Rachel Hannah Weisz was born on 7 March 1970 in Westminster, London, and grew up in Hampstead Garden Suburb. Her father, George Weisz was a Hungarian mechanical engineer while her mother, Edith Ruth Teich was a teacher-turned-psychotherapist originally from Vienna.
Her parents both emigrated to the United Kingdom as children around 1938, prior to the outbreak of World War II, in order to escape the Nazis. Weisz’s mother, although Jewish on her paternal side (her father was Alexander Teich, secretary of the World Union of Jewish Students), was raised in the Catholic church, and formally converted to Judaism upon marrying Weisz‘s father. The couple also had a second daughter, Minnie Weisz, who was born in 1972.
Weisz’s parents valued the arts and also encouraged their children to form opinions of their own by engaging their participation in family debates. Weisz left North London Collegiate School and attended Benenden School for one year, before completing her A-levels at St Paul’s Girls School.
Known for being an “English rose”, Weisz began modelling at the age of 14. In 1984, she gained public attention when she turned down an offer to star in King David with Richard Gere.
Weisz went to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where she read English. She graduated with upper second-class honours. During her university years she was a contemporary of Sacha Baron Cohen, Alexander Armstrong, Emily Maitlis, Sue Perkins, Mel Giedroyc, Richard Osman and Ben Miller (whom she briefly dated).
She appeared in various student dramatic productions, co-founding a student drama group called Cambridge Talking Tongues. The group won a Guardian Student Drama Award at the 1991 Edinburgh Festival Fringe for an improvised piece called Slight Possession, directed by David Farr.
Cinema & Television
In 1992, Weisz appeared in the 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.
Dirty Something, a BBC Screen Two, hour-long television film made in 1992, was Weisz‘s first film, in which she played Becca, who met and fell in love with a traveller, Dog (Paul Reynolds), at the end of Glastonbury Festival.
Weisz started her film career with a minor role in the 1994 film Death Machine, but her first major role came in the 1996 film Chain Reaction, which also starred Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman. She next appeared as Miranda Fox in Stealing Beauty, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, where she was first labelled an “English rose”.
Following this, Weisz found roles in the 1997 American drama Swept from the Sea, the 1998 British television comedy-drama My Summer with Des, Michael Winterbottom‘s crime film I Want You, and David Leland‘s The Land Girls, based on Angela Huth‘s book of the same name.
In 1999, Weisz played Greta in the historical film Sunshine. 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, Evelyn Carnahan, is an English Egyptologist, 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”.
She followed this up with the sequel The Mummy Returns in 2001, which grossed an estimated $433 million worldwide, higher than the original’s $260 millio
In 2000, she portrayed Petula in the film Beautiful Creatures, following this up with 2001’s Enemy at the Gates, and the 2002 comedy-drama About a Boy, with Hugh Grant, based on Nick Hornby‘s 1998 novel.
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, and starred in the film adaptation of the romantic comedy-drama play The Shape of Things.
In 2004, Weisz appeared in the comedy Envy, opposite Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Christopher Walken, but the film failed at the box office. Variety magazine opined that Weisz and co-star Amy Poehler “get fewer choice moments than they deserve.”
Her next role was alongside Keanu Reeves in Constantine, based on the comic book Hellblazer. Film Threat called her portrayal “effective at projecting scepticism and, eventually, dawning horror”.
In 2005, she appeared in Fernando Meirelles‘s The Constant Gardener, a film adaptation of a John le Carré thriller set in the slums of Kibera and Loiyangalani, Kenya. Weisz played an activist, Tessa Quayle, married to a British embassy official.
The film was critically acclaimed, earning Weisz the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role.
The Guardian noted that the film “established her in the front rank of British actors”, while the BBC wrote: “Weisz is exceptional: film star charisma coupled with raw emotion in a performance to fall in love with”. In 2006, she received the BAFTA Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year.
In 2006, Weisz starred in Darren Aronofsky‘s romantic drama The Fountain. The San Francisco Chronicle found her portrayal of Queen Isabel “less convincing” than other roles. That same year, she provided the voice for Saphira the dragon in the fantasy film Eragon and rejected an offer to star in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor due to script issues.
Her subsequent films include the 2007 Wong Kar-wai drama My Blueberry Nights and Rian Johnson‘s 2008 caper film The Brothers Bloom, alongside Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo.
In 2009, she played the lead role of Hypatia of Alexandria in the historical drama film Agora, a Spanish production directed by Alejandro Amenábar. The New York Times called her portrayal “adept”, noting that she imparted “a sympathetic presence”.
Weisz starred in the film The Whistleblower, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010. The film was based on the true story of human trafficking by employees of contractor DynCorp. During its première, the intense depiction of the treatment meted out to victims by the kidnappers made a woman in the audience faint.
Variety magazine wrote “Weisz’s performance holds the viewer every step of the way.” That same year, she guest-starred in the animated series The Simpsons, in the 22nd season episode “How Munched is That Birdie in the Window?”.
Weisz’s 2011 roles included an adaptation of Terence Rattigan‘s play The Deep Blue Sea, Fernando Meirelles‘ psychosexual drama 360 opposite Jude Law and Anthony Hopkins, the BBC espionage thriller Page Eight, and the thriller film Dream House, alongside Daniel Craig.
She filmed scenes for To the Wonder, a 2012 romantic drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick, alongside Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem and Rachel McAdams, but her scenes were cut. She also starred in the 2012 action thriller film The Bourne Legacy based on the series of books by Robert Ludlum.
Weisz played Evanora in Oz the Great and Powerful, which opened on 7 March 2013. In 2015, she appeared in drama film Youth and in science fiction film The Lobster, which won the Cannes Jury Prize.
In 2016, she appeared in the drama film The Light Between Oceans, with Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, and portrayed Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt in Denial, a film based on Lipstadt‘s book, and directed by Mick Jackson.
In 2017, Weisz starred in My Cousin Rachel, a drama based on Daphne du Maurier’s novel, and in 2018 co-starred in a British biographical film The Mercy, directed by James Marsh about sailor Donald Crowhurst.
Weisz’s production company, LC6 Productions, released its first feature film, Disobedience, in 2017, starring Weisz and Rachel McAdams. Raised Jewish, Weisz never fully connected to the faith. She claims she was “really disobedient” herself and has never felt she fits in anywhere.
In 2018, Weisz played Sarah Churchill in The Favourite, winning the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and receiving her second nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
In April 2019, she entered talks to join Scarlett Johansson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Black Widow. In July of that year, Weisz was announced to play Melina Vostokoff / Iron Maiden in the film, which will be released on 7 May 2021.
On stage, Weisz‘s breakthrough role was that of Gilda in Sean Mathias‘s 1994 revival of Noël Coward‘s Design for Living at the Gielgud Theatre for which she received the London Critics’ Circle Award for the most promising newcomer.
In 1999, she played the role of Catherine in the Donmar Warehouse production of Tennessee Williams‘ Suddenly Last Summer.
What’s on Stage called her “captivating”, stating that she brought “a degree of credibility to a difficult part”. The same year, Weisz appeared in Neil LaBute‘s The Shape of Things at the Almeida Theatre, then temporarily located in London’s King’s Cross, for which she received a Theatre World Award.
CurtainUp called her “a sophisticated, independent artist” with “great stage presence”. In 2009, she appeared as Blanche DuBois, in Rob Ashford‘s revival of the play A Streetcar Named Desire. Her performance in the play was praised by the critics, with the Daily Telegraph noting that she “rises to the challenge magnificently”.
Weisz and her husband starred on Broadway in a revival of Harold Pinter‘s Betrayal. It opened on 27 October 2013 and closed on 5 January 2014. Despite mixed reviews, box office receipts of $17.5 million made it the second highest grossing Broadway play of 2013.
In the summer of 2001, Weisz began dating American filmmaker and producer Darren Aronofsky. They met backstage at London’s Almeida Theatre, where she was starring in The Shape of Things. Weisz moved to New York with Aronofsky the following year and in 2005, they were engaged.
Their son was born in May 2006 in New York City. The couple resided in the East Village in Manhattan. In November 2010, Weisz and Aronofsky announced that they had been apart for months, but remained close friends and were committed to bringing up their son together in New York.
Weisz and actor Daniel Craig had been friends for many years and worked together on the film Dream House. They began dating in December 2010 and they married on 22 June 2011 in a private New York ceremony, with four guests in attendance, including Weisz’s son and Craig’s daughter.
On 1 September 2018, it was reported that they had their first child together, a daughter.
Throughout her career, Weisz has been featured on the covers of magazines, such as Vogue. She served as a muse to fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez and was named L’Oréal’s global ambassador in 2010.