DARK WATER - Q&A with Jennifer Connelly
Movie Interview by Toby White
Jennifer, before you made the film what was your awareness of the Japanese movie?
I had heard about this film, DARK WATER, that was really great and people telling me that I should go and see it but I hadn't yet. I read the script first and Walter Salles was already attached to direct it and I thought that was really intriguing and then I subsequently watched the film. I thought it was a great film. I thought it was moving, frightening and I was sold.
Had you been, perhaps when you were younger, a fan of ghost stories?
Y'know, I think I used to scare my Mom into not smoking by dressing as a ghost and ruining all her favourite sheets by cutting the eyes out, I remember doing that. I clearly believed in ghosts. I know that they had a strange power but I don't remember reading ghost stories. My uncle used to record these vampire stories and my cousins and I would go into a room and he'd turn off all the lights and put the tape recorder on and we'd sit there in the dark getting scared out of our wits.
This character and your character in THE HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG are both 'damaged' to a certain extent. I wondered what the fascination was in playing a character like that? Is it because they give you something to work with?
They do, though I think they're really different characters...they're both struggling, yeah. For Cathy it's depression and for Dahlia it's a difficult time in her life going through a divorce and custody but, yeah, they're both complicated women who are in crisis. I guess they're well written, complex characters in stories that I felt were interesting. I think doing a comedy would be challenging. I want to do a smart comedy and I haven't found the right one yet.
Is that for fear that when they're looking for an angst-ridden mother they come to Jennifer Connelly?
Yeah, I get a lot of drug addict parts [laughter] and women on the verge and whatnot so I think if I'm going to do a comedy I'd better not do a bomb, I'll have to be careful otherwise they'd say, "See, I told you she was nuts and dark!"
Maternal bonds are crucial to the film, I wonder, since you've become a mum yourself how that changes the way you view films and, on the other hand, how you select material?
Firstly, thank you, I thought it was important to make that relationship convincing. With a film like this you really need to ground it, if you're going to float past the limits of reason it needs to be anchored somewhere...but, yes, it changed everything for me. It changed the way I look at people, it made me more patient, and more critical - in terms of reading scripts and thinking how I wanted to spend my time and my time away from my kids.
Have you become an expert in what your child watches yourself? Postman Pat, perhaps?
We don't have Postman Pat but, y'know, I try and impose my taste on my son, Kai. I'd say, "'Let's watch SPIRITED AWAY!" "No, Mum." "Let's watch WIZARD OF OZ!" "No, Mum"' He's really got his own idea about what he wants to watch. We can't get him off BABY EINSTEIN.
How has winning the Oscar for A BEAUTIFUL MIND opened up offers of films?
Certainly I read more scripts. I get offered more films. It hasn't really changed how I see myself and my career. I still think I've got lots to do and learn but, yeah, I do get offered more things. I wish I got offered more that I was really passionate about and really wanted to do. If I think about films that are out, there are still only a few each year that are special and I really want to go and see and it's kind of like that wading through them and reading them.
In a lovely and polite way, d'you mean you still get offered stinkers?
Absolutely. I go through maybe be 15-20 scripts to find one that I like. It's really hard but then I like to read everything because it's really personal also, what you choose to work on. I'm really bad at delegating, I wind up trying to read everything.
Did you have any reservations about doing a remake? What about the translation of the film to a Western audience?
I thought about it but then I thought, "I'm a real fan of the original" and I was curious to see-...It's out of respect, not disrespect for the film that we were doing a version of it. Not to take away from [the original] but this is sort of its own film. It's respectful but it's also a departure. I think the biggest difference is that there's more concentration on character development. There are more characters and I think that makes it our own film. What it has in common with the original is that it's thought-provoking and, hopefully, scary.
Both this and HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG are "bad house" movies, I was wondering what's the worst place you've lived in?
Probably one of my college dorms. It had no right angles, which was meant to be conducive to study but it just meant my bed didn't fit in the corner.
You've never moved anywhere that required lots of urgent DIY?
The house I live in now, actually...Walter came over and we hadn't been moved in long, then we went away for New Year's and I got lots of messages on my phone from the fire department because the alarm had gone off so I called a friend and sent them over and they said, "Well, there's not a fire but there's a foot of water everywhere and water gushing all over the floor!" It's a town house and something burst on the top floor and water was coming through the light fittings and everything. Then we fixed it and it flooded again. I think it was Walter [laughter].
Three of your leading men in DARK WATER are British. Five or ten years ago that might have been unusual but less so these days. Do you think, as someone married to an English actor, that the barriers have been broken and casting is more international?
I think so. Especially going over to America, as opposed to Americans playing British. But they're great actors and if they can do the accents and it's not a hindrance then, y'know.
You were saying you try to show your children films, have you shown them LABYRINTH?
I haven't, no. Paul [Bettany], my husband, tried to show Kai but he wasn't able to separate the character from me and found it really disturbing so we don't watch them, no.
At the core of this film, there's an intense bond between mother and daughter, what did you do to try and create that bond?
I threatened her a lot [laughter], I told her she really had to make me look good... She was really lovely. Walter was really smart in setting up time for us before we started shooting, not just going through scenes but also just talking. About what it's like being away, how she feels about her grandma, her new puppy, stuff like that.
Was it essential not to frighten her?
If you look at the movie you'll see there's nothing disturbing that she comes into contact with, Walter was really careful.
The only thing that was difficult for her was going underwater. She and Perla, the other little girl, were friends so for them they were just playing. Ariel wasn't comfortable though so they spent a lot of time practising in a pool. But Walter was very delicate about what he would and wouldn't film.
She was great. Had you met her before?
No, I hadn't. Yes, she was great. She was really clever and really excited about what we were doing and she hated it when she had to go back to school.
I see you're doing a film with Kate Winslet. Can you tell us about it at this stage? Do you know her?
I've met her a few times and we've chatted, about kids and pregnancy. It's called LITTLE CHILDREN, being directed by Todd Field. It's about 30-somethings and their kids and playground politics and adults not wanting to grow up.
Final question, what films genuinely scare you?
I went on strike watching scary movies. I saw DRESSED TO KILL and then had a problem with elevators... WHEN A STRANGER CALLS - that was quite bad. "The call is coming from inside the house, have you checked the children." That really scared me. I've got favourites now, like ROSEMARY'S BABY and DON'T LOOK NOW.