstein described her as a "nightmare" to work with.
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