Ashley Juddy

Occupation: Actress
Date of Birth: April 19, 1968
Place of Birth: Los Angeles, Calif., USA
Sign: Sun in Aries, Moon in Aquarius
Relations: Mother: Naomi Judd (singer); sister: Wynonna (singer); fiancÚ: Dario Franchitti (racecar driver)
Education: University of Kentucky (graduated Phi Beta Kappa)


WHEN members of the Ratings and Classification Board of the Motion Picture Association of America slapped an NC-17 rating on Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, they didn't base their judgment solely on the film's considerable body count: as further justification for their ruling, they cited a particular scene in which Ashley Judd depicts the sole survivor of a slumber-party massacre. "They said it was too emotionally harrowing," Judd says. "I took it as a compliment." During the scene in question, Judd's character recounts the senseless butchery (illustrated with agonizing flashbacks) executed by serial killers Mickey and Mallory. "I'd sob my head off during the takes, and between takes I'd cry even harder," Judd says. "It was the most fun I had all summer, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

Suffice it to say that Judd has no qualms about the occasionally perverse nature of acting  after all, she has submerged herself in fantasy life since early childhood. Her family was dirt-poor, you see, and suffered an itinerent existence in various run-down Kentucky homes  generally without the comforts of electricity, running water, or a telephone. They even made their own soap and grew vegetables to cut down on grocery bills. While mom Naomi and sister Wynonna sang on the front porch, Ashley generally engrossed herself in her books, pretending to be this or that character. Over a thirteen-year period, she bounced around to twelve different schools in Kentucky and California, until Naomi and Wynonna finally hit it big in the country music business.

Judd studied French at the University of Kentucky, where she graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1990. After toying with the idea of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, she heeded her sister's advice to take Hollywood by storm. She bypassed the traditional travails most wannabe actors encounter by brandishing her remarkably self-assured attitude from day one: upon arriving in Los Angeles, she marched straight into an agency and came out signed. She then marched out of her very first audition (for Christian Slater's Kuffs) with a part, even though it wasn't the one she went in seeking. Judd refused to do the nude scene called for in the proffered role, but the producers were so taken with her graciously worded rejection that they awarded her with the far less scandalous role of "Wife of Paint Store Owner" so that she could obtain her Screen Actors Guild membership. Shortly afterward, Judd landed a recurring role on Star Trek: The Next Generation; she also won the part of Swoosie Kurtz's daughter ("the biggest loser on network TV," according to Judd) on the dramedy Sisters. She escaped the dreariness of her TV assignments with a starring role in Ruby in Paradise, a coming-of-age film that won the Grand Jury Prize (along with Public Access) at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival; Judd also garnered an Independent Spirit Award for her portrayal of the title character.

An intellectual with country-girl charm, Judd counts food, sex, books, and God (not necessarily in that order) among her passions, and speaks in unusually grandiloquent sentences. She commented of the autobiographical TV movie that was released in the wake of her mother Naomi's retirement: "I was just sorry that my mother, whom I adore and cherish, was put in the position where she had to recycle and rehash something that was very hard for her, and that was the abdication of a career she'd struggled to attain." Judd refused to appear opposite her mother and sister in the project, which is not surprising considering that she has always made a point of not capitalizing on their stardom in any way. In fact, she turned down a role in Kenny Rogers' 1993 western Rio Diablo because her mother had a starring role in it. Judd was becoming a hot Tinseltown commodity, anyway  and all on her own steam.

Judd has managed to build a solid reputation for herself with supporting roles in good movies  she garnered excellent reviews for her work in Smoke (as Stockard Channing's crack-addicted daughter), Heat (as Val Kilmer's wife), and A Time To Kill (as Matthew McConaughey's wife). As for starring roles, she received good reviews for her performance opposite Luke Perry in Normal Life (1996), and she scored an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of young Marilyn Monroe in HBO's Norma Jean and Marilyn, a performance for which she overcame her aversion to being naked in front of the camera and stripped to reenact Monroe's career-making nude photo shoot. Judd's big-screen profile grew ever larger in 1997, with a starring turn opposite Morgan Freeman in the thriller Kiss the Girls, and one opposite Vince Vaughn in The Locusts. Her most recent starring vehicles have been critical disappointments: the 1998 drama Simon Birch, a film "suggested by" the popular John Irving novel A Prayer for Owen Meany, sank from sight quickly; and the 1999 thriller Double Jeopardy, about a housewife framed for murder who seeks revenge on her double-crossing husband, had reviewers rolling in the aisles with derision. The likewise derided post-noir thriller Eye of the Beholder, released the following year, matched Judd with Ewan McGregor in high-tech espionage.

Judd has been romantically linked with co-stars Robert De Niro and Matthew McConaughey, and she indulged in a short-lived fling with singer Michael Bolton. Her engagement to race car driver Dario Franchitti was announced in April 2000, a day after the release of her latest film, the estrogen-fueled heart-string tugger Where the Heart Is. Hopefully, her knight in shining automobile is ready to inhabit her fantasy world. Judd has already purchased her dream house, a 100-year-old home in Tennessee, and has big plans for its renovation: "I'm modelling it after C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, with cubbyholes and secret passageways, old gun cabinets and medicine chests built of chestnut, all because it was the first book that was ever read to me as a child, and my house needs to be a magical place."

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