INTERVIEW: Jennifer Connelly on ‘Reservation Road’

Jennifer Connelly stars as Grace Learner, wife to Ethan Learner played by Joaquin Phoenix, in the upcoming Focus Features release Reservation Road, which hits limited theaters tomorrow, October 19th. In the film Grace and Ethan suffer a terrible loss as a hit-and-run driver played by Mark Ruffalo kills their son on a backwoods street. The film tells the story from both the side of the victim and the criminal and runs the emotional gammut.

Jennifer’s character is a role she has said was her most difficult yet, and as she will explain, it was the connection she made with her family that made this one of those roles she just wasn’t able to let go of.

What was it about the story that made you want to do this film?

JC: It was pretty clear once I read it, and it’s only happened to me a few times in all the scripts that I have read, where I read something and immediately know I want to do it without any hesitation. I responded to it emotionally, immediately I thought it was stunning. I thought it was interesting also, I didn’t feel manipulated or resentful. I didn’t begrudge the fact that I had gone on this emotional ride in this film. I thought it was an interesting thing to think about how people respond to loss, and ask what is it about this need for revenge? Does it solve anything?

You said this was one of the hardest roles you have ever taken on, can you elaborate on that?

JC: It was difficult to do for a few reasons. I am sort of obsessive and when I start working on something it is sort of hard for me to stop thinking about it. I’m always processing what happened that day, what’s happening tomorrow, what’s coming up next week and I am always going over things in the back of my mind and with something like this it means that some of it always stays with me. Despite the fact that I refuse to think of my own children on any conscious level when preparing for any scenes, but I think it was impossible for the film to not be made out of my love for my children as disciplined as I try to be.

Many actors say they don’t take the story home with them, but are you saying this is one that you just couldn’t help but take home?

JC: I don’t take it home on any conscious level whatsoever. I take my work home with me, because I am obsessive and always thinking about work when I am working, which is probably really boring for the people that I live with and probably why I could never do a job back-to-back-to-back because I would have no family, they would clearly abandon me.

I don’t like go, ‘Oh, I have to do this scene, don’t talk to me. I am going to be miserable now.’ I’m not like that, I’m pretty chipper and polite on set, but I had really bad dreams. My jaw locked up and I couldn’t eat. Even twice I couldn’t sleep and that’s odd for me because I am really good at sleeping. I’m just saying that I felt it in my bones and even if I am trying to trick myself into thinking it had nothing to do with my own family I think something that hits this level of emotion has to be forged out of that stuff that we’re made of, and I am made out of my kids. It’s what I am about.

It affected me to that extent, and it surprised me because I had never experienced it before.

What do you think Emma would have done with the information her husband had?

JC: I think there are different components to it; the betrayal is infuriating, the notion that they have been spending so much time together and if he didn’t know that is a huge betrayal. I think that they differ in that they have this confrontation, and he is like, ‘How can you not care? How can you not care about finding the guy?’ and she is like, ‘It’s not that I don’t care.’ She just sees it differently; to her the thing that she is wrestling with is that nothing will make it better. The problem is that the hole in her life, that’s the problem, and Ethan is chasing this demon that he has created as if harming or capturing him is going to set something right. I don’t think she feels it is going to take away any of the pain or suffering.

I think she just looks at it like ‘Here’s my problem. How am I going to move around this huge hole in my life?’ The only motivation she has to figure out a place to hold her feet down is her daughter initially.

Are there any genres that you haven’t worked on that you are interested in doing?

JC: I haven’t really done a comedy, which is what I am working on now and that’s interesting, a nice change after a movie like this. It’s called He’s Just Not That into You and it’s an entirely different sort of film. Drew Barrymore who’s also producing and Jennifer Aniston, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson and Ben Affleck.

Was it a conscious decision to move into a lighter, more comedic film after working on Reservation Road?

JC: Yes. [laughing]

Reservation Road hits theaters on October 19th and stars Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Elle Fanning, Mira Sorvino and Jennifer Connelly. It is directed by Hotel Rwanda helmer Terry George and you can get more info, pics, clips and trailers from the film here.


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