Pataky (18 July 1976) was born Elsa Lafuente Medianu in Madrid, Spain, the daughter of José Francisco Lafuente, a Spanish biochemist, and Cristina Medianu Pataky, a Romanian publicist. She has a younger half-brother: Cristian Prieto Medianu, a cinematographic director. She uses the surname Pataky in homage to her maternal grandmother: Rosa Pataky.
Pataky attended the Universidad CEU San Pablo, studying journalism and taking acting classes. In addition to Spanish and Romanian, she is fluent in English, Italian, Portuguese, and French.
Pataky was a member of the Madrid theatre company Teatro Cámara de Ángel Gutiérrez. Eventually, she left school when she was cast in the television series Al salir de clase. Some of her subsequent films were co-productions with the UK and France, which introduced her to working in English and French. She was in the cast of the television series Queen of Swords (2000) as Señora Vera Hidalgo, trophy wife of Gaspar Hidalgo and mistress of Captain Grisham, credited in the opening titles but appearing in only 14 of the 22 episodes. She also had a recurring role in the television series Los Serrano, playing teacher Raquel, who fell in love with her student Marcos (Fran Perea).
Pataky has appeared in over 10 Spanish films and co-starred in the French film Iznogoud (2004). She was also on the cover of August 2006 issue of Maxim. She was cast in 2009 in the Mexican series Mujeres Asesinas as Paula Moncada in the episode “Ana y Paula, Ultrajadas”. She also starred in the action noir film Give ‘Em Hell, Malone and Dario Argento’s Giallo.
Pataky became the female face for the first collection of Time Force’s jewelry line Ultimate Jewel, opposite football star Cristiano Ronaldo. She played Officer Elena Neves in the movie Fast Five, with Dwayne Johnson as her partner, Luke Hobbs. MTV Networks’ NextMovie.com named her one of the Breakout Stars to Watch for in 2011. Pataky was a stand in for Natalie Portman in the post end credit scene in Thor: The Dark World.
She reprised her role as Elena Neves in Fast & Furious 6 (2013), Furious 7 (2015), and The Fate of the Furious (2017), the respective sixth, seventh, and eighth installments of The Fast and the Furious film series. In 2018 she starred in the Australian web television series Tidelands as Adrielle Cuthbert. It was released on 14 December 2018 on Netflix.