Born on June 15, 1964, Courteney Cox grew up with three older siblings in Mountain Brook, an affluent Alabama town. Though Cox participated in multiple extracurricular activities during her high school years, she did not exercise her taste for acting until she dropped out of the architecture program at Mount Vernon College. Landing a contract with the prestigious Ford Modeling Agency led Cox to several commercial appearances. Her first official role arrived in 1984, when she was cast as a young debutante in one episode of the long-running soap opera As the World Turns.
Her big break, however, was rooted in director Brian De Palma's decision to feature Cox as the girl pulled from the audience in Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" video. Years later, after the actress had gained a great deal more notoriety, this short music-video appearance became a key piece of celebrity trivia in a multitude of magazines and entertainment shows. In 1985, she starred alongside Dean Paul Martin in the forgettable series Misfits of Science. Cox reappeared on the television screen as Michael J. Fox's girlfriend, Psychology major Lauren Miller, in the '80s sitcom Family Ties.
Though Cox landed bit parts in a handful of mediocre films (Mr. Destiny, The Opposite Sex and How to Live with Them) after Family Ties wrapped in 1989, her status as an actress officially gelled in 1994, when she co-starred with Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and, most notably, won the role of Monica Geller on the hugely successful sitcom Friends. This role brought her a nomination for an American Comedy Award, as well as a prominent role in Wes Craven's Scream trilogy. Cox's role as the notoriously cutthroat reporter Gale Weathers was significant not only in terms of critical acclaim, but also because the set of Scream was where she met fellow actor David Arquette, whom she married in 1999.
Although she certainly attempted to match the big screen-success of her fellow Friends castmates with such efforts as 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001), and The Longest Yard (2005), Cox-Arquette fought a tortuous uphill battle, and never managed to land a part that brought her nearly as much goodwill as the high-strung Monica. She voiced Daisy the Cow in Steve Oedekerk's 2006 animated feature Barnyard, alongside an all-star cast that includes Danny Glover, Kevin James, Wanda Sykes, Sam Elliott and Andie MacDowell. The endeavor became a double-edged sword; on one hand, most critics detested the $50 million picture; on the other, it worked wonders at the box office, as one of the top grossers of its season.
Cox-Arquette's decision to join the cast of the family-friendly superhero story Zoom alongside Tim Allen and Chevy Chase didn't prove nearly as capricious. The picture suffered from relentless (though arguably justifiable) critical drubbings and performed abysmally on a commercial front, grossing just over $4 million in the week that followed its premiere - from an estimated $60 million budget. It also became the latest in Allen's long line of box office stinkers that included Christmas with the Kranks, Joe Somebody, and many others; The New York Times's Jeannette Catsoulis moaned that it "bleeds boredom from every frame," while Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwartzbaum observed, "this lifeless family comedy sucks the joy from every joke it touches."
That same year, the trades indicated Cox's forthcoming producer credit in longtime husband David Arquette's 2007 directorial debut, the slasher picture The Tripper, with Balthazar Getty, Paul Reubens and Lukas Haas. The Hostel-like story involved a group of potheads who travel to a Woodstock-esque concert for indulgence in sensual (and visceral) pleasures, but find themselves stalked by a psychotic. Cox and Arquette each cameo in the film.
2007 also found Cox returning to TV, producing and starring in the dramatic thriller Dirt, about the seedy side of an already seedy industry - the tabloid press. The show only ran until 2008, but Cox was soon onto the next project, the sitcom Cougar Town, which she produced and starred in as well. By 2011, she was back in the movies, working on Scream 4 -- though during the production of the film, she and husband/co-star David Arquette announced they were separating; their divorce was finalized in 2013.