Jennifer Connelly was born in the Catskill Mountains, New York to Gerard
Connelly (a clothing manufacturer) and Eileen (an antiques dealer); Connelly's
father is a Catholic of Irish and Norwegian descent, while her mother's family
are Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland. Jennifer was raised in Brooklyn
Heights, Brooklyn near the Brooklyn Bridge, attending St. Ann's School, except
for four years the family spent living in Woodstock, New York. One of her
father's friends through the garment trade was an advertising executive.
The executive friend suggested Jennifer audition at a modelling agency. At the age of 10, her career started in newspaper and magazine ads, then moved to television commercials.
Her first film role was as "young Deborah Gelly", a small part in Sergio Leone's 1984 gangster epic, Once Upon a Time in America. She next starred in cult Italian horror director Dario Argento's Phenomena (1985).
Jennifer Connelly became a star on her next picture, the fantasy Labyrinth (1986). Connelly played Sarah, a teenager who wishes her baby brother into the world of goblins ruled by goblin king Jareth (played by rock superstar David Bowie). Through a series of adventures reminiscent of Alice In Wonderland, The Muppets and Monty Python, Sarah does indeed manage to rescue her brother. A product of the talents of Jim Henson, George Lucas, ex-Monty Python member Terry Jones and designer Brian Froud, the film underperformed at the box office, but enjoys a cult reputation today.
Connelly seemed stuck as to how to follow up on this success. She made a Japanese pop record and starred in several obscure films - Etoile (1988) and Some Girls (1988). The Dennis Hopper- directed The Hot Spot (1990) was underwhelming, both critical and commercially. Another film, Career Opportunities, was more successful and is considered a teen cult classic though it, and Hot Spot threatened to typecast her in the "s--pot" stereotype with both films emphasizing her voluptuous figure, particularly Hot Spot which contained her first topless scene.
Jennifer Connelly began studying English at Yale, but transferred two years later to Stanford. She did not graduate from either institution.
The big-budget Disney film The Rocketeer (1991) similarly failed to ignite Connelly's career.
The moody 1996 indie film Far Harbor showed her playing against type and hinted at a much broader range than she had previously shown. Connelly began to appear in smaller but well regarded films such as 1997's Inventing the Abbotts and 2000's Waking the Dead. The 1998 science fiction film Dark City which is well-regarded by critics as a cult favorite, afforded her the chance to work with such top-flight actors as Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Ian Richardson and Kiefer Sutherland. Connelly revisited her ingenue image again, though in a more understated way, for the 2000 Jackson Pollock biopic Pollock.
Arguably, Connelly's big breakthrough finally came in the 2000 film Requiem for a Dream. The haunting, experimental film starred Connelly and Jared Leto as heroin addicts on the edge of a breakdown. The film, which was a success with critics (if not at the box office), firmly established Jennifer Connelly as a serious actress.
Jennifer Connelly's star was on the rise, and she next starred in Ron Howard's film A Beautiful Mind (2001). Connelly essayed the role of Alicia Nash, the long-suffering wife of a brilliant mathematician John Nash, (played by Russell Crowe) who struggles with schizophrenia. The film, based on real life events, was a critical and commercial success and earned Connelly an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Jennifer Connelly starred in two films in 2003: The Hulk and House of Sand and Fog. The Hulk was something of a box office disappointment, but afforded Connelly the chance to work with noted director Ang Lee. House of Sand and Fog, based on the novel by Andre Dubus III, was reminiscent of much of her independent film work of the late 1990s.
Connelly is married to the English actor Paul Bettany, whom she met while working on A Beautiful Mind; the couple's son, Stellan (named after actor Stellan Skarsgård), was born August 5, 2003. She also has a son, Kai (born July 1997), from a relationship with photographer David Dugan.
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