Interviews: Jennifer Connelly on House of Sand and Fog

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Jennifer Connelly plays Kathy Lazaro in the new drama House of Sand and Fog opposite Sir Ben Kingsley. Her character’s house has been improperly seized for back taxes and is bought in an auction by Massoud Amir Behrani (Kingsley). The loss of her home tears away Kathy’s last hope of a stable life and she decides to fight to recover her home at any cost. ComingSoon.net talked to Connelly about the role.

This is a tragic movie which makes for a rather depressing moviegoing experience.

“I have to say my experience when I walked out of the movie having seen it, I felt like I had been sort of shaken and I came out and thought I just want to go home and see my family. I want to go hug my son and I felt so grateful for things that I had and I did one of those ‘I’ll never do anything bad ever again, I’ll never get obsessed with the petty things I worried about.’ In a way I like that kind of movie and I didn’t find it depressing. I found it as a great reminder to be grateful for the things we have. I saw it that way. That said, it is a tough ride when you’re going through it, but that’s different from making the movie. Making the movie was a wonderful experience for me because I liked the movie, I liked the script, I thought it was an interesting project to work on. For me grueling is working on a project I’m not happy with. That I have a hard time letting go of at the end of the day.”

Was it hard playing such a downbeat character?

“What was difficult was also playing someone I always didn’t like. She spirals out of control, she’s spilling out of control and she acts out on people and she has such self loathing that she projects it onto everyone else and isn’t always well behaved. At times you feel you can really sympathize with her, she’s this lost little girl who hasn’t been loved and just wants a home. And then at times you think ‘I can’t believe you’re acting this way, you’re so petulant, you’re so childish, you’re so frustrating.’ So that was kind of scary, I’ve never played a character like that before. But I thought that was the most intriguing things about the movie – these are not your typical American heroes. They are characters on the fringes, the kind of characters we do tend to pass a lot of judgement on. It was important that they be depicted that way.”

This is a movie that’s really hard not to judge the severity of the characters’ actions?

“I didn’t think it was a movie to do that. I don’t think this was the time to feel vain in that way. I didn’t think it was the point of the movie. Sir Ben’s character as well, he hit his wife, he’s not very nice to my character at times. I think that’s what happens, people are intractable at times in the thick of the situation. If you look at it from Kathy’s point of view everything is kind of justified. But with the movie, because it’s telling the two stories together, it’s shifting your allegiance. You get taken out of Kathy’s point of view and thrown into Behrani’s point of view. Through that lens she looks unreasonable. If you just had that one central character, like for me, playing it from Kathy’s point of view I felt justified all the time, you know what I mean. The novel was written in alternating first person so you have chapters written from Lester’s point of view, Behrani’s point of view.”

This movie really isn’t a movie about good guys and bad guys, is it? It’s more about the decisions and compromises we make along the way.

“I think so and I think intolerance, the fact that these characters don’t have much tolerance for themselves, I think there’s this question of who’s entitled to live the American Dream and what kind of citizens do they feel they need to be. Kathy feels she has to, she’s trying to be a person she’s not right now. Her family wants to see her on their terms and she’s aware of that and feels like a failure and is judging herself. Sir Ben’s character is trying to be something he’s not, he can’t even admit to his own family what he’s doing for a living. These are characters that aren’t being given the benefit of the doubt. When you see with the Behranis at the end of the film a cop and a little boy you assume that the little boy is in the wrong. My character is an outsider, she’s been an addict and she’s one of thos fringe characters you see on the side of the road and even the woman who works for legal aid, who’s supposed to be supporting people in this situation says quite condemningly `well you didn’t open your mail.’ It really wasn’t her fault, it was a bureaucratic error but we dismiss these people.”

Your character in the film pretty much flies off the handle on any given moment.

“I think the best of us can do it in those stressful situations, I know I do it. On paper I ask myself how would I respond to this. But I find myself in the middle of an argument and say to myself ‘I’m being an ass right now, I’m being so childish.’ We all do it on the moment.”

Would you love to do a comedy?

“I haven’t done a comedy and I’d love to do a comedy. I haven’t found one that I love that they are also willing to entrust me with. When you get a comedy you don’t think “Oooo Jennifer Connelly, yeah she’s at the top of my list.” I’d love to get a comedy to do I think it’s about time and I’d really enjoy doing one.”

What was the toughest day of work for you on the set?

“Probably when I had to do the scene where I showed up at the Behrani’s doorstep in my car and I’m at the height of my lowest point at the film. In my trailer was my soon to be husband Paul with his guitar singing “My name is Jennifer and I listen to really depressing music and I’m a very serious actress.” I said “Shut up, I have to go do this scene.” He’s like “Oh look at me, I take myself very seriously.” That was really charming and funny but charming nonetheless.”

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