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OUT OF THE DARK
by Brad Balfour
PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: August 20, 2005.
world-class actress, Brooklyn-born Jennifer Connelly has hit a lot of marks
from doing a hard-hitting indie such as Requiem for A Dream to
creating her Oscar winning role in the powerful, character-driven drama,
A Beautiful Mind. But now she has all the focus on her and the
disturbed character she plays in Dark Water, the American remake of
this modern Japanese ghost tale. Being a mother of two (she just gave
birth shortly before making this film), Connelly established a strong
connection to her character and the fears emerging from this haunting
film. Under the moody direction of Brazilian born Walter Salles (has
established quite a track record with such powerful melancholic films such
as Central Station and Motorcycle Diaries), she creates as a
psychological study as an iconic victim of a haunting.
This is your first horror film since Dario Argento's thriller
Yes, it is, though, I'm reluctant to call it a horror film. It's more a
psychological thriller—a ghost story. To me, I associate horror film with
more gore-slasher films. There's no blood here. You get through lots of
the film and no one's died.
What scares you?
I'm sort of like your average bear, except when it comes to things like
the first ten minutes of an airplane ride. I'm downright neurotic.
What do you do when you're in a plane?
I don't really do anything. I try to grin and bear it. I kiss the plane
and then I wait for the explosion [laughs]. And then when it
doesn't come ten minutes later, I'm fine and I enjoy the flight.
What did you do to prepare for this role?
I watched lots of scary films because I really had no vocabulary in the
genre to speak of, so I thought I should acquire one, so I went back and
watched two or three a night for a little while.
were some of your favorites?
Some of my favorites were Rosemary's Baby, Don't Look Now,
The Shining and so on. That was one thing but then I approached
[making this film] as I would any drama I might be working on, which is to
say, I thought about, "Who is this woman?" I asked myself tons of
questions. What was her upbringing like? In what way was the father
abusive? What does that voice say, that mother's voice, that's now
internalized and becomes a part of her, what does it say to her? What does
it sound like? What did she see in her husband? How did it break up? What
did that mean, that breakup? I just tried to make choices. I went through
the gamut and tried to make it as specific as possible. What color is her
toothbrush? And make those choices so then you can start building it
out... Then how she moves starts to take shape and what she wears start to
Do you think it's a problem doing a remake of a film from another
I don't think that one precludes the other. I think that we've even seen a
few Hideo Nakata films that have been redone. And I think that they are
interesting films. I like the original Dark Water. I liked the
original Ring. I think this Dark Water is a very different
type of film than the American Ring or the American Grudge
for example and that's because of Walter's interpretation of it. But what
you find maybe in the Japanese horror films that we are less accustomed to
seeing, at least more recently in western horror films, is that threat is
less often an aberration from outside of the self as it is coming to
attack us at home. And more often it's something that's more subtle that
it comes from within.
Would you do another Japanese horror remake?
I would go back to it. Maybe not as the next film up, but down the road,
if it was with another fantastic director, absolutely.
Had you seen the other Japanese horror films before doing this?
Yes I had. I had seen the original Dark Water. The original Ring
One and second one. I think that's it.
What did you like about this story?
I think that it's really poignant. And that's what is special about it.
It's really moving and sophisticated story about this woman who has had as
the only place she's found safety, this small family, and she feels
betrayed and let down again [when it breaks up]. Everything is sort of
blown apart. She wants to cling to her daughter but she recognizes she's
going to have to let go of her. In contemplating that and considering that
separation she has to recognize how much she needs her daughter and she
has to recognize what position that puts her daughter in. She has to
separate her love which is undeniably even from the beginning from her
fear so ultimately she comes to embody pure, maternal love. It's quite an
Did you find this challenging since, in essence, you are the focus of
I wasn't looking for that. It's funny. I
don't look for that. I really didn't even think about it until I looked at
the shooting schedule and I went, 'God. I only have two days off. Oh God!'
But while I was doing it, it just so happened that it worked out great for
me because I've already mentioned how much I loved Walter and that meant
that I had him cornered because a lot of days I'd come in and I was
only actor there and he had no choice. I completely monopolized his time.
So I was really happy with that situation. And I was really happy not to
sit down for four months. I felt like I didn't sit down and I felt like I
really learned a lot from that relationship.
Do you and Paul [Bettany, her husband] talk about acting; does he give
advice and vice versa?
I think that he's a really good actor, which is great because it wouldn't
be really sexy to be married to someone that you thought wasn't talented.
He's a great actor. It's great because, yes, we do talk about work. We
read scripts to each other. "What do you think? Do you think is a good
one? Do you think that this isn't a good one? What do you think about this
scene?' And that's really wonderful to be able to do that.
You've gotten some Goth fans for your work in films like Dark City.
I don't know who those goth fans are. I think that my husband is one of
those. He used to have a black Mohawk. A true story.
Didn't you have your baby just before you started filming this?
Yes, I did.
What was it like dealing with this scary stuff and being a mom?
I was still nursing him [Stellan]. He was on set every day, but I've
gotten quite used to that because I've been doing it since Kai, my older
one, was little. He was on the set of Requiem for a Dream, which
wasn't really a family film either.
with kids have a better understanding of this film?
It will have a real resonance with parents because it is something that a
lot of parents go through. People have asked me, "Do you think this
character is really crazy?' I really don't. I think this character is
really broken. This character is amazingly resilient and strong given
where she has come from and she is someone who has never been mothered and
is set up to mother so that she can look after herself. Parents the world
over struggle with the ghosts from their own childhood and how, despite
their best intentions, it sometimes affects how they are with their
children. It's a film that can be appreciated by parents and non-parents
alike. I think parents will find that quite chilling.
Did having children change you?
That's a very big question. I'm one of those people that was really,
profoundly changed by having kids especially my first son.
In every way. I was one of those kids that wanted to be a mom since I was
this big. I remember going to the playground and I'd ask the moms if I
could look after their kids when I was a kid. So I was looking for
something. So it's been amazing for me. I think that I became more
passionate for just about everything.
the relationship with your first child changed over the years, especially
since the second child?
Yeah. Everything is continually changing. But I think that my relationship
with my first one was more complicated because I was alone and I was a
single mom for a long time with him, but more than that I think that I had
a little bit of that, sort of, he was also my safety for a period of time
and my anchor. I really quickly had to learn to let him go and kind of
look at my own fear of letting him go. So it was a more complicated
relationship in that way. Ultimately I'm really grateful for that
experience because ultimately I think that we'll have a healthier
And you're ready to let go with the second one?
With the second one, I've already found a place to be in the world where I
felt safe and had found my home already. I was still looking for that when
I had my first if that makes any sense. So my love wasn't mixed up with my
searching for something else. I think that people that look for safety,
like a niche in the world, and that's just to say that I was still looking
for what that would be. I studied religion and I studied philosophy and I
had different relationships. I was a climber and I was a biker. I was a
student. And then I became a mom and I quieted down.
Doing a film
like this, do you carry some of this heavy baggage with you?
It's nice to let it be someone else's baggage. You know what really gets
under my skin is if I'm working on a project that I'm not happy with.
That's torture for me and, unfortunately, I must admit, I make it torture
for everyone around me because it makes me miserable, but I was really
happy to work on this film. It was one of my favorite films to work on
because it was just a great working relationship with Walter, the
director. I don't feel like I'm faking it when I'm doing a scene and when
we're done and if we've got it, then I'm done and I'm not her any more.
Do you suffer from migraines?
Me? No, I don't.
How did you get it so right then?
I just talked to people about their experiences and learned about the
sensitivity to light and sound. I took a little poll of people that I came
across. I talked to a doctor.
What was it like working with Walter since English isn't his first
It's beyond his nationality. He is one of the most worldly people I've
ever met. I don't even want to guess how many languages he speaks
fluently. He's singular. I think that he's extraordinary. I think that
he's a huge talent. I thought so before I worked with him and after
working with him I can't tell you what a blessing it was. It felt like
such a privilege to work with him everyday. I think that he's so elegant
in his choices as a filmmaker. I think that he's incredibly knowledgeable,
but not at all jaded. He's still passionate. He's full of curiosity.
That's a really rare combination.
you hate the sight of water now?
You know, I'm a huge fan of personal hygiene. I think that it's really
important. So, no. I couldn't turn off the water.
And the black mold?
less fond of the black mold.
Being in that much water, you must have been always freezing cold.
There was a period towards the end, in that bathroom sequence at the end
of the film, that took a little while and it was cold. It's hard to keep a
soundstage really warm and even if they tried to keep the water warm in
between takes it gets cold very quickly with those soggy pajamas on. So
they were very nice. They actually had a hot tub on set. They tortured me,
but they were very sweet.
How did they make the water look like that?
rumor that it was some ingredient found in Coca-Cola. I don't know if
that's true, but that's what I heard.
Why would this character rent an apartment that had that mold on the
Yeah but she didn't see that when she came in. When she first moved in
there was, I can't remember, but she was distracted; who wouldn't be
distracted by John C. Reilly. If he was your real-estate broker bringing
her through the apartment and rushing her, going, "Oh, oh, look at this.
Look at the country kitchen and look at this million dollar view." So I
don't think that she saw that and then she got swept up in the whole thing
with Ceci. And I'm really sensitive to that issue in scary films where you
go, 'No way. She wouldn't do that. She wouldn't go up those stairs.'
Walter handled that really well actually. He set the stakes. It's always a
matter of opinion, but for me the stakes were really clear and I think
that she was so desperate to keep her daughter and was so turned around by
the sort of hostility of this, I mean it's a vicious thing to be involved
in a custody battle, and I think that she's so turned around by that. I
mean, why would she expect that a little leak in the ceiling even if she
had seen it, and I don't think she did see it, but even if she had, why
would she think that there was some massive problem going on in this
problem. That's what was going to come out of it. Her daughter showed
enthusiasm. Her daughter said, 'I really want to live here. This is great
mom.' Her daughter was positive and she knows that in two days she's got
to show up in front of her husband and if she doesn't have a suitable
place for her to live that her daughter might be gone to Jersey City. To
me, that's reason enough to say, 'My daughter's happy? I'll take it.'
The next project is called Little Children. It's being directed by
Todd Fields who did In the Bedroom and it's based on a book by Tom
Perotta who also wrote Election.
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