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Jennifer Jason Leigh

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Title: Jennifer Jason Leigh  
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Subject: The Hudsucker Proxy, Greenberg (film), Single White Female, A Thousand Acres (film), Flesh and Blood (1985 film)
Collection: 1962 Births, 20Th-Century American Actresses, 21St-Century American Actresses, Actresses from Hollywood, California, American Child Actresses, American Film Actresses, American Film Directors, American Film Producers, American People of Austrian-Jewish Descent, American People of Russian-Jewish Descent, American Screenwriters, American Stage Actresses, American Television Actresses, American Women Film Directors, American Women Screenwriters, Best Supporting Actress Genie and Canadian Screen Award Winners, Best Supporting Actress Genie Award Winners, Film Directors from California, Jewish American Actresses, Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute Alumni, Living People
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Jennifer Jason Leigh

Jennifer Jason Leigh
Born Jennifer Leigh Morrow
(1962-02-05) February 5, 1962
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1971–present
Spouse(s) Noah Baumbach (m. 2005; div. 2013)
Children 1
Parent(s) Vic Morrow
Barbara Turner

Jennifer Jason Leigh (born February 5, 1962) is an American actress. She has appeared in Short Cuts. She is also the co-writer and co-director of the film The Anniversary Party, made with fellow actor Alan Cumming.

Leigh has a reputation for playing characters on society's bottom rung, often prostitutes or drug users.[1] She is also known for her intensive method-inspired research into her roles.[2] Leigh is often considered to be one of the greatest actresses never to have received an Academy Award nomination.[3][4]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • 1971–1989 2.1
    • 1990–1999 2.2
    • 2000–present 2.3
    • Stage roles 2.4
    • Writing and directing 2.5
  • Other work 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Filmography 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Leigh was born in Hollywood, California. Her father, Vic Morrow (born Victor Morozoff), was an actor, and her mother, Barbara Turner, is a screenwriter.[1][2] Her parents divorced when she was two.[5] Leigh's birth name was Jennifer Leigh Morrow. She changed her surname early in her acting career, taking the middle name "Jason" in honor of actor Jason Robards, a family friend. Leigh's parents were Jewish (their families were from Russia and Austria, respectively).[6][7][8][9]

Leigh has an older sister, Carrie Ann Morrow, who was credited as a "technical advisor" on her 1995 film The Anniversary Party. The director Reza Badiyi was her mother's second husband and was at the time her stepfather.



Leigh worked in her first film at the age of nine, in a nonspeaking role for the film Death of a Stranger (The Execution) (1973). At 14, she attended Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center in Loch Sheldrake, New York summer acting workshops given by Lee Strasberg and landed a role in the movie The Young Runaways (1978). She also appeared in an episode of Baretta. 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 big screen debut playing a blind, deaf, and mute rape victim in the 1981 slasher film Eyes of a Stranger, which she quit school to star in.[2] In 1982, she played a teenager who gets pregnant in the Cameron Crowe-scripted high school comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which served as a launching pad for several of its young stars. While decrying the writing as sexist and exploitative, Roger Ebert was enthusiastic about the acting, singling out Leigh and writing, "Don't they know they have a star on their hands?"[10] With the exception of Ridgemont High and a small role in the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Easy Money, Leigh's early film work consisted of playing fragile, damaged or neurotic characters in low-budget horror or thriller genre films. She played a virginal princess kidnapped and raped by mercenaries in Flesh + Blood (1985), an innocent waitress pursued by the psychopathic title character in The Hitcher (1986) (both films pitting her opposite Rutger Hauer), and a young woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown in Heart of Midnight (1989).


In 1990, Leigh made a significant career breakthrough when she was awarded James Berardinelli wrote, "There are times when it's uncomfortable to watch this performance because it's so powerful",[17] and Janet Maslin of the New York Times described Leigh's "fierce, risk-taking performance and flashes of overwhelming honesty".[18] Leigh won New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress[19] and Best Actress from the Montreal World Film Festival,[20] as well as an Independent Spirit Award nomination.[21] Some expressed surprise that she was not nominated for an Academy Award,[22][23] while Winningham was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Throughout the 1990s, Leigh worked with many independent film directors. She worked with Robert Altman in Short Cuts (1993), playing a phone-sex operator, and Kansas City (1996), as a streetwise kidnapper. Leigh has expressed admiration for Altman and called him her mentor.[1] In a change of pace from her "bad girl" roles, Leigh played the fast-talking reporter Amy Archer in the Coen Brothers' comic homage to 1950s comedy, The Hudsucker Proxy (1994). Leigh took her first lead role as the writer and critic Dorothy Parker in Alan Rudolph's film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994). She received a Golden Globe Award nomination and a National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress,[24] as well as Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress[25] and Fort Lauderdale Film Critics Best Actress Award. In another change of pace, she starred in Agnieszka Holland's version of the Henry James novel Washington Square (1997), as a mousy 19th-century heiress courted by a gold digger. In 1998, she appeared alongside Campbell Scott in the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV film The Love Letter. In David Cronenberg's eXistenZ (1999), she played a virtual-reality-game designer who becomes lost in her own creation.


Leigh had a brief role as a doomed gangster's wife in Sam Mendes's Road to Perdition (2002) and costarred as Meg Ryan's brutally murdered sister in Jane Campion's erotic thriller In the Cut (2003). After a long period of avoiding prostitute roles, she played alongside Christian Bale as his 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".[26] Her performance as a manipulative stage mother in Don McKellar's film Childstar won her a Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in 2005.[27] After many years of wanting to be in a Todd Solondz movie,[2] she appeared in Palindromes (2004). She also appeared in the psychological thriller The Jacket (2005), alongside Adrien Brody. In recent years, Leigh appeared in the 2008 ensemble film Synecdoche, New York and has acted in two films written and directed by her then partner Noah Baumbach: Margot at the Wedding, costarring Nicole Kidman, and Greenberg. Leigh has said that the roles were not specifically written for her, as Baumbach does not write roles with actors in mind.[1] In 2009, Leigh was cast in the Showtime TV series Weeds,[28] becoming a regular guest in the eighth season. She also joined Revenge on ABC, in 2012.[29] Leigh has received three separate career tributes: at the Telluride Film Festival in 1993,[30] a special award for her contribution to independent cinema from the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 2002,[31] and a week-long retrospective of her film work held by the American Cinematheque at Los Angeles's Egyptian Theatre in 2001.[32]

Stage roles

In 1998, Leigh took on the lead role of Sally Bowles in Sam Mendes's Broadway revival of the musical Cabaret, succeeding Natasha Richardson who originated the role in Mendes's production.[33] She succeeded Mary-Louise Parker in the lead role in Proof on Broadway in 2001.[34] Her other theatrical appearances include The Glass Menagerie, Man of Destiny, The Shadow Box, Picnic, Sunshine, and Abigail's Party. In 2011, she played Bunny in the Broadway revival of House of Blue Leaves in New York City alongside Ben Stiller and Edie Falco.[35]

Writing and directing

In 2001, Leigh co-wrote and co-directed The Anniversary Party, an independently produced feature film about a recently reconciled married couple who assemble their friends at their Hollywood Hills house, ostensibly to celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary. As the evening progresses, the party disintegrates into emotional confrontations and bitter arguments as the facade of their happy marriage crumbles. Leigh was inspired by her recent experience filming the low-budget Dogme 95 film The King Is Alive.[36] Leigh and co-writer Alan Cumming drew freely from their personal experiences in the writing of the film.[36] Leigh plays an aging actress who makes jokes about her lack of Academy Award nominations and is fearful of losing her bisexual husband (Cumming). The film was shot in 19 days on digital video,[1] and costarred the pair's real-life Hollywood friends,[36] including Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Beals, John C. Reilly, Parker Posey and Leigh's sister Mina Badie. Leigh and Cumming jointly received a citation for Excellence in Filmmaking from the National Board of Review,[37] and were nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature and Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay. The movie received generally positive reviews.[38]

Other work

Leigh filmed a role in Stanley Kubrick's final film Eyes Wide Shut (1999) as a grieving patient of Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) who declares her love for him after her father's death. Kubrick wanted to reshoot the scenes, but Leigh was unavailable due to scheduling conflicts with eXistenZ; instead her scenes were cut.[39] Leigh was originally cast as Vincent Gallo's girlfriend in his self-directed film The Brown Bunny, and was apparently prepared to perform oral sex on Gallo as the script required. Leigh subsequently commented that "it just didn't work out" and the role was eventually played by Chloë Sevigny.[40] In 1997, she was featured in Faith No More's music video for "Last Cup of Sorrow".[41] She was selected as one of "America's 10 Most Beautiful Women" by Harper's Bazaar magazine in 1989 and served as a jury member at the 57th Venice International Film Festival in 2000.

Personal life

In 1982, Leigh's father, Vic Morrow, was accidentally killed along with two child actors when a helicopter stunt went wrong while filming Twilight Zone: The Movie. Leigh and her sister filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Warner Bros., John Landis and Steven Spielberg. They settled out of court a year later and the terms of the settlement have never been made public.

Leigh has described herself as shy, introverted and averse to Hollywood publicity, and scandal.[5][42] Speaking about her roles in smaller, independent films, she said, "I'd much rather be in a movie that people have really strong feelings about than one that makes a hundred million dollars but you can't remember because it's just like all the others."[2]

She met independent film writer-director Noah Baumbach in 2001 while starring on Broadway in Proof. The couple married on September 2, 2005. Their son, Rohmer Emmanuel, was born on March 17, 2010. Leigh filed for divorce on November 15, 2010, in Los Angeles, citing irreconcilable differences.[43] She sought spousal support as well as primary custody of the couple's son, with visitation for Baumbach.[44] The divorce was finalized in September 2013.[45]


Year Title Role Notes
1977 Baretta Marcie uncredited
1978 Family Jenny Blair Episode: "And Baby Makes Three"
Disneyland Heather Episode: "The Young Runaways"
1981 The Waltons Kathy Seals Episode: "The Pursuit"
Eyes of a Stranger Tracy Harris
The Best Little Girl in the World Casey Powell
CBS Schoolbreak Special Laurie Mcintyre Episode: "I Think I'm Having a Baby"
1982 Wrong Is Right Young Girl
Trapper John, M.D. Karen McCall Episode: "The One and Only"
Fast Times at Ridgemont High Stacy Hamilton
1983 ABC Afterschool Special Andrea Fairchild Episode: "Have You Ever Been Ashamed of Your Parents?"
Easy Money Allison Capuletti
Girls of the White Orchid Carol Heath TV Movie
Released on DVD as "Death Ride To Osaka" (2004)
1984 Grandview, U.S.A. Candy Webster
1985 Flesh + Blood Agnes
1986 The Hitcher Nash
The Men's Club Teensy
1987 Sister, Sister Lucy Bonnard
Under Cover Tanille Lareoux
1988 Heart of Midnight Carol Rivers
1989 The Big Picture Lydia Johnson
Last Exit to Brooklyn Tralala Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress
1990 Miami Blues Susie Waggoner Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
Buried Alive Joanna Goodman TV Movie
1991 Backdraft Jennifer Vaitkus
Crooked Hearts Marriet Hoffman
Rush Kristen Cates
1992 Single White Female Hedra 'Hedy' Carlson/Ellen Besch MTV Movie Award for Best Villain
Nominated—Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
1993 Short Cuts Lois Kaiser Golden Globe Special Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Volpi Cup for Best Acting Ensemble
Nominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress (3rd place)
Nominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress (3rd place)
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 in a Motion Picture – Drama
Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead
Nominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress (2nd place)
1995 Dolores Claiborne Selena St. George Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress
Georgia Sadie Flood Montreal World Film Festival Award for Best Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead
Nominated—Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress (2nd place)
1996 Kansas City Blondie O'Hara
Bastard Out of Carolina Anney Boatwright
1997 Washington Square Catherine Sloper
A Thousand Acres Caroline Cook Verona Love Screens Film Festival: Best Actress
(shared with Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange)
1998 The Love Letter Elizabeth Whitcomb TV Movie
King of the Hill Amy (voice) Episode: "I Remember Mono"
Tracey Takes On... Paige Garland Episode: "Sports"
Adventures from the Book of Virtues Alexandra (voice) Episode: "Gratitude"
Thanks of a Grateful Nation Teri Small TV movie
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
Hercules Tempest (voice) 4 episodes
1999 Superman: The Animated Series Cetea Episode: "Absolute Power"
eXistenZ Allegra Geller
Todd McFarlane's Spawn Lily 2 episodes
2000 Twitch City Faith Episode: "The Life of Reilly"
The King Is Alive Gina Tokyo International Film Festival Award for Best Actress
2001 Skipped Parts Lydia Callahan Also co-producer
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
Frasier Estelle Episode: "The Two Hundredth"
2002 Hey Arnold!: The Movie Bridget (voice)
Road to Perdition Annie Sullivan
Mission Hill Eunice Eulmeyer (voice) Episode: "Kevin Loves Weirdie"
Crossed Over Karla Faye Tucker
2003 In the Cut Pauline
2004 The Machinist Stevie Nominated—Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actress (3rd place)
Palindromes Mark Aviva
Childstar Suzanne Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominated—Vancouver Film Critics Circle for Best Actress in a Canadian Film
2005 The Jacket Dr. Beth Lorenson
Rag Tale Mary Josephine Morton
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—Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Gotham Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female
2008 Synecdoche, New York Maria Gotham Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Independent Spirit Awards: Robert Altman Award (shared with cast and crew)
2009–2012 Weeds Jill Price-Gray 16 episodes
2010 Greenberg Beth also writer and producer
2012 Revenge Kara Clarke-Murphy 7 episodes
2013 The Spectacular Now Sara
Kill Your Darlings Naomi Ginsberg
Hateship, Loveship Chloe
Jake Squared Sheryl
The Moment Lee
2014 Welcome to Me Deb Moseley
2015 Anomalisa Lisa Voice
The Hateful Eight [46] Daisy Domergue Post-production[47]
2016 Amityville: The Awakening Joan Post-production[48]
LBJ Lady Bird Johnson Filming


  1. ^ a b c d e Tobias, Scott. "Interview: Jennifer Jason Leigh". The Onion A.V. Club. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Williams, Zoe (March 12, 2005). "What you see and what you get".  
  3. ^ Telegraph article - Best 20 Actors Who've Never Been Nominated
  4. ^ Blog Indiewire - 5 Actresses That Are Overdue For An Oscar Nomination
  5. ^ a b Stated on Inside the Actors Studio, 1999
  6. ^ "Actor Eulogized For Finest Performance". The Tuscaloosa News. July 27, 1982. p. 20. Retrieved November 23, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Age: A State of Mind".  
  8. ^ Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus. p. 504.  
  9. ^
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1982). "Fast Times at Ridgemont High".  
  11. ^ "New York Film Critics Circle Awards: 1990". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Past Award Winner". Boston Society of Film Critics. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 30, 1990). "Roger Ebert's Best 10 Films of 1990".  
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 20, 1990). "Miami Blues". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 22, 2013. 
  15. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (May 4, 1990). "Movie Review: Last Exit to Brooklyn (1990)".  
  16. ^ "1993 MTV Movie Awards".  
  17. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Georgia". Retrieved March 22, 2013. 
  18. ^ Maslin, Janet (September 30, 1995). "Movie Review - Georgia".  
  19. ^ "New York Film Critics Circle Awards: 1995 Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  20. ^ Wilmington, Michael (September 7, 1995). "Montreal Festival Honors Grosbard's Film, Star Leigh".  
  21. ^ Dretzka, Gary (January 12, 1996). "Film Nominations Are Independent-minded".  
  22. ^ Maslin, Janet (March 17, 1996). "The Un-Nominated". The New York Times. Retrieved March 22, 2013. 
  23. ^ Templeton, David. "On Her Mind". Metroactive. Retrieved March 22, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  25. ^ "Chicago Film Critics Awards - 1988-97". Chicago Film Critics Association. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  26. ^ Lasalle, Mick (November 24, 2004). "Despite a skinny star, 'Machinist' retains its weight". SF Gate. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  27. ^ "Canada's Awards Database". Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  28. ^ Markovitz, Adam. "'"Jennifer Jason Leigh joins 'Weeds. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  29. ^ Keck, William. "Keck's Exclusives First Look: Jennifer Jason Leigh Gets Her Revenge". TV Guide. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  30. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Jennifer Jason Leigh Hides Inside Roles". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  31. ^ GOLD, SYLVIANE (June 2, 2002). "FILM; Ready to Play Anyone but Herself". New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  32. ^ "American Cinematheque Presents... Hearts on Fire: A Tribute to Jennifer Jason Leigh". American Cinematheque. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  33. ^ Simonson, Robert. "Cabaret Resumes B'way Performances Aug. 20". Playbill. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  34. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Jennifer Jason Leigh Is New Star of Proof on Broadway, Sept. 11". Playbill. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  35. ^ Gans, Andrew. "House of Blue Leaves Ends Broadway Run June 25". Playbill. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  36. ^ a b c Lemons, Stephen. "Jennifer Jason Leigh". Salon. Retrieved March 24, 2013. 
  37. ^ "National Board of Review of Motion Pictures :: Awards". National Board of Review. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  38. ^ "The Anniversary Party". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 24, 2013. 
  39. ^ Dretzka, Gary (April 27, 1999). "'"Hyper `Existenz.  
  40. ^ Jennifer Jason Leigh - Leigh Would Not Have Shied Away From Brown Bunny Controversy Music, Film and Entertainment News, 2007/11/19
  41. ^ Samborska, Agatha. "Faith No More Frequently Asked Questions". Faith No More Official Website. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  42. ^ Hunt, Chris. "Jennifer Jason Leigh Interview". More. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  43. ^ Jennifer Jason Leigh Files For Divorce"Single White Female Star".  
  44. ^ "Jennifer Jason Leigh Files for Divorce".  
  45. ^ "Jennifer Jason Leigh is single again after three-year divorce battle".  
  46. ^ Tim McMahon (10 October 2014). The Hateful Eight' Has Its Female Lead"'". The Movie Network. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  47. ^ Mike Mahardy (October 10, 2014). "Tarantino Casts Jennifer Jason Leigh as Female Lead in Hateful Eight".  
  48. ^ Steve Barton (4 April 2014). "Exclusive: Thomas Mann and Taylor Spreitler Check Into the Amityville House".  

Further reading

  • Dunn, Jancee (November 30, 1995). "Jennifer Jason Leigh — She's the Queen of the Ravaged, Boozed Up, and Strung Out". Rolling Stone. p. 57. 
  • "Last Exit to Brooklyn"Anima Animus: Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Bisexual Method in by Ian Murphy (article in Alphaville journal)

External links

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