Her parents' background and her own early taste of the movie-making world soon convinced her to pursue acting herself. Like so many young actors, her decision may have been influenced by social awkwardness - the child of 60s counterculture parents, she was steeped in Eastern mysticism and political radicalism, and was seen as an oddball by her more conservative classmates. Her gawky physical appearance didn't help - even before her teens, she had achieved most of her impressive 5' 10" height, was rail-skinny (other than precociously wide hips), had huge feet and a slouching posture, and for all this was often teased by classmates. Perhaps as a nine-year-old she found refuge by studying acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute.
The first success for her came in 1980, with a role in Adrian Lyne's Foxes, a teen movie starring Jodie Foster. She followed this with several small parts, or parts in small movies, such as Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains and Teachers, as a student who has an affair with a teacher. (Her mother objected to her active presence on movie sets at age thirteen, which required her to sue for emancipation so she could play her role in "The Fabulous Stains"). Her next roles, as the blind girl who befriends the deformed boy in Mask, and as a teenaged girl whose sexual awakening collides with a mysterious older man in Smooth Talk, gave her career an important boost. She appeared to have made it with a leading role in David Lynch's acclaimed Blue Velvet, but it was four years before her next notable film, and this was the bizarre Wild at Heart, also directed by Lynch.
The following year, she starred in Rambling Rose, which would become her signature performance, as a sexually-precocious, free-spirited young housemaid in the South in the 1930s. She earned an Oscar nomination for her performance, and so did her mother and co-star, Diane Ladd. She continues to win prominent roles on the big screen, often in smaller, highly-regarded human dramas such as October Sky, I Am Sam and We Don't Live Here Anymore, although she is perhaps most widely known for her repeat role as Ellie Sattler in the summer adventure movies Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III.
Her pre-teen gawkiness matured into lithe beauty, but this doesn't prevent her from fearlessly throwing herself into a wide variety of roles which are sometimes unflattering, an excellent example being her unflinchingly comic portrayal of an intensely annoying loser whose pregnancy becomes a social and political football in Citizen Ruth. This results in her being one of the most interesting actors working in Hollywood today.
Having previously dated such Hollywood talent as Treat Williams, Renny Harlin, Kyle MacLachlan, Jeff Goldblum and Billy Bob Thornton, she eventually married musician Ben Harper in 2005. Early in her career, she was roommate to Marianne Williamson, the spirituality guru.
Today's Famous Person attended two days of college at UCLA and one semester at USC.
Renée Zellweger Today's Famous Person
November 28 - James Forten - Abolitionist Sail-maker and social activist today's Famous Person was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A free African-American, he joined the Continental navy at age 15 and was among those taken prisoner when his ship, the Royal Louis, was captured by the British. After being released, he returned to Philadelphia and was apprenticed to sail-maker Robert Bridges. He rose to be foreman there in 1786. When Bridges died in 1798, he took over control of the sail loft. He became wealthy and was a leader of the black community of Philadelphia. In 1814 he helped enlist 2500 African-American volunteers to protect Philadelphia during the War of 1812.
Active in promoting temperance and peace, he devoted much energy and money to abolishing slavery and gaining the civil rights of African-Americans. He opposed the American Colonization Society and its plans to send blacks out of America, provided financial support to William Lloyd Garrison's paper, The Liberator, and refused rigging to slave-trade vessels. Although all but forgotten in ensuing decades, he was arguably the most extraordinary African-American of his era.
He married twice: his first wife, Martha Beatty died after only a few months of marriage. In 1806, he married Charlotte Vandine. They had 9 children
Today's Famous Person managed his sail loft and stayed active in the abolitionist movement until very late in his life, continuing to write for The Liberator. He died on March 4, 1842, at the age of 75 in Philadelphia.
John C. Bowers
James R. Newby