A striking actress with a sophisticated, well-bred look, Elizabeth Banks quickly earned a reputation as one of the most promising young actresses in Hollywood. Originally hailing from Massachusetts, Banks received her Bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her graduate degree at the American Conservatory Theater, where she 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.”
Bit parts under screen names including Elizabeth Casey and her birth name Elizabeth Maresal Mitchell gradually led to more prominent turns as in indie fare like the drama “Surrender Dorothy” (1998) and the far-out summer camp comedy “Wet Hot American Summer” (2001), “The Trade” (2001), small roles in big pictures like John Singleton’s “Shaft” remake (2000) and guest spots on TV series including “Law & Order: SVU,” HBO's “S-- and the City” and NBC's “Third Watch.” She first caught Hollywood’s attention in a minor but noticeable role as J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary Betty Brant in “Spider-Man” (2002), a role director Sam Raimi had added especially for her.
Elizabeth Banks followed that box office smash up with an appearance in director Guy Ritchie’s ill-received remake “Swept Away” (2002) as one of the socialites boating with Madonna, but she quickly rebounded with another small but eye-grabbing role in director Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can” (2002), as a bank teller who is unwittingly instrumental in teaching young con artist Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) some tricks of the con-artistry trade.
Elizabeth Banks' new cachet inspired Movie line magazine to dub her one of Young Hollywood’s up-and-comers, and she followed up on her potential with another small but winning roles, playing Jeff Bridges lively, devoted young second wife Marcela in the true-life story of racehorse and folk hero “Seabiscuit” (2003), before returning to the world of superheroic romance for the sequel “Spider-Man 2” (2004). Banks then gave a strong performance in “Heights” (2005), a weighty romantic drama in which she played a NYC photographer whose second thoughts about her pending marriage to a lawyer (James Mardsen) sparks life decisions for her and four others in the span of one night. Shifting gears effectively into high comedy for "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" (2005) Banks was a hoot as the s--ually charged bookstore clerk who sets her eyes on Steve Carell's intercourse-impaired electronics salesman.
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