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Jennifer Lynn Connelly (born December 12, 1970) is an American actress who began her career as a child model. She appeared in magazine, newspaper and television advertising, before she made her film acting debut in the crime film Once Upon a Time in America (1984). Connelly continued modeling and acting, starring in a number of films, including the horror film Phenomena (1985), the musical fantasy film Labyrinth (1986), the romantic comedy Career Opportunities (1991), and the period superhero film The Rocketeer (1991). She gained critical acclaim for her work in the science fiction film Dark City (1998), and for playing a drug addict in Darren Aronofsky’s drama Requiem for a Dream (2000).
In 2002, Connelly won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for portraying Alicia Nash in Ron Howard’s biopic A Beautiful Mind (2001). Her subsequent credits include the Marvel superhero film Hulk (2003), in which she played Bruce Banner’s love interest Betty Ross, the horror film Dark Water (2005), the drama Blood Diamond (2006), the science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), the romantic comedy He’s Just Not That Into You (2009), and the biopic Creation (2009). In the 2010s, she took on supporting roles in Aronofsky’s epic film Noah (2014) and in the action film Alita: Battle Angel (2019).
Connelly was named Amnesty International Ambassador for Human Rights Education in 2005. She has been the face of Balenciaga fashion advertisements, as well as for Revlon cosmetics. In 2012, she was named the first global face of the Shiseido Company. Magazines, including Time, Vanity Fair and Esquire, as well as the Los Angeles Times newspaper, have included her on their lists of the world’s most beautiful women.
Modeling and early film roles
When Connelly was 10 years old, an advertising executive friend of her father suggested she audition as a model. Her parents sent a picture of her to the Ford Modeling Agency, which shortly after added her to its roster. Connelly began modeling for print advertisements before moving on to television commercials. In an interview with The Guardian, she revealed that, after having done some modeling, she had no aspirations to become an actress. She appeared on the covers of several issues of Seventeen in 1986 and 1988. In December 1986, she recorded two pop songs for the Japanese market: “Monologue of Love” and “Message of Love”. She sang in phonetic Japanese as she did not speak the language.
When her mother began taking her to acting auditions, a then 12-year-old Connelly was quickly selected for a supporting role as the aspiring dancer and actress Deborah Gelly in Sergio Leone’s gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America (filmed 1982-83, released 1984). The role required her to perform a ballet routine. During the audition, Connelly, who had no ballet training, tried to imitate a ballerina. Her performance, and the similarity of her nose to Elizabeth McGovern’s, who played the character as an adult, convinced the director to cast her. Connelly described the movie as “an incredibly idyllic introduction to movie-making”. While Once Upon a Time in America was being filmed, Connelly made her first television appearance, in the episode “Stranger in Town” of the British series Tales of the Unexpected.
Connelly’s first leading role was in Italian giallo-director Dario Argento’s 1985 film Phenomena. In the film, she plays a girl who psychically communicates with insects to pursue the killer of students of the Swiss school where she has enrolled. Connelly next had the lead in the coming-of-age movie Seven Minutes in Heaven, released the same year.
Of her early career, Connelly said, “Before I knew it, [acting] became what I did. It was a very peculiar way to grow up, combined with my personality.” She described feeling like “a kind of walking puppet” through her adolescence, without having time alone to deal with the attention her career was generating.
Dustin Lance Black’s Virginia premiered on September 15, 2010, at the Toronto International Film Festival. Two years later, it was announced that the movie would receive a limited theatrical release in May 2012. Connelly portrayed the title role of Virginia, a mentally unstable woman who has a 20-year affair with the local sheriff, whose daughter then starts a relationship with Virginia’s son. Connelly prepared for the role by watching documentaries on schizophrenia. She also spent time at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the New York University’s Cancer Center to understand the afflections and obstacles of her character. While she was preparing for the role, director Dustin Lance Black requested Connelly’s advice to design the set of Virginia’s house, as well as the selection of the apparel to create the character’s style.
She described the film as a “very different” and “very personal” independent film. According to Cinema Blend, “Virginia is propped up by a strong central performance, with Connelly doing some of her best work in years”.
In 2011, Connelly starred in Ron Howard’s comedy The Dilemma with Vince Vaughn. Although the Austin Chronicle’s review noted, “Vaughn nails it, and his nicely nuanced everyguy performance is aided by the always-excellent Connelly,” the movie opened to generally negative reviews. Variety remarked, “Connelly, though a shade looser and more spontaneous than usual, seems stuck at an emotional remove from the action”. Her next project, George Ratliff’s Salvation Boulevard, premiered during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. In the film Connelly played Gwen, the wife of Carl Vanderveer (Greg Kinnear); the couple are members of the Church of the Third Millennium, led by pastor Dan (Pierce Brosnan). During the same year, Connelly recorded an audiobook version of Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky, which integrates the A-List Collection of Audible.com, released in March 2012.
Her next project, starring alongside Greg Kinnear, was the family drama Stuck in Love, the directorial debut of Josh Boone. Connelly played the ex-wife of Kinnear’s character, with whom he is obsessed. The film was premiered during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
In February 2012, Connelly was announced as the first global brand ambassador for Shiseido, having previously worked with the company in the 1980s in a series of advertisements for the Japanese market. On August 2013, it was announced that Connelly was cast by her husband, Paul Bettany, for his directorial debut Shelter. Connelly had a role in the 2014 film adaptation of the 1983 Mark Helprin novel, Winter’s Tale, the directorial debut of Akiva Goldsman, alongside Colin Farrell, William Hurt and Russell Crowe, as well as starring in the English-speaking directorial debut of Claudia Llosa..Cry/Fly.
Working again in collaboration with A Beautiful Mind co-star Russell Crowe, she portrayed Naameh in Darren Aronofsky’s 2014 biblical epic Noah. The film opened to favorable reviews. The Washington Post declared Connelly and Crowe’s performances “impressively grounded, powerful”; The Denver Post felt that Connelly portrayed the role with “fine intelligence”. Variety deemed her appearance “solid but underused”, while Detroit News stated “Connelly has too little to do, but when she lets go, she hits hard.” Indiewire wrote that Connelly conveyed the role with a “steady hand”, while St. Paul Pioneer Press defined her interpretation as “compelling”.