Elizabeth Banks was born Elizabeth Mitchell in Pittsfield, a small city in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts near the New York border, on February 10, 1974. She describes herself as having been seen as a "goody two-shoes" in her youth who was nominated for the local Harvest Queen.
Banks left home to attend college at the University of Pennsylvania--from which she graduated Magna cum Laude--and went on to attend the Advanced Training Program at the prestigious American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, from which she graduated in 1996. She then moved to New York and worked in the theater, and began getting small roles in films and on television. Seeking more screen work, she moved to Los Angeles and soon began snagging supporting roles. She also had to change her name, to avoid confusion with actress Elizabeth Mitchell, and thus changed her last name to Banks.
Her first breakthrough role was as Betty Brant, the secretary of the cantankerous newspaper tycoon in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (2002). She followed up this performance with small roles in other movies: Swept Away (2002), Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can (2002), Seabiscuit (2003) and The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005). In 2003 she won the Exciting New Face Award at the Young Hollywood Awards.
Although the winsome, beautiful Banks projected an exceptionally charming screen presence that drew comparisons to Audrey Hepburn, she primarily remained in supporting roles. Audiences began to take notice when Banks took the lead in such films as Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) and as Laura Bush in Oliver Stone's biopic of George W. Bush, W. (2008).
In television Banks was a recurring guest star on Scrubs (2001) as Dr. Kim Briggs, the love interest of Zach Braff's J.D. In 2010 she was cast as Alec Baldwin's love interest in season four of 30 Rock (2006). Originally her character was only scheduled to appear in four episodes, but she was brought back as a recurring character for two more seasons, and earned Emmy nominations for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for two consecutive years.
Now in the spotlight, Banks appeared in back-to-back films, co-starring in Our Idiot Brother (2011), Man on a Ledge (2012), What to Expect When You're Expecting (2012) and People Like Us (2012). She also won the highly coveted role as Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games (2012). She also stars in such films as Pitch Perfect (2012), Frank or Francis, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).
Banks married Max Handelman, a sports writer and producer, in 2003. They welcomed a son, Felix Handleman, who was born via a surrogate in March 2011.