Jennifer Connelly was born in the Catskill Mountains, New York, to Ilene (Schuman), a dealer of antiques, and Gerard Connelly, a clothing manufacturer. Her father had Irish and Norwegian ancestry, and her mother was from a Jewish immigrant family. Jennifer grew up in Brooklyn Heights, just across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, except for the four years her parents spent in Woodstock, New York. Back in Brooklyn Heights, she attended St. Ann's school. A close friend of the family was an advertising executive. When Jennifer was ten, he suggested that her parents take her to a modeling audition. She began appearing in newspaper and magazine ads (among them "Seventeen" magazine), and soon moved on to television commercials. A casting director saw her and introduced her to Sergio Leone, who was seeking a young girl to dance in his gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America (1984). Although having little screen time, the few minutes she was on-screen were enough to reveal her talent. Her next role after that was an episode of the British horror anthology TV series Tales of the Unexpected (1979) in 1984.