Born on December 12, 1970, in Catskill, New York, Jennifer Connelly worked as a model before embarking on a film career with parts in Labyrinth, Requiem for a Dream and Pollock. She won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for another biopic, A Beautiful Mind, with a later lead role in The House of Sand and Fog. Other projects have included The Hulk, Little Children and The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Actress Jennifer Lynn Connelly was born in New York's picturesque Catskill Mountains on December 12, 1970. An only child, Connelly was raised in Brooklyn Heights by her father Gerard, a clothing manufacturer, and her mother Eileen, an antiques dealer. Her father was Irish Catholic and her mother grew up in a very religious Jewish household. Speaking about her mixed religious background, Connelly jokes that she was "raised with a double dose of guilt."
Modeling and Acting
Connelly was noticed at a very young age for her precocious beauty and talent. She began modeling at the age of ten, appearing on the covers of such magazines as Seventeen and Muppet Magazine. She acted in her first film, Once Upon A Time in America (1984), at the age of 11, and appeared in nine films — including Jim Henson's cult classic Labyrinth, starring opposite David Bowie — by the time she turned 20.
Connelly initially found her niche in romantic comedies. She acted opposite Patrick Dempsey in the 1988 film Some Girls, and played a rich girl who falls in love with a janitor in the 1991 movie Career Opportunities. Thrust into the world of cinema at such a young age, Connelly had little chance to reflect upon the career she had begun. She recalled later, "I'd started working before I ever thought about whether acting was what I wanted to do."
Despite her busy life as a child model and actor, Connelly took her education very seriously. She graduated from Brooklyn's prestigious St. Ann's School and continued on to Yale University, where she studied English. After two years at Yale, she transferred to Stanford University to study drama with famed acting instructor Roy London. Connelly's education and intelligence later proved crucial as she made a successful transition from teenage heartthrob to mature actress.
Even with her early success, Connelly remained relatively unknown to the general public until the 2000 film Requiem for a Dream, based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Hubert Selby, Jr. In a surprising role for a breakthrough performance, Connelly plays Marion Silver, a heroin addict and aspiring fashion designer who resorts to prostitution to feed her addiction. Connelly earned high praise for her portrayal. The New York Times raved, "Ms. Connelly has never before done anything to prepare us for how good she is here."
Connelly built on her success in Requiem for a Dream with another career-elevating performance in the acclaimed 2001 film A Beautiful Mind. The film, based on Sylvia Nasar's 1998 book, follows the life of Nobel Prize-winning economist John Forbes Nash, Jr. Connelly plays the loving wife of the schizophrenic professor (played by Russell Crowe). The film won four Academy Awards including Best Picture, and Connelly won 10 separate honors for her performance, including a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Since achieving stardom through Requiem for a Dream and A Beautiful Mind, Connelly has gone on to star in other acclaimed and popular films. In 2003, she played love interest Betty Ross in The Hulk, based on the famous Marvel comic book character. That same year, she again portrayed a struggling drug addict in House of Sand and Fog.
In 2006, she starred opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the well-reviewed Blood Diamond as an American journalist attempting to expose corrupt diamond companies in war-torn Sierra Leone. Connelly even tried a foray into the world of blockbuster effects-laden epics in 2008, co-starring with Keanu Reeves in The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Outside of appearing in more films like Reservation Road (2007), He's Just Not That Into You (2009), The Dilemma (2011), and Noah (2014), Connelly has found time to involve herself in other projects.
In 2005 Connelly became a human rights education ambassador for Amnesty International and in 2012 an ambassador for Save the Children fund. She's also been the spokesmodel for Revlon, Balenciaga, and Shiseido.
Connelly, who describes herself as a private person who enjoys spending time alone, says that her life was transformed by the birth of her son Kai in 1997. "I feel more comfortable in my own skin now than I ever have," she said after the birth of her son. "It's changed the way I feel as a citizen of the world." Having a child also changed the way Connelly approaches her selection of roles: "It's really important to me to feel good about what I'm working on, to justify the number of hours I'd have to be away from him." In 2003, Connelly married A Beautiful Mind co-star Paul Bettany. The couple's son, Stellan, was born on August 5, 2003. In May 2011, their daughter, Agnes Lark, was born.
Decades after she burst into the entertainment world as a child actor and model, Connelly has fully transformed herself into a mature and well-regarded actress. And she looks forward to continuing to expand her acting repertoire. Asked what she'd like to try in the future, Connelly said, "I'd like to play someone who isn't particularly well educated. I keep playing scientists and smart girls."
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