Jennifer Lynn Connelly is an American film actress and former child model. Although she has been working in the film industry since she was a teenager and catapulted to fame on the basis of her appearances in films like Labyrinth and Career Opportunities, she did not receive wide exposure for her work until 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, New York, the daughter of Ilene, an antiques dealer, and Gerard Connelly, a clothing manufacturer who worked in the garment industry. Connelly's paternal grandparents were of Irish and Norwegian descent, respectively, while her maternal grandparents were Jewish, their families having come 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 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 modeling agency.
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). The film disappointed at the box office, but gained a following among fantasy fans. 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, either critically or commercially. Another film, Career Opportunities, was more successful and is considered a teen cult classic. It and Hot Spot threatened to typecast her in the "sexpot" stereotype with both films emphasizing her voluptuous figure, particularly Hot Spot, which contained her first topless scene. 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. Connelly began studying English at Yale, and two years later transferred to Stanford.
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 heroin addicts on the edge of a breakdown. The film firmly established her as a serious actress. 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 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 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 also 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 next appeared alongside Keanu Reeves in the 2008 remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still. Her upcoming roles include a small independent thriller with her husband Paul Bettany, and a small part opposite Drew Barrymore 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 was a vegan. She is married to actor Paul Bettany (born 1971), whom she met while working on A Beautiful Mind. The couple's son, Stellan (named after actor Stellan Skarsgård), was born on August 5, 2003. His godfather is the actor Charlie Condou. She also has a son, Kai (born 1997), from her relationship with photographer David Dougan.