Rachel Weisz - biography

Rachel Weisz

Rachel Hannah Weisz (  /ˈvs/ / vice /;[1] born 7 March 1970[2]) is an English film and theatre actress and former fashion model. She started her acting career at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where she co-founded the theatrical group Cambridge Talking Tongues. The group was awarded the Student Drama Award for the improvised piece Slight Possession during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe by The Guardian.

Weisz started working in television, appearing in Inspector Morse, the British mini-series Scarlet and Black, and the television film Advocates II. She made her film début in the 1994 film Death Machine, but her breakthrough role came in the 1996 film Chain Reaction, leading to a high-profile role as Evelyn Carnahan-O'Connell in the films The Mummy, in 1999, and The Mummy Returns in 2001. Other notable films featuring Weisz are Enemy at the Gates, About a Boy, Constantine, The Fountain and The Constant Gardener, for which she received an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors' Guild award for her supporting role as Tessa Quayle. She has been labelled an "English rose" since her minor role in Stealing Beauty in 1996.

Weisz also works in theatre. Her stage breakthrough was the 1994 revival of Noël Coward's play Design for Living, which earned her the London Critics Circle Award for the most promising newcomer. Weisz's performances also include the 1999 Donmar Warehouse production of Tennessee Williams" Suddenly Last Summer, and their 2009 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. Her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in the latter play earned her the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Actress of 2009.

Early life and background

Weisz was born in Westminster, London, and grew up in Hampstead Garden Suburb.[3] Her mother, Edith Ruth (née Teich), is a teacher turned psychotherapist from Austria.[4][5] Her father, George Weisz, was an inventor from Hungary.[6][7] Her parents fled to England just before the Holocaust and the outbreak of the Second World War.[8] Her father is Jewish and her mother has Jewish, "Catholic Viennese", and Italian ancestry.[9][10] Weisz' maternal grandfather, Alexander Teich, was a secretary of the World Union of Jewish Students;[11][12][13] whilst one of Weisz' maternal great-grandmothers was Italian.[10] She has a younger sister, Minnie, who is a photographer and curator.[14]

Weisz's parents valued the arts, and encouraged her and her sister to form opinions of their own by introducing them to family debates. Her parents later divorced.[15] Weisz left North London Collegiate School and attended Benenden School for one year completing A-levels at St Paul's Girls School.[16] Weisz claimed that she was a bad student until an English Literature teacher inspired her at the age of sixteen.[17]

Known for being an "English rose" due to her appearance,[18][19][20] Weisz started modelling when she was fourteen.[21] In 1984, she gained public attention when she turned down an offer to star in King David, along with Richard Gere.[16]

After school, she entered Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where she graduated with a 2:1 in English. During her university years, she appeared in various student productions, co-founding a student drama group called Cambridge Talking Tongues.[22] It won a Guardian Student Drama Award at the 1991 Edinburgh Fringe Festival for an improvised piece called Slight Possession,[23] directed by David Farr. The group existed until 1993.[24]

[edit] Films [edit] 1992–1998

She appeared on the 1992 television film Advocates II, followed by roles in the Inspector Morse episode "Twilight of the Gods", and the BBC's steamy period drama Scarlet and Black, alongside Ewan McGregor.[25]

Weisz started her film career with a minor role in the 1994 film Death Machine,[25] but her first major role came in the 1996 film Chain Reaction, which also starred Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman.[26] She next appeared as Miranda Fox in Stealing Beauty, directed by the Italian Academy Award-winner Bernardo Bertolucci,[27] where she was first labelled an "English rose".[20]

Following this, Weisz found roles in the 1997 American drama Swept from the Sea,[28] the 1998 British television comedy-drama My Summer with Des, the Michael Winterbottom's crime movie I Want You,[29] and David Leland's The Land Girls, based on Angela Huth's book of the same name.[30]

[edit] 1999–2003

In 1999 Weisz played Greta in the historical film Sunshine.[31] The same year, her international breakthrough came with the 1999 adventure film The Mummy, in which she played the female lead opposite Brendan Fraser. Her character was the English Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan,[32] who undertook an expedition to the fictional ancient Egyptian city of Hamunaptra to discover an ancient book. Variety criticised the direction of the film, writing: "(the actors) have been directed to broad, undisciplined performances [...] Buffoonery hardly seems like Weisz's natural domain, as the actress strains for comic effects that she can't achieve".[33] She followed this up with the sequel The Mummy Returns in 2001, which grossed an estimated $433 million worldwide,[34] (equivalent to $568 million in 2012 dollars [35]) higher than the original's $260 million[36] (equal to $363 million in 2012 dollars [35]). In 2000 she portrayed Petula in the film Beautiful Creatures,[25] following this up with 2001's Enemy at the Gates,[37] and the 2002 comedy-drama About a Boy, with Hugh Grant, based on Nick Hornby's 1998 novel.[38] In 2003 she played Marlee in the adaptation of John Grisham's legal thriller novel The Runaway Jury, along with Dustin Hoffman, John Cusack and Gene Hackman;[39] as well as starring in the film adaptation of the romantic comedy-drama play The Shape of Things.[40]


In 2004, Weisz appeared in the comedy Envy, opposite Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Christopher Walken. The film failed at the box office.[41] Variety magazine opined that Weisz and co-star Amy Poehler "get fewer choice moments than they deserve."[42] Her next role was alongside Keanu Reeves in Constantine, based on the comic book Hellblazer.[43] Film Threat called her portrayal "effective at projecting scepticism and, eventually, dawning horror".[44]

Her next appearance, in 2005, was in Fernando Meirelles's The Constant Gardener,[45] a film adaptation of a John le Carré thriller set in the slums of Kibera and Loiyangalani, Kenya.[46][47] Weisz played an activist, Tessa Quayle, married to a British embassy official.[48] The film was critically acclaimed,[49] earning Weisz the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress,[50] the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress,[51] and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role.[52] UK newspaper

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