Jennifer¬†Connelly was born December 12th 1970, at¬†Catskill Mountains, New York. The daughter¬†of Gerard, a clothing retailer, and Eileen¬†Connelly, an antiques dealer, she spent¬†four years in Woodstock, New York, but grew¬†up in Brooklyn¬†Heights, just across the Brooklyn¬†Bridge from Manhattan. She attended the¬†prestigious Saint¬†Ann’s school from kindergarten¬†through high school.
Her education¬†widened quickly. An advertising executive¬†friend of the family suggested that 10-year-old¬†Jennifer, being extraordinarily good-looking,¬†might make a great child-model. So, they¬†went looking for representation, and found¬†it in the prestigious Ford Agency and, after¬†school, Eileen would take little Jennifer¬†into the city to auditions. She was very¬†successful, appearing in many newspaper¬†and magazine ads (such as in Seventeen¬†magazine), and in TV commercials.¬†These days, Jennifer claims she can remember¬†very little about this, in fact recalling¬†only one ad – for Scott’s toilet paper.¬†Jennifer has said that modeling was “really¬†alien” to her and she happily left¬†it behind for film acting when she could:¬†“I was so shy and really didn’t like¬†getting my picture taken”.
Jennifer’s work took her¬†all over, particularly to Europe and Japan.¬†While in England, she made her onscreen¬†debut as a member of an underground child
cult in the video for Duran Duran’s Union¬†Of The Snake. Jennifer’s¬†first movie experience came when a casting¬†director introduced her to legendary filmmaker Sergio Leone, who was seeking an actress who¬†could fill the role of a young girl to dance¬†in his dramatic epic, “Once Upon a Time in America” (1984).¬†The supposed determining factor in her casting¬†was that her nose matched Elizabeth¬†McGovern‘s,¬†who played Deborah as an adult. Jennifer¬†has described the audition for the film¬†as the easiest of her career: “the¬†whole thing took three days, I went and¬†auditioned, went back the next day and met¬†the director, and then went back and met¬†with the director and Robert DeNiro”.
During her¬†original interview with Leone she was asked¬†to dance . “Not being a dancer, I had¬†no idea what to do and I can only imagine¬†how silly it must have looked, whatever¬†it was I did”. Jennifer spent her twelfth¬†birthday on the set, and has described working¬†on the film as “pretty darn fun”.¬†The role of Young Deborah also, notably,¬†became very nearly the archetype for the¬†type of role Jennifer has been most often¬†asked to play throughout her career: the¬†female object of male infatuation and longing.¬†Although having little screen time, the¬†few minutes she was on-screen were enough¬†to reveal her talent. After Leone’s movie,
horror master Dario¬†Argento signed her to play¬†her first starring role in his horror thriller¬†“Phenomena”¬†(1985), in which Jennifer plays a girl who¬†can communicate with insects. The film made¬†a lot of money in Europe, but unfortunately¬†was heavily cut for American distribution¬†as “Creepers”. Argento was a colleague¬†of Sergio Leone’s, and no doubt had been¬†impressed with the young woman’s beauty,¬†poise, and maturity in her first film role.
Jennifer next¬†appeared in the low budget “Seven¬†Minutes In Heaven” (1985)¬†for Zoetrope Studios, where Jennifer played¬†a Grade-A student who lets a troubled male¬†friend stay at her house, much to her boyfriend’s¬†chagrin. Unfortunately, the film was not¬†supported by its studio and received limited¬†distribution. The late eighties saw her¬†appearing in a smash hit and three lesser¬†seen films. Amongst the latter was her roles¬†in “Etoile”¬†(1988), as a ballerina, and in “Some¬†Girls” (1988), where she¬†played a self absorbed college freshman.¬†Directed by Michael Hoffman (“Restoration“,¬†“One¬†Fine Day“), this was a¬†black comedy where student Patrick¬†Dempsey goes to Quebec to spend¬†Christmas with his girlfriend, Gaby D’Arc,¬†played by Jennifer. On his arrival, she¬†tells him she doesn’t love him any more,¬†but he sticks around to receive lessons¬†in life and love from her sexy sisters,¬†her father, who spends most of his time¬†naked, and her grandma (who thinks he’s¬†her dead husband).
The smash hit¬†was “Labyrinth”¬†(1986) in which Jennifer plays a young girl¬†who, frustrated by having to baby-sit her¬†brother, calls the goblins to take him away
– which they duly do. She has to discover¬†the key to the Goblin King’s labyrinth and¬†rescue her little brother, and while doing¬†so meets all manner of fantastical beasts.¬†Jennifer got the job after a nation-wide¬†talent search for the lead in this fantasy¬†directed by Jim Henson and produced by George¬†Lucas. Henson was quoted as saying he knew¬†he’d found his lead the minute she walked¬†in the door for the audition. Her co-star¬†was rock star David¬†Bowie, who played the evil
Goblin King. Bowie has said that she reminded¬†him of the young Elizabeth Taylor. He also¬†remarked that “she’s. . .a damn good¬†actress and a joy to work with.” For¬†her part, Jennifer remembers that she was¬†“impressed by Bowie, but (she) wasn’t¬†into that teenager-rock star kind of thing¬†at all”. She enjoyed the shoot immensely,¬†particularly the scene where she wore a¬†silver ballgown and danced with David Bowie¬†to a track he wrote especially for the film.¬†Much of Jennifer’s original fan following¬†are those who first encountered her in this¬†film.
After graduating¬†from St. Ann’s in 1988 Jennifer found herself¬†re-evaluating her acting career: “.¬†. .in a few years it began to change. I¬†said, ‘Do I really want to do this? or am¬†I just doing it because it came along?’¬†So I took it all apart and put it back together¬†and said, ‘Yes, I want to be an actor.’¬†In 1990s she enrolled at Yale,¬†where she majored in drama and English Literature.¬†After her sophomore year there, she transferred¬†to Stanford University, where she remained for another¬†year, but she never finished her degree.¬†She had hopes of attending college with¬†anonymity, but to no avail. “I wasn’t¬†going to tell anyone at all, but I had a¬†roommate who’d seen me in Labyrinth and¬†so it was out”. She found that the¬†mere fact that she had worked in Hollywood¬†made her a cause celebre among her classmates:¬†“you’re more famous than you actually¬†are”. At Stanford Jennifer trained¬†in classical theater and improvisation,¬†studying with the late drama coach Roy London¬†and with Howard Fine and Harold Guskin.
Her career¬†entered into a terribly calm phase until Dennis¬†Hopper, who was impressed after¬†having seen her in “Some¬†Girls“, cast Jennifer¬†as an ing√©nue small-town girl in¬†“The¬†Hot Spot” (1990), based¬†on the fifties crime novel Hell Hath No¬†Fury. It received mixed critical reviews,¬†but it was not a box office success. The
relatively high profile role in “The¬†Hot Spot” got her noticed by the press¬†for more than her acting. Stephen Schaefer¬†in a USA Today article wrote: “Anyone¬†looking for proof that little girls do grow¬†up fast in the movies should take a gander¬†at curvaceous Jennifer Connelly opposite¬†Don Johnson in The Hot Spot. Not yet 20,¬†Connelly has neatly managed the transition¬†from child actress to ingenue.” Not¬†all that surprisingly, Jennifer was called¬†upon by Hopper to do her first nude scene:¬†“The nudity was hard for me and something¬†I thought about. . .but it’s not in a sleazy¬†context.” The quote reflects the sensible¬†manner with which she had approached a number¬†of other such scenes in her career. The¬†nudity wasn’t the only thing she was a bit¬†trepidatious about–she balked a bit at
going into the freezing cold water during¬†one of the beach scenes. Johnson solved¬†the problem quickly–he just picked her¬†up and threw her in!
Jennifer showed¬†off her glamour and good looks as Josie¬†McLellan in “Career¬†Opportunities” (1991),¬†a John¬†Hughes produced comedy which¬†was largely overlooked at the box office.¬†Although it was derided by some critics¬†as light-weight and silly, it has over the¬†years developed somewhat of a cult following¬†among Jennifer Connelly fans, and also fans¬†of John Hughes’ work. In subsequent interviews,¬†Jennifer mentioned that she was embarassed
by her role as Josie because of the way¬†that the film overly emphasized her sexuality.¬†She was keen to move into more serious adult¬†roles, and not be relegated to an ‘object¬†of desire’. “The¬†Rocketeer”¬†(1991), an ambitious Touchstone super-production,¬†came to the rescue. The film was an old-fashioned¬†adventure flick about a young pilot who¬†discovers a jet-pack and uses it to save¬†his girlfriend and foil gangsters and Nazis¬†in 1930’s Hollywood. Critics saw in Rocketeer¬†a top-quality movie, a homage to those old¬†films of the 1930s in which the likes of¬†Errol Flynn starred. In real life, Jennifer¬†and co-star Bill Campbell became an item,
and saw each other on and off for five years,¬†at one point even getting engaged.
After a year¬†long break from acting, Jennifer appeared¬†in “The¬†Heart of Justice” (1993),¬†a made-for-television drama which teamed¬†her up with a strong ensemble cast including¬†Dennis Hopper, Eric Stoltz and her Career¬†Opportunities co-star, Dermot Mulroney.¬†With dark themes of ambition, incest, murder¬†and jealousy, this film marked Jennifer’s¬†progression into the adult roles that she¬†had been seeking. “Of¬†Love and Shadows” (1994)¬†provided Jennifer with an opportunity to¬†show off her credentials in her first role¬†following drama classes at Stanford. Unfortunately¬†the film was widely criticized for being¬†poorly scripted, poorly directed and (apart¬†from Jennifer and her co-star Antonio Banderas)¬†poorly acted.
Jennifer’s¬†next major role was in “Mulholland¬†Falls” (1996), a 1950s¬†crime movie with a film-noir edge and a¬†solid cast including Nick Nolte, Melanie¬†Griffith, Chazz Palminteri, Michael Madsen¬†and John Malkovich. Jennife’s role as Allison¬†Pond, the wounded beauty at the heart of¬†the story, was praised by film critic Roger¬†Ebert, who described her performance as¬†“sexy in the way Marilyn Monroe was¬†sexy – as if she doesn’t quite believe it,¬†and can’t quite help it – and she finds¬†the right note, halfway between innocence¬†and heedless abandon.” Jennifer followed¬†Mulholland Falls with another 1950’s drama,¬†“Inventing¬†the Abbots” (1997) about¬†a rich family whose parties and wealth dominate¬†a small Midwestern town and a local working-class¬†boy who has made the family his addiction.¬†Jennifer is the official “bad girl”¬†who gets sent away to stewardess school¬†for her exploits.
This was followed¬†by another brief hiatus for the birth of¬†her son, Kai (with then-boyfriend David¬†Dugan, a photographer) in 1997. In 1998¬†Jennifer was invited by director Alex¬†Proyas to make “Dark¬†City” (1998), a strange,¬†visually stunning science fiction extravaganza.¬†In this movie, Jennifer played the main¬†character’s wife, and she delivered an acclaimed¬†performance. The film itself didn’t break¬†any box-office record but received positive¬†reviews. This led Jennifer to a contract¬†with Fox for the short-lived TV series “The¬†$treet” (2000), a main¬†part in the memorable and dramatic love-story¬†“Waking¬†the Dead” (2000), and¬†more important, a breakthrough part in the¬†polemic and applauded independent “Requiem¬†for a Dream” (2000), a¬†tale about the haunting lives of drug addicts¬†and the subsequent process of decadence¬†and destruction.
In Requiem, Jennifer had¬†her career’s most courageous, difficult¬†part, a performance that earned her a Spirit¬†Award Nomination and brought her the best¬†critical notice of her career to date.
She¬†followed this role with “Pollock”¬†(2000), in which she played Jackson Pollock’s¬†mistress, Ruth Klingman, who comes between¬†him and his wife, played by Marcia Gay Harden,¬†near the end of the artist’s life.
Jennifer’s¬†fortunes improved immensely in 2001, with¬†a truly revelatory performance in “A¬†Beautiful Mind” (2001), Ron¬†Howard‘s acclaimed¬†biopic of John Forbes Nash Jr., a brilliant¬†mathematician, Nobel Prize winner in Economics,¬†and schizophrenic. As the devoted wife of¬†this complex man (played by Russell¬†Crowe), Jennifer earned a wealth¬†of critical accolades, including Golden¬†Globe and American Film Institute Awards¬†and a an Academy Award for Best Supporting¬†Actress.
After 20-odd¬†films, Jennifer had landed squarely on the¬†A-list after “A Beautiful Mind”,¬†a status that has been cemented by her roles¬†in Ang Lee’s action movie “Hulk”¬†(2003), her role opposite Ben Kingsley in¬†the drama “House¬†of Sand and Fog” (2003),¬†based on the book by Andre Dubus III, and¬†her leading role in “Dark¬†Water” (2005), a remake¬†of the hit supernatural Japanese film, directed¬†by Walter Salles.
In “Little¬†Children” (2006), a black¬†comedy / satire directed by Todd Field,¬†Jennifer plays a small role as Kathy, a¬†cold and manipulative wife in a perfect¬†looking but shallow marriage. “Blood¬†Diamond” (2006), directed¬†by Edward¬†Zwick and staring Leonardo¬†DiCaprio, marked Jennifer’s¬†first appearance in a a genuine ‘block buster’¬†film. Jennifer played Maddy Bowen, an American¬†journalist who meets and befriends both¬†Danny (DiCaprio) and Solomon (Djimon Hounsou),¬†and challenges Danny to dispense with his¬†nihilism and do his part to fight for good¬†instead of being part of evil. In “Reservation¬†Road” (2007), Jennifer¬†teamed up with Joaquin Phoenix, her former¬†co-star in Inventing the Abbotts, playing¬†the mourning parents of a son killed in¬†a hit and run car accident. Despite generally¬†poor reviews, critics nevertheless continued¬†to acknowledge Jennifer’s ability to excel¬†in emotional and painful roles. She has most recently been seen in the remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” opposite Keanu Reeves and co-starring in “He’s Just Not That Into You” alongside Jennifer Anniston, Drew Barrymore and Ben Affleck that¬†marked¬†her return to comedy after a 17 year hiatus.¬†The Baltimore-set movie of interconnecting¬†story arcs dealt with the challenges of¬†reading or misreading human behavior.¬†In 2008, she was named the face of Balenciaga’s ads, as well as the new face for Revlon cosmetics.
Jennifer’s next role was in the animated film “9” (2009) voicing rag doll 7, along with Elijah wood, John C. Reilly and Martin Landau. The adventure-fantasy is set in a post-apocalytic future. In “Creation“, a drama- biography based in the life of English naturalist Charles Darwin, Jennifer appears as Emma Darwin, co-starring alongside her husband in real life Paul Bettany. The story is focused on Darwin’s struggle to find the balance between his revolutionary theories on evolution and the relationship with his religious wife, whose faith contradicts his work.
Virginia, schedule for release date in 2010, is a heartfelt drama, Jennifer Connelly is Virginia, a delicate and trouble woman, who despite hints of mental illness, survives in a turist conservative town, while her affair with the local married mormon sheriff has dragged for years with no resolution, but willing still to indulge in his secret taste for fetish sex, she holds a secret, when her son begins a romantic relationship with the sheriff’s daughter, and he announces plans to run for the state senate, their affair runs the risk of becoming a political liability.
Her upcoming projects are the comedy/drama “The dilemma” (2011) and “Salvation Boulevard” (2011), a comedy-thriller set in the world of mega-churches, co-starring Pierce Brosnan, Marisa Tomei and Ed Harris.