Rachel Weisz has been stuck with the label "English Rose" ever since she first caught the world\'s attention with a minor role in Bernardo Bertolucci\'s coming of age story Stealing Beauty. But although the looks that garnered her a lucrative contract with cosmetics giant Revlon have no doubt played some role in her success, those who have worked with the performer all agree she is much more than just a pretty face.
Those who knew her in her student days at Britain\'s prestigious Cambridge University, say Rachel, who is of Austrian and Hungarian descent, could just as easily have become an academic. Of one thing there is no doubt, however. She has emerged as one of the UK\'s most important screen talents. In 2005 The Constant Gardener, for which she picked up a best actress Golden Globe, took her from popular actress to bona-fide star.
Her varied career has also encompassed much lighter fare, such as the crime caper Confidence and the action flick Chain Reaction. And the movie which first brought her to the attention of America\'s cinema fans was the tongue-in-cheek special effects extravaganza The Mummy.
Rachel was born in London on March 7, 1971, to a noted Hungarian inventor of life-saving medical equipment, and his Austrian-born psychotherapist wife. After making their home in the British capital, the couple sent their daughter to two of England\'s most prestigious educational establishments - St Paul\'s and Benenden boarding school for girls.
At first glance it might seem like a typical privileged childhood. But Rachel\'s youth was not all plain sailing, and she was expelled from Benenden around the time her parents\' marriage broke up. As she embarked upon her English degree, modelling and acting work started to come her way although she continued to struggle with emotional difficulties. "My 20s were horrible," she admitted in one interview. "It was a very trying and difficult time."
The 5ft 7in star say her 30s have "calmed me down", and she\'s much happier these days. Part of the reason for her newfound contentment is her relationship with indie filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, with whom she has a son, Henry, born in June 2006. "I found myself a sophisticated, educated American," she says of the man behind critically acclaimed movies Pi and Requiem For A Dream.. "He\'s not an actor. He\'s travelled the world. He knows where Europe is, unlike a lot of Americans, and he\'s very cultured, but he\'s all man."
An earlier relationship with Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey made her the target of relentless tabloid headlines, but the actress is enjoying a much more salubrious romance with the US filmmaker. And the couple, who now share a loft in Manhattan, put a high value on being able to enjoy their peace and quite together. "I don\'t get hassled," explains Rachel. "New Yorkers are much too cool for that."
Despite her newfound status, the performer is also keeping her feet planted firmly on the ground. She still maintains an apartment in London and, whenever possible, returns to work in the theatre. Asked why she didn\'t choose to make Hollywood her second home, she confesses that Tinseltown is just a little bit too far removed from what she\'s used to. "I don\'t do too well there," she admits. "If you were brought up in London, where you can walk around everywhere and there are theatres, you can\'t really do LA."
Perhaps the only extravagance she has allowed herself is the classic 4.2-litre Jaguar Sovereign that she can sometimes be seen driving to and from the set. When compared to the Hummers and Ferraris preferred by the industry\'s other movers and shakers, the ageing runabout seems distinctly understated. But then again, Rachel\'s popularity has much more to do with unassuming charm than high-profile glamour. "She\'s not full of airs and graces," reflects Simon Channing Williams, producer of The Constant Gardener. "She doesn\'t bow to the Americans and I think they love her for it."