Jennifer Lynn Connelly (born
December 12, 1970) is an American film actress and former child model.
Although starring as early as a teenager in films such as Once Upon a Time
in America, Labyrinth and Career Opportunities, she gained critical
acclaim following her work in the 2000 drama Requiem for a Dream, and the
2001 biopic A Beautiful Mind, for which she won an Academy Award for Best
Supporting Actress, as well as the BAFTA and Golden Globe awards
Connelly was born in the Catskill Mountains of New York, the daughter of
Ilene, an antiques dealer, and Gerard Connelly, a clothing manufacturer
who worked in the garment industry. Connelly's father was of Irish
Catholic and Norwegian descent, and Connelly's mother was Jewish, a
descendant of immigrants from Russia and Poland (Connelly's mother was
schooled in a yeshiva). Connelly was raised in Brooklyn Heights, near the
Brooklyn Bridge, and attended St. Ann's private school, except for four
years the family spent living in Woodstock, New York. One of her father's
friends was an advertising executive, who suggested that she audition at a
At the age of ten, Connelly's career started in newspaper and magazine
ads, then moved to television commercials. These led to movie auditions
and her first film role was as "young Deborah Gelly", a supporting role in
Sergio Leone's 1984 gangster epic, Once Upon a Time in America, filmed
mostly in 1982 when she was eleven. She next starred in Italian
horror-director Dario Argento's Phenomena (1985) and in the coming-of-age
movie Seven Minutes in Heaven.
Connelly became a star with her next picture, the fantasy Labyrinth
(1986), playing Sarah, a teenager who wishes her baby brother into the
world of goblins ruled by goblin king Jareth (David Bowie), where she then
must journey to retrieve him; the film disappointed at the box office, but
became a cult classic in later years with a large fan following still in
existence. Connelly starred in several obscure films, such as Etoile
(1988) and Some Girls (1988). The Dennis Hopper-directed The Hot Spot
(1990) was not a success, critically or commercially; it would be the
first of seven movies in which she appeared nude.
Connelly was featured on the cover of Esquire in August 1991, as part of
the "Women We Love" feature. She appeared alongside Jason Priestley in the
Roy Orbison music video for "I Drove All Night" in 1992.
The big-budget Disney film The Rocketeer (1991) similarly failed to ignite
Connelly's career; after its failure, she took some time off from acting.
The 1996 independent film Far Harbor played her 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. She played a collegiate lesbian in
John Singleton's 1995 ensemble drama, Higher Learning. The critically
favored 1998 science fiction film Dark City afforded her the chance to
work with such actors as Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Ian Richardson, and
Kiefer Sutherland. Connelly revisited her ingenue image, although in a
more understated way, for the 2000 biopic Pollock, in which she played
Jackson Pollock's mistress.
Connelly's big breakthrough was the 2000 film Requiem for a Dream.
Connelly starred alongside Jared Leto and Marlon Wayans as drug addicts on
the edge of a breakdown. Connelly next starred in Ron Howard's film A
Beautiful Mind (2001), essaying the role of Alicia Nash, the
long-suffering wife of the brilliant, schizophrenic mathematician John
Forbes Nash, Jr. (played by Russell Crowe). The film was a critical and
commercial success and earned Connelly a Golden Globe and an Academy Award
for Best Supporting Actress. Her appearance in A Beautiful Mind led to a
featured article in Time magazine.
Connelly starred in two films in 2003: Hulk and House of Sand and Fog.
Hulk was a moderate success at the box office and 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 appeared in the 2005
horror film Dark Water, which was based on a Japanese film. In 2006,
Connelly appeared in two films, both of which were nominated for multiple
Academy Awards. She played a major role in an adaptation of the novel
Little Children alongside Kate Winslet. Although her role as Kathy Adamson
is very important in the novel, director Todd Field gave her character
less screen time, instead focusing on the characters played by Winslet and
Patrick Wilson. She played a journalist in Blood Diamond opposite Leonardo
DiCaprio. She next appeared in Reservation Road with Joaquin Phoenix,
which was given a limited release in the fall of 2007.
Connelly appeared alongside Keanu Reeves in the 2008 remake of the 1951
sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still. Her 2009 roles include a
costume drama biopic with her real-life husband Paul Bettany called
Creation, in which the couple play the 19th century married couple Charles
Darwin and his wife in the months surrounding his controversial theories
on evolution. Jennifer also co-starred in a role opposite Jennifer Aniston
and Ginnifer Goodwin in He's Just Not That Into You.
In 2008, she was named the face of Balenciaga's ads, as well as the new
face for Revlon cosmetics.
Connelly has a son, Kai (born 1997), from her relationship with
photographer David Dugan. She is married to actor Paul Bettany, whom she
met while working on A Beautiful Mind. The couple's son, Stellan (named
after their friend, actor Stellan Skarsgård), was born on August 5, 2003.
His godfather is the actor Charlie Condou.
Connelly was a vegan for years, but reverted to eating meat when pregnant
Acting is great. When it works
it is so fulfilling. You do the research and work with other
talented people who are creative and compassionate and use all your
faculties. The ability to express yourself completely is the most
wonderful feeling in the world. Each film is a chapter in my life
wherein I learn so much more about myself.
I so much enjoy being able to completely allow myself to be consumed
by a role, and really grow in the process,once you've done that,
it's hard to go back working on things you don't care about.
[talking about the films she did in the beginning of her career]:
You don't want to get rid of your experiences, because they're your
experiences - good or bad - and you need them, but it would be great
if they weren't on the video shelf!
[Talking about her character in A Beautiful Mind (2001)]: Alicia is
the person who's trying to ground John Nash in reality and bring him
home, literally, and back to what he was. In A Beautiful Mind, there
are scenes that were painful and scary and sad. I didn't have to go
through degradation as I did in Requiem for a Dream (2000), but
there is a lot of emotional terrain in this movie. There's a tragedy
in the family and it takes a toll on each of them as they try to
live with each other.
[talking about her son Kai Dugan]: We've already done plays
together. Very short plays. He dictates them to me. Sometimes he
casts me, sometimes he doesn't. And when I'm in the play, he'll
sometimes say to me, "No Mom, you didn't say that right!"
[on "The Ball Room Dance" scene, her favorite from Labyrinth
(1986)]: I wore a beautiful silver ball gown, which was a refreshing
change from the blue jeans I wore in almost every other scene. It
was really a gorgeous set, with masses of huge chandeliers and
thousands of flickering candles, hundreds of silken cushions and
curtains, and masses of people in strange masks and ornate dresses.
There was the thrill of dancing with David Bowie to one of the songs
he composed especially for the film. There wasn't enough room, for
technical reasons, to really dance around properly, but we just
drifted slowly and gracefully (I hope!) to David's music, and he
looked fabulous! It's all a sort of magical fantasy sequence inside
a huge bubble.
[about her son]: "I don't think I would be doing this quality of
work if it hadn't been for my son. He's changed me. He's helped me
to understand myself and find my place in the world."