Jennifer Tilly is an ‘Academy Award’-nominated American–Canadian actress and a world-level poker player. Born and raised in Los Angeles, US, Tilly made her acting debut in the year 1983 with the series ‘Oh Madeline,’ where she essayed a small role. She made her film debut with the 1984 film ‘No Small Affair,’ and since then, she has been unstoppable, often appearing in multiple projects a year. She had a fine start to her acting career. In the initial days of her career, she was part of popular series such as ‘Hill Street Blues,’ ‘Cheers,’ and ‘Frasier.’ Although she mostly played minor roles, this was more than what a newbie actor could expect. She got her long-awaited breakthrough in Woody Allen’s ‘Bullets over Broadway,’ which earned her a nomination for an ‘Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.’ She then appeared in a few internationally renowned films such as ‘Bound’ and ‘Liar Liar.’ She also lent her voice to several films, such as ‘Stuart Little,’ ‘TheSimpsons,’ and ‘Family Guy.’
Childhood & Early Life
Jennifer Tilly was born in Los Angeles on September 16, 1958, amidst very humble conditions. Her father was a car salesman, and her mother was a schoolteacher and a struggling actor. The second of the four children in her family, Jennifer was hugely inspired by her mother and often accompanied her to her theater performances.
Jennifer’s parents separated when she was 5 years old. Her mother took all the four children with her to British Columbia, where Jennifer spent most of her childhood. Although she was very artistic as a kid, Jennifer was never the studious type. This made her a frequent subject of bullying during her school days in Canada.
She attended the ‘Belmont High School,’ along with two of her younger sisters, and although they were initially called “the three musketeers,” as a joke, it gradually led to severe name-calling and verbal abuse.
She started drifting toward theater during her high school days, and that led her to actively participate in plays as an extra, with her mother’s help. Her mother motivated all her children to learn to love art. This made Jennifer push herself toward performing arts, while her younger sister Rebecca went on to become a popular post-impressionist painter.
In order to further hone her acting skills, she studied theater and received her BA degree from ‘Stephens College’ in Missouri. She plunged into acting immediately after that.
She arrived in New York to become a part of the thriving theater scene there. She avoided going to Los Angeles (LA) for a long time, but when theater failed to provide her sufficient bread and butter, she had to move to LA.
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After making her acting debut with the series ‘Boone’ and ‘Oh Madeline,’ she made her big-screen debut with the 1984 film ‘No Small Affair.’ She then appeared in a number of small roles in ‘Inside Out,’ ‘Johnny Be Good,’ and ‘High Spirits.’
She spent the 1980s playing roles which did not utilize the gorgeously good actor that she was. However, she kept working in the hope of finding better roles someday. There was a time when she felt that she had “sold herself out” to the glitzy world of Hollywood and that she was better off doing theater back in New York.
However, the year 1989 witnessed her appearing in ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys.’ She portrayed the role of a failing singer in the film. The director later said that he had written the role keeping Jennifer in mind. This was a huge compliment, and it meant that the minor roles that she had come to despise were actually getting her noticed.
After her remarkable role in ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys,’ her career experienced a steep climb. In one of her most memorable appearances, she starred in Woody Allen’s satirical comedy–drama film ‘Bullets over Broadway.’ To be a part of a film by the master director was in itself a massive breakthrough for her career.
She received an ‘Academy Award’ nomination for the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ for her role as a bad and failing actor in ‘Bullets over Broadway.’ However, she lost the award to Dianne Weist, who also happened to be her co-star in the same film.
Soon, Jennifer got acquainted with better directors and signed with the Watchowskis for the film ‘Bound’ in 1996, in which she played a lesbian. The sexually charged film was a hit with the film festivals and Jennifer became a hot, young actor who got offered more roles from some of the biggest directors of that time.
She was hell-bent on choosing her roles with caution. In 1997, she turned to comedy with the Jim Carrey-starrer ‘Liar Liar.’ The film achieved massive international success, and Jennifer’s character, ‘Samantha Cole,’ became a cult figure.
In 2000, ‘Dancing at Blue Iguana’ followed, in which she essayed the role of a stripper and a part-time dominatrix. The film was a success, and Jennifer’s performance received accolades.
She then appeared in a number of popular films such as the ‘Child’s Play’ movie series. She debuted in the fourth instalment of the franchise and has appeared in all the subsequent instalments, namely, ‘Bride of Chucky,’ ‘Seed of Chucky,’ ‘Curse of Chucky,’ and the latest sequel, ‘Cult of Chucky.’
While her film roles established her as a highly competent and successful actor, her TV roles were not much behind in providing her with ample chances to exhibit her solid acting skills. Her most noteworthy TV roles were for the series ‘Out of Practice,’ ‘Frasier,’ ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,’ and ‘Spun Out.’
She is not new to the animation series arena either and has frequently lent her voice to celebrated animated series such as ‘Family Guy,’ ‘Stuart Little,’ and ‘The Simpsons.’
She has received various awards and nominations for her appearances. She was honored with the ‘Best Actress Award’ for her film ‘Intervention’ at the ‘San Diego Film Festival.’ She won another ‘Best Actress’ award for ‘Bride of Chucky’ at the ‘Fantafestival’ in 1998.
Apart from being an actor, Jennifer also happens to be a highly competent poker player and has won a ‘World Series of Poker’ (WSOP) bracelet in 2005, in Texas, beating more than 600 participants. She retired from the game in 2008.
Jennifer Tilly was in a relationship with director and producer Sam Simon during the initial phases of her career in the early 1980s. The couple got married in 1984 and divorced in 1991. Sam is known for one of the longest-running and most popular TV series of all time, ‘The Simpsons.’
Since 2004, she has been in a relationship with popular poker player Phil Laak.