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Jennifer Connelly - Biography

The former child actress went on to star in the Academy Award-nominated film A Beautiful Mind 

Jennifer Connell with her hair in a sleek bun© Getty
Orin Carlin
Content Writer
Updated: July 5, 2023
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Jennifer Connelly's early life 

Born on December 12, 1970, Jennifer began modelling aged ten, appearing in magazine and TV adverts. Within a year or so, she had launched her film career with a role as a young ballerina in Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In America. Though she never stopped working in the eighties, Jennifer never found her name on the Hollywood child star A-list. "I began working when I hadn't yet come into my own, when I was this walking puppet," she reflected in one interview. "Some of the movies I did... I look back and cringe." She would later add: "I don't think I was this fantastic actress who was being neglected I had the career I deserved at the time." 

Jennifer Connelly's career 

Jennifer's film career started at the age of 11 with a role in the 1984 gangster epic, Once Upon A Time In America. She was cast as the aspiring dancer and actress Deborah Gelly, and the part required her to perform a ballet routine. Her first leading role was in Italian Giallo film Phenomena which was released the following year about a girl who psychically communicates with insects. 

Shortly after, Jennifer appeared in Jim Henson's 1986 cult-classic Labyrinth alongside music legend David Bowie. While the picture didn't make a box office splash, it propelled Jennifer further into the public eye. Throughout the 1990s, she appeared in a series of films: The Hot Spot (1990), The Rocketeer (1991), Of Love and Shadows (1994), Higher Learning (1995) and Inventing the Abbotts (1997). 

MORE: Inside Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany's marriage - how 9/11 brought them together

READ: Jennifer Connelly opens up about 'special' moment with Prince William at Top Gun premiere

One of the films that Jennifer was widely praised for was Ron Howard's 2001 biopic A Beautiful Mind. The picture was loosely based on a biography written about the mathematician John Nash. Jennifer played his long-suffering wife Alicia Nash, and for her striking performance she won several major awards: a Golden Globe, and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and a BAFTA for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

Jennifer Connelly's personal life

Jennifer graduated from high school and went on to study English at Yale University and then drama at Stanford. Around this time, her career and personal life transitioned into adulthood when she was cast as the leading lady in another adventure story, 1991's The Rocketeer. She fell in love and became engaged to her co-star Billy Campbell. Five years later, the pair broke off their wedding plans.

Not long after the split Jennifer began seeing photographer David Dugan and the two had a son Kai in 1997. Though the pair are no longer an item, they raise Kai "together", and the three have dinner as a family once a week.The Golden Globe winner, who took Kai with her onto the set of A Beautiful Mind every day, calls motherhood and work a "balancing act" and credits the little boy with bringing a new perspective on her life and career. 

READ: Jennifer Connelly sports most fabulous footwear during appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan

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"I don't think I would be doing this quality of work if it hadn't been for my son," she says. "He's changed me. He's helped me to understand myself and find my place in the world." Jennifer's new approach to her career, which has brought her acclaimed roles in award-winning films Requiem Of A Dream and Pollock, as well as A Beautiful Mind, has also put her firmly on the A-list she missed out on as a kid. However, the New York-based actress, who married her A Beautiful Mind co-star Paul Bettany in January 2003, says being a full-time mum means she's not accustomed to being a full-time Hollywood star. "I have a very different existence at home that keeps me kind of out of the loop of how the politics in this industry works. So this is all kind of new to me." 

Jennifer and Paul welcomed their first child together, a boy named Stellan, on August 6, 2003. Seven years later they announced they were expecting a second baby, and in 2011, the actress gave birth to a daughter.

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