Jennifer Connelly On "American Pastoral" & Being A Working Mom
Jennifer Connelly, who has
been voted one of the worlds most beautiful women by multiple
publications, has racked up a list of impressive screen credits.
ennifer Connelly is not only one of the world's most beautiful
women, she is an accomplished, hard working actor racking up a list
of impressive credits. Her sensitive work as Alicia Nash in Ron
Howard's "A Beautiful Mind," in which she co-starred
with Russell Crowe, won her an Academy Award, as well
as Golden Globe and BAFTA awards.
Born in Brooklyn to an Irish and Norwegian
father and an Ashkenazi Jewish mother, her career in show business
began as a child model and was featured in magazine, newspaper, and
television advertising. While continuing her modeling career, she made
her film debut in "Once Upon a Time in America." Since
then, she has had starring roles in such films as, "Labyrinth,"
"Seven Minutes in Heaven," "Étoile,"
"The Rocketeer," "Mulholland Falls,"
"Dark City," "Waking the Dead," "Requiem
for a Dream," "Pollock," "Hulk,"
"Blood Diamond," "House of Sand and Fog,"
"Reservation Road," "The Day the Earth Stood
Still," "He's Just Not That Into You," "Salvation
Boulevard," and "Winter's Tale." Connelly
is married to Paul Bettany, lives in New York and
has three children.
Left: Jennifer Connelly co-starred with Russell
Crowe as his wife Alicia Nash in A Beautiful Mind, for which
she won an Academy Award, as well as Golden Globe and BAFTA awards.
Right: Jennifer Connelly with her husband Paul Bethany both of whom
co-starred with Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind." Courtesy
In Blood Diamond Jennifer plays a reporter
on assignment in Sierra Leone who meets Leonardo DiCaprios character
of Danny Archer, a Rhodesian ex-military and soldier of fortune. Courtesy
Connelly's latest film is "American
Pastoral," in which she co-stars with Ewan McGregor
who makes his directing debut in this film based on Philip Roth's
Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. She plays McGregor's wife Dawn
Levov to his character of Seymour "Swede" Levov.
The story centers around an American family who has its comfortable
middle-class life shattered when their daughter Merry (Dakota Fanning)
becomes an anti-war activist and commits an act of terror with irrevocable
consequences. While dad becomes obsessed with reconnecting with his
daughter who has gone underground, Dawn struggles to maintain
her sanity and eventually drifts off into a new reality, which she carefully
creates. The film co-stars David Strathairn, Peter Riegert,
Rupert Evans, Uzo Aduba, and Rita Cohen.
Jennifer Connelly plays Eric Bana's girlfriend in
Hulk. Courtesy Photo
In the moody House of Wind and Fog,
Connelly played Kathy, a depressed, former alcoholic who loses
her home to the Ben Kingsley character of of Behrani. Courtesy
A most lovely Connelly recently sat down with
a group of select journalists and the following has been edited for
content and continuity for print purposes.
What drew you to wanting to play the character
of Dawn Levov?
Connelly: I was very moved by her as a character. I
had enormous compassion for her and I loved what I read in the novel.
I really am a fan of the book and I tried to, as much as I could, to
honor the book and what I understood about Dawn.
Why do you think Dawn falls apart after her daughter
Connelly: She's someone who struggles to find purpose
in life and to have a sense of her own meaning and her value in a way
that's more authentic than just her looks. I think that she finds that
in her relationship with her husband and her daughter and finds it excruciating
when Merry rejects her. I think it's very destabilizing and makes
her doubt herself. I also think she's very different from Seymour
who really avoids confrontation. I also think that she experiences very
viscerally her daughter's rejection and her loss. She grieves very differently
and literally cannot survive the experience. She's completely dismantled
and because she's so undone, goes about tearing down everything that's
Jennifer Connelly once again plays a wife in American
Pastoral, co-starring with Ewan McGregor who also makes his directing
debut. Photo: Courtesy Lionsgate - Lakeshore Entertainment
This is not the only time you've worked with a
first-time director. How was Ewan McGregor as the director and your
Connelly: It was very comfortable. First we had private
rehearsals in the morning before we would start shooting. He always
had ideas about how he would shoot a scene, but he never wanted to make
definitive decisions until he had seen the actors do the scene. If it
were just Ewan and I in a scene together, it would literally
be just the two of us in a room. We would close the door and we would
try some blocking, rehearse the scene, and put it on its feet. So we
would do that and show it to the crew and make final decisions on how
they would cover it. Then we would shoot the scene and generally after
the first take he would look at the monitor, watch the playback and
see how he felt about it and maybe make some adjustments. After that,
we'd do the scene together and he wouldn't go back and forth to the
monitor. It felt pretty fluid.
It seems like so much fell on "Swede."
Did you feel bad for him?
Connelly: I felt bad for him, but I felt bad for her
too. Frankly, if you look at it from another point of view, which I
did, I feel bad for all of the characters as they all struggle and grieve
in their own way. But because of the way he handles things, he's kind
of stuck in the past and he's not with Dawn they're not together
any more because he's still living in this fantasy that doesn't exist
and she can't survive holding onto that fantasy. So I really feel for
her when she has that scene toward the end of the movie when she's says,
"When are you going to give up on her?" What I think she's
really saying is when are you going to be here with me, because I'm
fucking being left again. She's alone and I think it's just pain and
sadness. So yes. I feel badly for him, but I also feel badly for her.
As the character, you went through many stages
of your life. Was that one of the appeals of playing her?
Connelly: It was fun. I mean it was wonderful having
a part like that to play. One of the things that was so exciting was
being able to represent a woman at so many different stages in her life.
I think the choice she made at the end when she redoes her face is pretty
startling. While I understand it, at the same time, I found it quite
tragic because she is becoming this thing that she never wanted to be
sort of coming full circle. She's not only doing her face, she's doing
the house and is rewriting the whole narrative of her life. She needs
a new exposure and wants to cut a new window in the house that looks
in a different direction, letting the light in from a different exposure.
What she's doing is clearly symbolic, which I find quite sad but very
Did having children of your own inform the development
of your character?
Jennifer Connelly with her
son Kai on a cold, windy
day in New York. Courtesy Photo
Connelly: For sure. Being a mother is so much a part
of what I do every day and who I am that it informs pretty much everything
I do on some level. It's hard for me to separate from that because I've
been a mom for so long. I have compassion for Dawn just as a
human being and certainly can't fathom anything worse than losing a
What's the biggest challenge in combining your
very successful career with being a mom and a wife?
Connelly: It's wonderful. I love my kids. I love being
a mom. I love everything about it. I love what I do for work and I'm
really privileged to be able to do both. I think both compliment each
other. They inform one another. I'm fulfilled having my own creative
outlet, which contributes to my ability to parent my kids in the way
that I parent my kids and having that balance at home impacts my work.
As far as how to make it all work, that's just a matter of logistics
and looking at calendars, making sure there's time to integrate both
things. I was just away doing a press tour in Europe. It was
not practical for the kids to come with me. It would have been too disruptive
as I went to many cities. Now I'm here for a week (LA)
and my kids are with me. They had two days off of school this week anyway
so they didn't miss anything.
Where do you live?
Connelly: We live in Manhattan. We use to live
in Brooklyn. We moved about eight years ago.
Did you keep a souvenir from the movie?
Connelly: I have a painting of The Count, the
bull, which was done for the film. It was hanging in the office and
Ewan gave it to me as wrap gift.
Did you have a souvenir from "Labyrinth"?
Connelly: I had some photographs but unfortunately they
were lost. My parents had some of my stuff in a storage facility, which
Are your kids interested in watching your movies?
David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly co-starred
in Labyrinth. Courtesy
Connelly: I think so but frankly most of the movies
I've made have been inappropriate for kids, so it really doesn't come
up that much. Agnes watched "Labyrinth" not
that long ago and she thought it was pretty fun. I wasn't there thank
goodness. (Laughter) Kai came down from school
and there's a premiere of "American Pastoral" in New
York so I asked him if he wanted to come with us to the premiere.
He said that he would let us know because he wanted to hang out with
his siblings. (Laughter) I said that's cool. Whatever.
(Laughter) I'm happy that he's more interested in his
siblings than going to see the premiere of a movie. I actually respect
Do you think your kids will go into the entertainment
Connelly: I'm not sure that they will, to be honest
with you. Kai is my oldest and is in his second year of college.
He's studying engineering. My 13-year-old is very interested
in music and my little one who is five, is very interested in protecting
endangered animals. She wants to adopt a sea otter and we're going to
do it at lunch today. We going online and adopt a sea otter. (Laughter)
This was fun.
Connelly: Yes it was. Thank you.