JENNIFER JASON LEIGH
Date of Birth: February 5, 1962
Jennifer Jason Leigh was literally born into the film industry: the daughter of the late actor Vic Morrow and screenwriter Barbara Turner, she made her film debut in the extremely obscure Death of a Stranger when she was only fourteen. A few years later, Jennifer dropped out of high school to study acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute.
Her first important TV role was as the anorexic heroine of The Best Little Girl in the World (1981), for which she voluntarily went down to 86 pounds before the cameras turned. This "method" approach was typical of Jennifer, who, even after obtaining stardom, indulged in intense subtextual preparation, such as writing a diary in the style of whichever character she happened to be playing. A lighter excursion followed with Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), which cast her as Phoebe Cates' sexually curious best friend. But just as Jennifer's career was building and she was becoming a star, tragedy struck when her father, who was shooting a role in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), was killed during an accident on the set.
It wasn't until 1990 that Jennifer began to earn true critical respect — as well as a reputation for taking on dark, difficult roles — as that was the year she starred in both Miami Blues and Last Exit to Brooklyn. Playing ex-con Alec Baldwin's prostitute lover in the former and yet another lady of the night in the latter, Leigh was rewarded with a New York Film Critics Circle Award for her powerful performances.
More acclaim followed, first for her work as a drug-addicted narcotics agent in Rush (1991) and then for her portrayal of a phone sex worker in Robert Altman's 1993 Short Cuts. As part of the film's ensemble cast, she won a Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival for her performance. In later efforts, Leigh demonstrated a fondness for flamboyant, curiously accented characterizations, notably her maniacal "roommate from hell" in Single White Female (1991), her Katharine Hepburn-style comic turn in The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) and her deliberately artifice-laden portrayal of writer Dorothy Parker in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994).
After turns as a deeply troubled, angry young daughter in the moody Dolores Claiborne and then as a deeply troubled, angry young musician in Georgia (both 1995), Jennifer again worked with Altman in his tribute to jazz music and his boyhood home, Kansas City (1996). Leigh then donned petticoats for Agnieszka Holland's adaptation of Washington Square (1997). Her role as Albert Finney's plain and withdrawn daughter was far from that in her other film that year, A Thousand Acres. As family patriarch Jason Robards' youngest daughter, Jennifer returned to her tradition of playing forthright, outspoken characters. However, whatever kinds of character she had played in the past, very few of them were anything like Allegra Geller, the computer game designer she played in David Cronenberg's eXistenZ (1999).
Although she filmed a role in Eyes Wide Shut (1999), when director Stanley Kubrick decided to do some reshoots, she was unavailable. He reshot all of her scenes with another actress.
Jennifer co-wrote her first screenplay, The Anniversary Party (2001), with actor Alan Cumming. They also co-directed the film, which starred many of their friends, including Phoebe Cates, Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly and Parker Posey. The small budget movie earned Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay.
In 2005, she won a Best Supporting Actress Genie award for her role as the mother of a child actor in the Canadian film Childstar (2004).
Since then, she has starred in films such as Welcome To Me (2015), Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight (2015), for which she received a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination, LBJ (2016), Amityville: The Awakening (2017) and Annihilation (2018). Jennifer produced and appeared in the Netflix original series Atypical and returned to the big screen in the film White Boy Rick (2018). Most recently, she appeared in The Woman in the Window (2021), Awake (2021), and Lisey's Story (2021).
On September 3, 2005, Jennifer married director Noah Baumbach, whom she'd been dating for four years. They had one child together, but were divorced in 2013.
Photo taken at Annihilation Los Angeles Premiere by © ABImages/Alex J. Berliner All Rights Reserved.