Vanity Fair Jennifer Connelly Interview

Friday, August 9 2002

Below are excerpts from the September issue of Vanity Fair. I suggest going out and getting it; it's filled with really good photographs and it's really a well written interview. Except for the parts where the interviewer did not do his research and gets stuff on the Hulk totally wrong (stuff like Betty was a scientist in the comic books, or worse yet, how the Hulk is really the Thing of the Fantastic Four).

...So one might reasonably assume she chose to follow A Beautiful Mind by starring in The Hulk beacuse...the comic book recreation seemed likely to be a blockbuster in the order of Spider-man that would make her a lot of money? "Actually," she says earnestly, "this is a five character family psychodrama."

At least this time her director is the reason for such pronouncements. The Hulk as standard comic book fare would have held little interest for her, Connelly avers. The Hulk as directed by Ang Lee of The Ice Storm (1997) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) was a whole other proposition. "Ang brought such a lyricism to those movies," Connelly says. "I just wanted to be around him." And when he started talking greek tragedy and telling her of his walks in the California desert in search of rocks with just the right texture to crush, Connelly was hooked.

Lee says he does discern the bones of greek drama in the Fantastic Four-the series in which the Hulk appears (WHAT!?)-and has been a fan long enough to have put a reference to the comic book quartet in The Ice Storm (Actually, Rick Moody, the author of the novel did that). To Lee, the Hulk represents the dark side of our nature. "I feel the power of the Hulk, the excitement of the unknown," he muses. He's "the things we're afraid of, though they're ultimately exciting."

Connelly signed on before Oscar nominations, So Lee-and Universal Studios-doubtless got a good deal. But she has no regrets. Well perhaps just one. In filming first around Berkeley, California, where the story is based, then on Universal's back lot in Los Angeles, she has to speak an awful lot of her lines to a card board-cutout Hulk head on a stick. Like most super-heroes, the Hulk has a human alter ego: Bruce Banner, played by Eric Bana (Chopper). But whenever he's transformed into his superhero self, a computer animated Hulk takes over the screen. The cardboard head is Hulk-high., to give Connelly her "eye lines". "I'm looking at pieces of pink tape on the cutout head," she says with a grin. "There's nothing there! I've never done that before- it's a little humiliating."

"The first day it was a bit of a problem having her talk to the Hulk head," Ang Lee admits. "But within a week, she had a scene with the Hulk where she looks at him with real feeling, and all the emotion was there." Connelly, says Lee, was always his first choice. "Her intensity appealed to me. And she's gorgeous to look at. You can't ask for much more than that."

"I think we've all been cast for our angst abilities," says Bana, who's come to admire Connelly's cool professionalism. "It's quite an angst-ridden script."

Almost as soon as she read The Hulk script, Connelly had changes to propose for her character, Betty Ross. Both in the comics and in the script, Betty is a scientist who works in the same University lab as Bruce Banner and begins to suspect that Banner's experiments are affecting him strangely. What she doesn't realize is that her own father, an army general, knows something about those experiments. James Shamus, the screenwriter, had sketched a relationship between father and daughter, but Connelly was under whelmed. "The issues that she had with her father," she says, "were kind of stock issues that you'd have with your father if he's in the military and you're a liberal scientist."

Connelly and Shamus worked together to create nuances in her character, inspired they agree, by the poet Anne Carson, in particular by her poem "Flatman (1st draft)," about living in a flat, superficial world. "The material of the movie is so colorful, but flat, boxed in, cut off from anything real," Connelly explains. "And then in it is this character who's trying to find something human, and sacred, trying to sort out her past and her memories."

Shamus says he gave her one of Carson's books after Connelly's remark, in another interview, that she admired the poet Wallace Steven. "Carson's themes shed light on the nature of pop culture {and} violence," he says. But, for Shamus, sharing poetry was just part of the larger pleasure of working with an unusually quick-witted and literate actress. "The thing about Jennifer-and it was a prerequisite for the role-is that she's just plain smart," he says. "So it's not hard to believe that her character has a Ph.D. in genetics." If his words got changed in the process, that's all right by him. "Process," he says, "is what makes cheese-and movies."

The day after our dinner at the Chateau Marmont, Connelly does a scene for The Hulk dressed in pretty much her standard off screen uniform of sweater and jeans. Actor Sam Elliot, playing her father, asks his daughter not to act on her suspicions, but rather to give him time. As take follows take, Ang Lee presides gently, almost diffidently-in his wide brimmed straw hat, he looks more like a botanist than a director-but he clearly commands great respect from the dozens of actors and techies gathered outside a San Francisco-style house on Universal's back lot."

That's all the Hulk related stuff, but like I said it's a good article which warrants reading. Provides a lot of insight into Connelly (who I had a huge crush on when I was younger), who's a really intelligent and articulate person.

Wanna talk about this bit of news? Start a discussion over at the boards.

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