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Jennifer Jason Leigh
Born Jennifer L. Morrow
February 5, 1962 (1962-02-05) (age 48)
Hollywood, California,
United States
Occupation Actress
Years active 1973–present
Spouse(s) Noah Baumbach
(2005–present)

Jennifer Jason Leigh (born February 5, 1962) is an American actress.

Contents

Early life and career

Leigh was born Jennifer L. Morrow in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Combat! actor Vic Morrow and Pollock screenwriter Barbara Turner.[1] Both of Leigh's parents were Jewish, although Leigh was raised mostly without religion.[2] 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.

Career

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.[citation needed] 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 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 Brotherssurreal 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.

Other work

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.[3] She appeared in the 2008 film Synecdoche, New York with Catherine Keener and Philip Seymour Hoffman.[4]

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.[5] 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".[6] Eventually, Chloë Sevigny got the role.

Personal life

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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

Filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1973 Tod eines Fremden Girl playing with a rubber ball Uncredited
1980 Angel City Kristy Teeter Made-for-TV Movie
1981 Eyes of a Stranger Tracy Harris
The Best Little Girl in the World Casey Powell
1982 Wrong Is Right Young Girl on Reality Program
Fast Times at Ridgemont High Stacy Hamilton
The First Time Bonnie Dillon
1983 Girls of the White Orchid Carol Heath TV
Easy Money Allison Capuletti
1984 Grandview, U.S.A. Candy Webster
1985 Flesh + Blood Agnes
1986 The Hitcher Nash
The Men's Club Teensy
1987 Under Cover Tanille Lareoux
Sister, Sister Lucy Bonnard
1988 Heart of Midnight Carol Rivers
1989 The Big Picture Lydia Johnson
1990 Last Exit to Brooklyn Tralala
Miami Blues Susie Waggoner Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
1991 Backdraft Jennifer Vaitkus
Crooked Hearts Marriet Hoffman
Rush Kristen Cates
1992 The Prom Lana
Single White Female Hedra 'Hedy' Carlson
1993 Short Cuts Lois Kaiser Golden Globe Special Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Volpi Cup for Best Acting Ensemble
1994 The Hudsucker Proxy Amy Archer
Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle Dorothy Parker Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Female
1995 Georgia Sadie Flood Also Producer
Montreal World Film Festival Award for Best Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Female
Dolores Claiborne Selena St. George Nominated — Chlotrudis Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress
1996 Kansas City Blondie O'Hara
Bastard Out of Carolina Anney Boatwright
1997 Washington Square Catherine Sloper
A Thousand Acres Caroline Cook
1998 The Love Letter Elizabeth Whitcomb Hallmark television film
1999 eXistenZ Allegra Geller
2000 Beautiful View
The King is Alive Gina Tokyo International Film Festival Award for Best Actress
Skipped Parts Lydia Callahan Also Co-Producer
2001 The Man Who Wasn't There Female inmate Uncredited
The Anniversary Party Sally Therrian Also Writer/Producer/Director
Nominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature shared with Alan Cumming
Nominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay shared with Alan Cumming
The Quickie Lisa
2002 Hey Arnold: The Movie Bridget Voice
Road to Perdition Annie Sullivan
2003 In the Cut Pauline
2004 Childstar Suzanne Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Palindromes "Mark" Aviva
The Machinist Stevie
2005 Easter Sunday Mother
Rag Tale Mary Josephine 'MJ' Morton
The Jacket Dr. Beth Lorenson
2007 Margot at the Wedding Pauline Peñíscola Comedy Film Festival Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated — Gotham Award for Best Ensemble Cast
2009 Weeds Jill Price-Gray TV
2 Episodes
2008 Synecdoche, New York Maria Gotham Award for Best Ensemble Cast
2010 Greenberg TBA (filming)Also Writer/Producer

References

  1. ^ "Jennifer Jason Leigh Biography (1962-)". filmreference.com. http://www.filmreference.com/film/8/Jennifer-Jason-Leigh.html. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  2. ^ Bloom, Nate (2007-11-22). "Interfaith Celebrities: Santa’s Jewish Family, and Margot at the Wedding’s Near-Minyan". InterfaithFamily.com. http://www.interfaithfamily.com/arts_and_entertainment/movies_theater_tv_and_music/Interfaith_Celebrities_Santas_Jewish_Family_and_Margot_at_the_Weddings_Near-Minyan.shtml. 
  3. ^ Ausiello, Michael (2005-08-24). "Ausiello on Cynthia Watros, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michelle Rodriguez". TV Guide. http://www.tvguide.com/News-Views/Columnists/Ask-Ausiello/default.aspx?posting=%7B74E7E576-C98C-4D4B-B4B7-F500363A9423%7D. 
  4. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0383028/
  5. ^ "Jennifer Jason Leigh Biography". Yahoo! Movies. http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/contributor/1800018935/bio. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  6. ^ JENNIFER JASON LEIGH - LEIGH WOULD NOT HAVE SHIED AWAY FROM BROWN BUNNY CONTROVERSY Music, Film and Entertainment News, 2007/11/19
  7. ^ Carter, Kelly (2005-09-27). "Jennifer Jason Leigh, Director Baumbach Wed". People. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1110332,00.html. 
  8. ^ "Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh: From Co-Stars Turned Co-Directors, a Marriage Tale". New York Times. 2001-05-13. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/13/arts/13SHEW.html. 
  9. ^ Gold, Sylviane (June 2, 2002). "FILM; Ready to Play Anyone but Herself". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/02/movies/film-ready-to-play-anyone-but-herself.html?scp=12&sq=jennifer%20jason%20leigh&st=cs. Retrieved 22 December 2009. 

Further reading

  • Dunn, Jancee (1995-11-30). "Jennifer Jason Leigh - She's the Queen of the Ravaged, Boozed Up, and Strung Out". Rolling Stone: pp. 57. 

External links








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