Before she was a recognizable name, Elizabeth Banks was a familiar face in scene-stealing comic cameos and memorable dramatic roles opposite high-profile actors like Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeff Bridges and Mark Wahlberg. Her fresh-scrubbed New England looks and girl-next-door appeal were refreshingly countered with her adventurous tomboy spirit and fearless embrace of over-the-top goofiness. A stage-trained actress with a fun-loving attitude towards a big screen career, Banks' energy and versatile talent were finally featured front and center in the popular but very different comedies "Slither" (2006) and "Definitely, Maybe" (2008). Prior to those two roles, she gained widespread recognition for playing Betty Brant in "Spider-Man" (2002), which she reprised for the second (2004) and third (2007) installments. After returning to comedy opposite Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti in "Fred Claus" (2007), Banks was surprisingly convincing as former First Lady Laura Bush in Oliver Stone's "W" (2008) and Effie Trinket in "The Hunger Games" (2012) and its blockbuster sequels. While continuing her string of hits with films including "The Lego Movie" (2014), Banks also moved behind the camera, making her directorial debut with the hit sequel "Pitch Perfect 2" (2015) after co-starring in the 2012 original. Whether comedy or drama, Banks always delivered a quality performance while continually broadening her appeal.
Banks was born Elizabeth Mitchell on Feb. 10, 1974, and raised in the picturesque western Massachusetts town of Pittsfield. Growing up, she was an outdoorsy tomboy who loved riding horses and going to baseball games. She had thoughts of becoming an athlete herself until she broke her leg sliding into third base at a softball game. Looking for something else to do after school, she gave the school play a shot and fell in love with performing. She continued to appear in school productions up until her graduation from Pittsfield High School in 1992, at which point she moved to Philadelphia, earning a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1996. Banks continued her dramatic training at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, CA, where she earned a graduate degree and garnered extensive stage credits in productions such as "Hurly Burly," "Bethlehem," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "A Woman of No Importance" and "Uncle Vanya," as well as the Guthrie Theater's production of "Summer & Smoke."
In 1998, Banks moved to New York City and began landing acting jobs, changing her stage name to "Banks" to avoid confusion with another Elizabeth Mitchell who was also beginning to appear on TV screens. The adventurous actress was up for anything, appearing in a low-budget transgender lobotomy feature called "Surrender Dorothy" (1998) as well as roller-skating in a latex nurse's outfit for a Zima commercial. A part-time bartender in real life, Banks scored appearances on "Third Watch" (NBC, 1999-2005) and "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004) and a supporting role in the cult comedy classic "Wet Hot American Summer" (2001) before she was encouraged to move to Hollywood. In 2002, she enjoyed a scene-stealing character cameo as J. Jonah Jameson's suffering secretary Betty Brant in "Spider-Man" (2002), a role director Sam Raimi tailored specifically to her talents. Following a small part as a socialite in Guy Ritchie's ill-received remake "Swept Away" (2002) starring his wife, Madonna, Banks nabbed another small but eye-grabbing characterization in Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can" (2002). In the critically lauded drama, she played a bank teller who is unwittingly instrumental in teaching a young con artist (Leonardo DiCaprio) the tricks of the con artistry trade.
Her new big screen cachet inspired Movieline magazine to dub Banks one of "Young Hollywood's Up-and-Comers." She delivered on that prediction with a small but winning dramatic role as Jeff Bridges' lively, young wife Marcela in the fact-based story of racehorse and folk hero "Seabiscuit" (2003). Banks revived her hilarious performance as Betty Brant in the sequel "Spider-Man 2" (2004) before turning heads for her dramatic work in the indie "Heights" (2005), portraying a New York photographer whose second thoughts about her pending marriage spark new life decisions for her and four others in the span of one night. Shifting gears effectively into high comedy for the unexpected comedy blockbuster "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005), Banks vamped it up for a memorable turn as a sexually charged bookstore clerk who sets her eyes on Steve Carell's intercourse-impaired electronics salesman. The increasingly high-profile actress finally landed her first starring role with the comic horror flick "Slither" (2006), as the dedicated wife a man (Michael Rooker) who happens to be inhabited by an alien being that spreads squirming space slugs throughout a small hunting town, turning the population into a multitude of mindless zombies. It was a memorable breakout that affirmed her persona as an energetic, promising actress with a great flair for comedy.
"Slither" had definitely endeared Banks to male audiences, who now perceived her as the "cool chick" you could have a beer with and take to a horror movie. Her co-starring role in the football film "Invincible" (2006) further cemented that lovable image, with Banks playing opposite Mark Wahlberg as a spunky, sports-loving, supportive girlfriend in the true-to-life tale of improbable NFL player Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg), who becomes a special teams star on the Philadelphia Eagles. Later that year, Banks returned to television in what would become a recurring role on "Scrubs" (NBC, 2001-2010), as an urologist who ends up pregnant after a date with J.D. (Zach Braff) with both of them spending the next season conflicted over the relationship thrust upon them in care of the pregnancy. In addition to her prime time presence in 2007, she also paid a visit to the third installment of "Spider-Man 3" (2007), and had a minor role in the panned holiday picture "Fred Claus" (2007), starring Vince Vaughn. The actress returned to movie screens in early 2008 in the well-received romantic comedy "Definitely, Maybe" (2008), as the dependable college sweetheart of a single dad (Ryan Reynolds) relaying his mating history to his curious preteen daughter (Abigail Breslin). As one of three ex's chronicled via flashback, Banks was singled out by critics, with Entertainment Weekly hailing hers' as a "performance of invigorating complexity."
That year promised to be an official breakout period for Banks, who also appeared in "Meet Dave" and "Role Models," among others. But her biggest role to date was playing First Lady Laura Bush in "W" (2008), Oliver Stone's controversial look at the hapless life and presidency of George W. Bush (Josh Brolin). She then starred in Kevin Smith's raunchy romantic comedy, "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" (2008), playing the lifelong roommate of a slacker (Seth Rogen) who find themselves getting buried under a mountain of bills and debt, leading to the idea of making a low-budget porn movie to get out from under. Following a key turn in the horror remake "The Uninvited" (2009), she was featured opposite Russell Crowe in "The Next Three Days" (2010), an Americanized version of the French thriller, "Pour Elle" (2008). She also had a recurring role on "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006-13) as Avery Jessup, the right-leaning TV host of a conservative network who ends up romancing her political and sexual soulmate, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). The fact that Banks could hold her own opposite comedy veterans like Baldwin and Tina Fey spoke volumes of her comedic skills. The role earned Banks Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 2011 and 2012. After playing Paul Rudd's career-driven sister in the comedy "Our Idiot Brother" (2011), she landed a choice supporting role in one of the most anticipated movies of 2012, "The Hunger Games," playing the garish Effie Trinket, the woman who escorts kindhearted teen Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) to a government-mandated competition where 24 adolescents fight to the death.
Also in 2012, Banks turned up as one of the many pregnant women in the ensemble dramedy "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and appeared in the surprise hit a cappella-themed comedy "Pitch Perfect," which she co-produced with her husband, Max Handelman. The following year, she returned as the fabulously outfitted Trinket in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (2013), and she also contributed her voice to the enormously successful "The Lego Movie" (2014), playing the rebel leader Wyldstyle opposite Chris Pratt and Morgan Freeman. In early 2014, it was announced that as well as co-producing and co-starring in "Pitch Perfect 2," Banks was also going to make her feature debut as a director. Banks also co-starred in the Brian Wilson biopic "Love and Mercy" (2015) and in the comedy-drama sequel "Magic Mike XXL" (2015) before reprising one of her earliest roles in the prequel series "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp" (Netflix 2015). That same year, Banks closed the books on her portrayal of Effie Trinket in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" (2015). After producing the biopic "The Most Hated Woman In America" (2017) about atheist activist Madelyn Murray O'Hair (Melissa Leo), Banks played the villain Rita Repulsa in "Power Rangers" (2017) and appeared in "Pitch Perfect 3" (2017) and the sequel series "Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later" (Netflix 2017), Following her role in the Melissa McCarthy dark comedy "The Happytime Murders" (2018), Banks returned to the director's chair for a comic reboot of "Charlies Angels" (2019), in which she also co-starred as the equivalent to David Doyle's Bosley from the 1970s TV series.
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Landed first film role in the independent drama "Surrender Dorothy" (credited as Elizabeth Casey)
Made TV debut on an episode of the NBC drama "Third Watch"
Cast in a small role in John Singleton's "Shaft"
Appeared in the cult comedy "Wet Hot American Summer"
Appeared in Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can" opposite Leonardo DiCaprio
Cast as Betty Brant in the blockbuster hit "Spider-Man"
Landed breakout role as Jeff Bridges' wife in the Gary Ross-directed "Seabiscuit"
Again portrayed Betty Brant in "Spider-Man 2"
Cast opposite Steve Carrell in the Judd Apatow comedy "The 40-Year Old Virgin"
Guest-starred on the season five finale of the NBC sitcom "Scrubs" as the love interest to J.D. (Zach Braff), returned with a recurring role in season six
Cast as Mark Wahlberg's love interest in "Invincible," based on the true story of Eagles football player Vince Papale
Co-starred with Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti in the comedy "Fred Claus"
Reprised role of Betty Brant for "Spider-Man 3"
Portrayed First Lady Laura Bush in Oliver Stone's biopic "W." on the life of President George W. Bush
Cast as the female lead in the dark comedy "Meet Bill" alongside Aaron Eckhart
Co-starred with Seth Rogen as the eponymous female lead in the Kevin Smith comedy "Zack and Miri Make a Porno"
Co-starred in the American remake of "The Uninvited"
Made executive producing debut with "Surrogates," starring Bruce Willis
Had a recurring role on "Modern Family"
Co-starred with Russell Crowe in the thriller "The Next Three Days"
Had a recurring role on NBC's "30 Rock" as a love interest for Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy
Played Paul Rudd's career-driven sister in "Our Idiot Brother"
Co-starred with Sam Worthington in the crime thriller "Man on a Ledge"
Cast as one of the leads in ensemble romantic comedy "What to Expect When You're Expecting"
Cast as Katniss Everdeen's (Jennifer Lawrence) District 12 escort in the feature film adaptation of "The Hunger Games"
Co-produced musical comedy "Pitch Perfect"; also acted opposite Anna Kendrick
Reprised Effie Trinket in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"
Co-starred opposite Diane Lane in mystery thriller "Every Secret Thing."
Reprised role of Effie in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1."
Co-starred in animated smash "The Lego Movie" as female lead Wyldstyle.
Co-starred opposite John Cusack as Melinda WIlson in the biopic "Love and Mercy."
Co-starred in comedy-drama sequel "Magic Mike XXL."
Appeared in Netflix prequel series "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp"
Appeared for final time as Effie Trinket in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2"
Made directorial debut with "Pitch Perfect 2."
Voiced Pizzaz Miller on comedy central's adult animated comedy "Moonbeam City"
Returned to star in "Pitch Perfect 3"
Produced the biopic "The Most Hated Woman in America"
Played the villainous Rita Repulsa on the well-received superhero reboot "Power Rangers"
Was featured in the ensemble cast of Netflix's comedy series "Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later"
Cast in dark comedy "The Happytime Murders"
Began production as director of comic remake of "Charlie's Angels" (also played the role of Bosley)