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By Margorie Shumate

Ashley Judd Don’t try and get film star Ashley Judd to pick what movie she thinks is her best or provided her with a ‘break-through’ role. The University of Kentucky graduate will never bite!
When asked if "Double Jeopardy" (with Tommy Lee Jones) turned her into an "A" list actor, she replied, "I hear that, and it makes me feel like "Kiss the Girls" or "Norma Jean" and "Marilyn" or all the hard work I've done in other films are not as important," Judd said. "[It's like they're) diminished by this being a movie with broad, commercial appeal."

One thing is certain: there is no underestimating Judd's growing star power, even if the scene-stealer won't admit it. Judd says she enjoys every part of filmmaking just as much now as she did when she was working for scale. Her latest release, "Where the Heart is," is due for wide release April 28th.

Ashley Judd "It's other people who make those distinctions," Judd said. "Everything I've done has personally been so fun or meaningful to me, from 'Ruby in Paradise' on. The intensity on 'Smoke' was equally as important."

The daughter of country-music superstar Naomi Judd and the younger half-sister of singer Wynnona Judd, Ashley was born in Los Angeles on April 19, 1968. A single parent, her mother supported Judd and her sister by taking odd jobs in California and Kentucky. The actress spent her first 13 years shuttling between the two states and attended 12 different schools, often living in poverty in remote areas of Kentucky.

With no external sources of entertainment, Judd read books and amused herself by pretending to be various characters while her sister and mother wiled away the time singing. Their talent paid off-after Judd's mother and half-sister became country music sensations, allowing the family to finally leave their financial hardships behind them.

Judd went on to attend the University of Kentucky, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1990 with a degree in French. It was Wynnona who suggested Ashley become a Hollywood actress. Judd took the suggestion, and with her outgoing, forthright nature, was able to secure an agent on her first try and in 1987 won a part on the television series StarTrek: The Next Generation." She went on to do a recurring role as Swoosie Kurtz's daughter on "Sisters", staying with the show until 1994. The following year, she made her film debut with a small part in "Kuffs" (1992); Judd was originally meant to have a larger part, but rejected the role upon learning of a nude scene.

Ashley Judd The actress' first major film role was in the hit independent drama "Ruby in Paradise" (1993). Other well known turns include Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers", "Smoke" the much-lauded "Heat", the 1996 made-for-TV Marilyn Monroe biopic, "Norma Jean and Marilyn", John Grisham's "A Time To Kill" (1996), the crime flop "A Normal Life" (also 1996), "Kiss the Girls", "Simon Birch", and in 1999, Bruce Bedford's "Double Jeopardy".

Judd is as personally diverse as her upbringing. She is beautiful and smart, an image many people find contradictory. Does she ever try to downplay her Southern or educational background for studio executives or producers?

"You mean ''Do I downplay it for the schmucks?' she asks. ‘Being perceptive and having interests is an asset. Do I find people [are generally] surprised I have an urban side to me? or that I'm well rounded in ways they didn't expect an actress or Southerner to be? I'm making guesses here, but I know that often when I'm in someone's office [a producer, or director] after five minutes they'll go, 'You're so urban.'"

Judd also surprises people with her religious side. In an age of promiscuousness and spirituality, Judd says she finds it to be the center of her world.

"I find [there's generally] a mutual interest and a respect for spirituality, of whatever kind. A lot of people over the years do things like yoga or meditation. I find there are many ways to express interest in, and a lot of manifestations of, spirituality."

She also addressed how she could do a nude scene in "Double Jeopardy".

Ashley Judd “For me, my spirituality helps define a movie and reduce it to a search: humanity vs. nature, vs. itself, vs. animal. A person either has the love of God or they don't... and that’s a great jumping off point for playing someone. Take a central issue: My sister (Wynonna) was pregnant with her first son, Elijah. She said to me one day, 'You'd never play someone who would kill a child, would you?' And I said, 'Who knows?' It depends on where the script goes. (Think of) Clytemnestra or Medea, it's a staple in drama if not the ultimate of tragedy."

In "Where The Heart Is" a comedy-drama based on the best selling novel by Billie Letts, Judd plays Lexie Cooper. "She's had four babies, and six by the end of the movie" she deadpans. Cooper befriends Noralee Nation (Natalie Portman), who gives birth in a Wal-Mart in Oklahoma.

Although Judd genuinely loves her job, she is still trying to deal with celebrity. As of right now her 1,000 acre farm in Tennessee serves as a retreat from Hollywood's spotlight.

"I think my peace of mind and my solitude are greatly enhanced by being at home," Judd said. "There’s this woman who does clothes (in Hollywood); she was in Tennessee and came to my house, took a look around, and said, ‘Everyone in Brentwood is trying to have their house look like this!’" It's rustic; I live southwest of Nashville. It was built in 1819, and I've restored it over four years.

"I appreciate it more", she said. "And often the way I do is rooted in (a) fear of recognition, a fear of fans, and fear of intrusiveness. (the Tennessee spread) protects me and buffers me against what you call celebrity. The naturalist in me has found that there is nothing in the world that nature cannot soothe - that’s a quote from Audrey Hepburn.

The whole machinery makes you very protective of your own world," Judd continues. "The self can be very inundated, and if you're porous, it can batter you."
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