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Jennifer Jason Leigh


Birth name:

Jennifer Lee Morrow




Hollywood, California, USA



Race or Ethnicity:


Sexual orientation:





United States

Executive summary:

Fast Times at Ridgemont High


5' 3" (1.60 m)


Jennifer Jason Leigh - Pictures

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Jennifer Jason Leigh - Biography


Jennifer Jason Leigh (born February 5, 1962) is an American actress.
Leigh was born Jennifer L. Morrow in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Combat! actor Vic Morrow and Pollock screenwriter Barbara Turner. Both of Leigh's parents were Jewish, although Leigh was raised mostly without religion. Leigh changed her last name, taking the middle name "Jason" in honor of a family friend, Academy Award-winning actor Jason Robards.
At the age of 14, she attended Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center in Loch Sheldrake, New York and summer acting workshops given by Lee Strasberg. She received her Screen Actors Guild membership in an episode of the TV show Baretta when she was 16.

An episode of The Waltons and several TV movies followed, including a portrayal of an anorexic teenager in The Best Little Girl in the World, for which Leigh dropped to 86 pounds (39 kg) under medical supervision. She made her screen debut as a blind, deaf, and mute rape victim in the 1981 slasher film Eyes of a Stranger, which she dropped out of high school to play. In 1982, she played a teenager who gets pregnant in Cameron Crowe's high-school comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which was directed by Amy Heckerling and served as a launching pad for several then-unknown future stars besides Leigh, including Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold, Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Phoebe Cates and Nicolas Cage.
Leigh gravitated towards portraying fragile, damaged or neurotic characters. She was initially cast as victims – a virginal princess kidnapped and almost raped by mercenaries in Flesh & Blood (1985), an innocent waitress pursued by The Hitcher (1986), and a young woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the seedy nightclub inherited from her uncle in Heart of Midnight (1989).
It wasn't until 1990 that Leigh made a significant career breakthrough when she was voted the year's Best Supporting Actress by both the New York Film Critics Circle and the Boston Society of Film Critics for her portrayals of two very different prostitutes: first as a tough streetwalker in Last Exit to Brooklyn, and then as a sweet waif whose dreams of suburban bliss are shattered by sociopathic ex-con Alec Baldwin in Miami Blues. She then portrayed an undercover narcotics policewoman who becomes a junkie in the line of duty in Rush (1991), and one of her signature roles: Hedy, the psychotic “roommate from hell” in the thriller Single White Female (1992). She then played a fast-talking, hard-as-nails reporter who has her heart melted by Tim Robbins in the Coen Brothers’ surreal comic fantasy The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), and won many awards for her portrayal of the writer and poetess Dorothy Parker in Alan Rudolph's Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994). For the latter, she received a Golden Globe nomination and Best Actress awards from the National Society of Film Critics, Chicago Film Critics Association and Fort Lauderdale Film Critics.
Next up was the role of Sadie Flood, an angry, drug-addicted barroom rock singer living in the shadow of her successful older sister (Mare Winningham) in Georgia (1995). For the role Leigh dropped to 90 pounds (41 kg) and sang all the songs live, including a 8½-minute version of Van Morrison's "Take Me Back". Critic Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote that "(Leigh's) fierce, funny, exasperating and deeply affecting portrayal commands attention"; James Berardinelli claimed, "There are times when it's uncomfortable to watch this performance because it's so powerful", while Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said "Leigh’s exceptional performance tears you apart… we've never seen anything like it before." She won Best Actress awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and Montreal World Film Festival.
Other memorable Leigh roles of this era included a jaded phone sex operator who diapers her newborn baby while plying her trade in Robert Altman's Academy Award-nominated film Short Cuts (1993), Kathy Bates' tormented, pill-popping daughter in the Stephen King adaptation Dolores Claiborne (1995), a streetwise kidnapper in Altman's jazz tribute Kansas City (1996), a mousy 19th century spinster heiress courted by a gold digger in Washington Square (1997), and a virtual reality game designer hunted by terrorists in David Cronenberg's surreal eXistenZ (1999). In 2001 she joined forces with Scottish actor Alan Cumming to write, direct and produce a film shot in 19 days on digital video and starring real-life Hollywood friends like Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Beals, John C. Reilly, and Parker Posey. The result was The Anniversary Party, a well-received ensemble comedy in the style of The Big Chill or Peter's Friends. Leigh and Cumming jointly received a citation for Excellence in Filmmaking from the National Board of Review and were nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards for Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay.
More recently Leigh has been cast in smaller character roles: as gangster Tom Hanks's doomed wife in Sam Mendes' Road to Perdition (2002), as Meg Ryan's brutally murdered sister in Jane Campion's In the Cut (2003), and as Christian Bale's prostitute girlfriend in the thriller The Machinist (2004) (Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle commented that "As the downtrodden, sexy, trusting and quietly funny prostitute, Leigh is, of course, in her element"). Her performance as a manipulative stage mother in Childstar won her a Genie Award in 2005.
Also a stage actress, Leigh took on the singing, dancing lead role of Sally Bowles in the popular musical Cabaret on Broadway from August 4, 1998 to February 28, 1999, and succeeded Mary-Louise Parker in the lead role in Proof from September 13, 2001 to June 30, 2002. Other theatrical appearances include The Glass Menagerie, Man of Destiny, The Shadow Box, Picnic, Sunshine, and Abigail's Party.

Leigh filmed a role for Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999), but when Kubrick wanted to do re-shoots, she was unavailable and her entire part was redone with actress Vinessa Shaw. In 1997, she was featured in Faith No More's music video for "Last Cup of Sorrow".
Leigh turned down the role of Libby, which was eventually played by Cynthia Watros, on ABC's popular thriller series Lost. She appeared in the 2008 film Synecdoche, New York with Catherine Keener and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Leigh is known for doing extensive method acting research in every role, including keeping diaries written in the character’s voice, and in the past has interviewed psychiatrists, mental patients, drug addicts, sexual abuse survivors, prostitutes and phone sex workers to prepare for her roles. Leigh was willing to perform oral sex on Vincent Gallo in the 2004 film The Brown Bunny, but said "it just didn't work out". Eventually, Chloë Sevigny got the role.

When Leigh was twenty years old, her father was accidentally killed when a helicopter stunt went wrong while shooting Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). Leigh and her sister filed suit against Warner Brothers, John Landis, and Steven Spielberg. They settled out of court a year later, but the terms of the settlement have never been made public. At the time of her father's death, Leigh said she had not seen her father in three years or talked to him in two, having been estranged from him after her parents' divorce.
Leigh and her boyfriend of four years, Academy Award-nominated independent film writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale), were married on September 3, 2005. Baumbach directed Margot at the Wedding which starred Leigh opposite Nicole Kidman and Jack Black. The couple reside in New York City and Los Angeles.
She has been best friends with her Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Anniversary Party co-star Phoebe Cates for over 25 years. Other close friends include Mare Winningham, Jennifer Beals, Alan Cumming, and John C. Reilly. Her stepfather is television director Reza Badiyi.
According to various magazine interviews and her 1999 guest slot on the TV show Inside the Actors Studio, Leigh is a fan of the photographer Nan Goldin, and the musicians Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Liz Phair, and Ella Fitzgerald.
She has been romantically linked to the actors Bruno Kirby and Eric Stoltz.


Jennifer Jason Leigh - Personal Quotes


"I could never play the ingenue, the girl next door or the very successful young doctor. That would be a bore."

On her best friend, Phoebe Cates: "Your best friend is the only one who would tell you the person you are in love with is a sexually ambivalent man-child."

I just don't plan things. I live a month at a time.

I'm a typical middle child. I'm the mediator. The one that makes everything OK, puts their own needs aside to make sure everybody's happy. It's hard to change your nature, even with years and years of therapy.

I like a movie that the audience actively has to participate in, and not just casually observe. Whatever my part in it, just as an audience member, I find that exciting.

People can have so many ill-conceived ideas about me based on the parts that I play. I've had guys, when I've been single, come out of the woodwork to date me and I've found out very quickly that they were expecting some kind of whirlwind, some dramatic crazy person - and that's just not me.

I'd much rather be in a movie that people have really strong feelings about than one that makes a hundred million dollars but you can't remember because it's just like all the others.

When I did Short Cuts (1993) with Robert Altman, I went up to him on the first day and said 'Hi', and he said 'Hi, how are you? Could you get me a cup of coffee?' When I brought it back, it turned out he thought I was the PA. For him, I come alive on film. As a person, I don't really register that much. I mean, he loves me, I don't take it as a cut, although you could. But he says that as a person I disappear in a way. On film, I'm very mysterious, but in life I'm very dull. I don't feel like I'm dull, but I don't put out a lot.

But in mainstream movies the woman's role is mostly just to prove that the leading man is heterosexual. I'm not good at that, and I'm not interested in that.

I like the comparison to Depp because with him, the way he transforms himself from role to role, he's just this miraculous changeling and people really get behind it. But with me, people sometimes have a problem.

I think I live in this mythical world where doing the parts I do is not going to hurt me, and telling people my age is not going to hurt me. And it actually does. It's a bit sick-making but, you know, I can't change who I am.


Jennifer Jason Leigh - Filmography


Greenberg (2010)
"Weeds" .... Jill (2 episodes, 2009)
- Su-Su-Sucio (2009) TV episode .... Jill
- Machetes Up Top (2009) TV episode .... Jill
Synecdoche, New York (2008) .... Maria
Margot at the Wedding (2007) .... Pauline
Lymelife (2007) (completed) .... Brenda Bartlett
Rag Tale (2005) .... Mary Josephine 'MJ' Morton
Easter Sunday (2005) .... Mother
The Jacket (2005) .... Dr. Beth Lorenson
Childstar (2004) .... Suzanne
Palindromes (2004) .... 'Mark' Aviva
Maquinista, El (2004) .... Stevie
... aka The Machinist (International: English title) (USA)
In the Cut (2003) .... Pauline
"Mission Hill" .... Eunice 'Weirdie' Eulmeyer (1 episode, 2002)
- Kevin Loves Weirdie (2002) TV Episode (voice) .... Eunice 'Weirdie' Eulmeyer
Road to Perdition (2002) .... Annie Sullivan
Hey Arnold! The Movie (2002) (voice) .... Bridget
Crossed Over (2002) (TV) .... Karla Faye Tucker
... aka Destins croisés (Canada: French title)
"Frasier" .... Estelle (1 episode, 2001)
- The Two Hundredth (2001) TV Episode .... Estelle
The Quickie (2001) .... Lisa
... aka The Quickie (France)
The Anniversary Party (2001) .... Sally Nash
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) (uncredited) .... Female inmate
Skipped Parts (2000) .... Lydia Callahan
... aka The Wonder of Sex (UK)
The King Is Alive (2000) .... Gina
... aka Dogme # 4 - The King Is Alive (Denmark: series title)
... aka Dogme 4
... aka The King Is Alive (Denmark)
"Twitch City" .... Faith (1 episode, 2000)
- The Life of Reilly (2000) TV Episode .... Faith
Beautiful View (2000)
Spawn 3: Ultimate Battle (1999) (V) (voice) .... Lilly
eXistenZ (1999) .... Allegra Geller
... aka eXistenZ (France)
"Superman" .... Cetea (1 episode, 1999)
... aka Superman: The Animated Series (USA: informal alternative title)
- Absolute Power (1999) TV Episode (voice) .... Cetea
"Hercules" .... Tempest (3 episodes, 1998)
... aka Disney's Hercules (USA: complete title)
- Hercules and the Prom (1998) TV Episode (voice) .... Tempest
- Hercules and the Techno Greeks (1998) TV Episode (voice) .... Tempest
- Hercules and the Assassin (1998) TV Episode (voice) .... Tempest
Thanks of a Grateful Nation (1998) (TV) .... Teri Small
... aka The Gulf War
"Tracey Takes On..." .... Paige Garland (1 episode, 1998)
- Sports (1998) TV Episode .... Paige Garland
"King of the Hill" .... Amy (1 episode, 1998)
- I Remember Mono (1998) TV Episode (voice) .... Amy
The Love Letter (1998) (TV) .... Elizabeth Whitcomb
A Thousand Acres (1997) .... Caroline Cook
Washington Square (1997) .... Catherine Sloper
"Spawn" (1997) TV Series .... Lilly (unknown episodes)
... aka Todd McFarlane's Spawn
Bastard Out of Carolina (1996) .... Anney Boatwright
Kansas City (1996) .... Blondie O'Hara
Georgia (1995) .... Sadie Flood
... aka Georgia (France)
Dolores Claiborne (1995) .... Selena St. George
Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994) .... Dorothy Parker
... aka Mrs. Parker and the Round Table
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) .... Amy Archer
... aka Hudsucker - Der große Sprung (Germany)
Short Cuts (1993) .... Lois Kaiser
Single White Female (1992) .... Hedra 'Hedy' Carlson
The Prom (1992) .... Lana
Rush (1991) .... Kristen Cates
Crooked Hearts (1991) .... Marriet Hoffman
Backdraft (1991) .... Jennifer Vaitkus
Buried Alive (1990) (TV) .... Joanna Goodman
Miami Blues (1990) .... Susie Waggoner
Fire Princess (1990)
Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989) .... Tralala
... aka Letzte Ausfahrt Brooklyn (West Germany)
The Big Picture (1989) .... Lydia Johnson
Heart of Midnight (1988) .... Carol Rivers
Sister, Sister (1987) .... Lucy Bonnard
Under Cover (1987) .... Tanille Lareoux
Picnic (1986) (TV) .... Madge Owens
The Men's Club (1986) .... Teensy
The Hitcher (1986) .... Nash
Flesh+Blood (1985) .... Agnes
... aka Señores del acero, Los (Spain)
... aka The Rose and the Sword
Grandview, U.S.A. (1984) .... Candy Webster
Girls of the White Orchid (1983) (TV) .... Carol Heath
... aka Death Ride to Osaka
Easy Money (1983) .... Allison Capuletti
"ABC Afterschool Specials" .... Andrea Fairchild (1 episode, 1983)
- Have You Ever Been Ashamed of Your Parents? (1983) TV Episode .... Andrea Fairchild
The First Time (1982) (TV) .... Bonnie
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) .... Stacy Hamilton
... aka Fast Times at Ridgemont High (UK: video title)
"Trapper John, M.D." .... Helen's Daughter (1 episode, 1982)
- The One and Only (1982) TV Episode .... Helen's Daughter
Wrong Is Right (1982) .... Young Girl
... aka The Man with the Deadly Lens
The Best Little Girl in the World (1981) (TV) .... Casey Powell
The Killing of Randy Webster (1981) (TV) .... Amy Wheeler
"CBS Afternoon Playhouse" .... Laurie (1 episode, 1981)
- I Think I'm Having a Baby (1981) TV Episode .... Laurie
Eyes of a Stranger (1981) .... Tracy Harris
"The Waltons" .... Kathy Seals (1 episode, 1981)
- The Pursuit (1981) TV Episode .... Kathy Seals
Angel City (1980) (TV) .... Kristy Teeter
... aka Field of Tears
The Young Runaways (1978) (TV) .... Heather
"Disneyland" .... Heather (1 episode, 1978)
... aka Disney's Wonderful World (USA: new title)
... aka The Disney Sunday Movie (USA: new title)
... aka The Magical World of Disney (USA: new title)
... aka The Wonderful World of Disney (USA: new title)
... aka Walt Disney (USA: new title)
... aka Walt Disney Presents (USA: new title)
... aka Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (USA: new title)
- The Young Runaways (1978) TV Episode .... Heather
"Baretta" .... Marcie (1 episode, 1977)
- Open Season (1977) TV Episode (as Jennifer Leigh) .... Marcie
Tod eines Fremden (1973) (uncredited) .... Girl playing with a rubber ball
... aka Death of a Stranger
... aka Hinrichtung, Die
... aka The Death Merchants
... aka The Execution (UK)
... aka The Mad Killers (USA: reissue title)
... aka The Spy Who Never Was (USA)


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Jennifer Jason Leigh





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