Tea Leoni was born Elizabeth Téa Pantaleoni, on February 25, 1966, in New York City. Her father was a corporate lawyer, her mother a dietician. She has one brother, Tom, who is an antiques dealer. Leoni grew up in New York, attended boarding school in Vermont and attended Sarah Lawrence College, studying psychology and anthropology. She dropped out of college to travel, with plans to finish at Harvard.
No Plans for Acting
Tea’s plans to finish college never materialized, because, on a dare, she auditioned for a role, and was cast in Angels 89 – a newer version of the old Charlie’s Angels show. She moved to Hollywood, but the 1988 writer’s strike killed all plans for the show she had been hired to star in. However, Leoni decided to remain in Hollywood, and was soon busy with modeling jobs and acting in commercials.
Leoni’s big acting break came in 1991, when she was cast as the “Dream Girl” in the Blake Edward’s comedy, “Switch”. She also married her first husband, Neil Tardio, a television commercial producer, in 1991. They were married in New Jersey, and divorced in 1995.
Following “Switch”, Leoni was cast in a small part in the film “A League of Their Own”, and then in a short-lived Fox sitcom called “Flying Blind”. She also had guest appearances on “Frasier” where she played famous “Cheers” character Sam Malone’s girlfriend. These comic roles helped lead to her starring in her own sitcom, “The Naked Truth”. In this role, she played a divorced tabloid writer. Her own life hit the tabloids, too, when she began a short-lived relationship with her co-star.
Though “The Naked Truth” was plagued with problems, including switching networks, it lasted for 3 seasons, and established Leoni as a well known comedy actress. She was particularly noted for her finesse in screwball and physical comedy.
In 1997, Leoni married her second husband, David Duchovny, a television heartthrob from the popular show “The X Files”. They dated for only 9 weeks before marrying. By 1998, when The Naked Truth left the air, Leoni had completed seven films, including the popular movies “Deep Impact” and “Flirting with Disaster”.
Leoni and Duchovny’s first child, Madeline West, was born in California in 1999. Leoni took a year off from working after her daughter was born, but returned to the screen in 2000 with a role opposite Nicholas Cage in the film “The Family Man”. That same year, she was also listed on the FHM “100 Sexiest Women List”. In 2001, she starred in the enormously popular movie, “Jurassic Park”.
That same year, Leoni also took on a new role. She became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. She told a magazine that she took on the role, in part, because her grandmother had been president of the US Fund for UNICEF for 25 years. In her role as Goodwill Ambassador, Leoni has traveled all over the world to raise money for UNICEF Programs. She has twice visited Vietnam.
In 2002, Duchovny and Leoni had their second child, a son, named Kyd Miller Duchovny. After their son’s birth, Leoni went on to star in two forgettable movies, “People I Know” and “Hollywood Ending”. However, in 2004 she starred in “Spanglish” a very successful drama/comedy, opposite Adam Sandler.
In 2005, Leoni starred opposite Jim Carrey in “Fun With Dick and Jane”. There were high hopes for the movie, but it failed at the box office. This movie also marked her husband’s directorial debut.
Since 2005, Leoni has slowed down her on screen ambitions. She starred in just one film in 2007 and one in 2008. However, during this time she has also done some producing. Leoni’s 2007 film was “You Kill Me,” a black comedy in which she starred opposite Ben Kingsley. She has been critically acclaimed for her performance in this film, being called “Jean Arthur for the 21st century” by the Chicago Tribune.
Leoni and Duchovny’s marriage has often been the fodder for tabloids. In earlier years, they were often in the public eye for their more than candid interviews regarding their bawdy sex life. However, in 2008, their private lives became public again when Duchovny entered rehabilitation for sex addiction. Once he left the rehab program, the couple admitted that they had been separated for months. Ironically, at the time that Duchovny entered rehabilitation for sex addiction, he had a successful television show “Californication” where his character was also a sex addict.
Also in 2008, Leoni starred in the movie “Manure” opposite Billy Bob Thornton. The movie premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and will be released in movie theatres early this year.
- A League of Their Own
- Wyatt Earp
- Counterfeit Contessa (TV)
- Bad Boys
- Flirting with Disaster
- There's No Fish Food in Heaven
- Deep Impact
- The Family Man
- Jurassic Park III
- People I Know
- Hollywood Ending
- Fun with Dick and Jane
- House of D
- You Kill Me
- Ghost Town
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