Actress talks to Geoffrey Macnab about her role in Claudia Llosa’s Berlin competition entry and Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming epic.
Actress Jennifer Connelly is here at the EFM promoting Claudia Llosa’s competition entry Aloft, picked up early in the market by Sony Pictures Classics for the US and Latin America.
The opening scene of the film, being sold here by Dreamcatchers and set to premiere on Wednesday, shows the Oscar-winning actress with her hands covered in blood and excrement as she helps pull out a piglet from a sow in labour.
Connelly plays a struggling mother with a deadbeat job on a farm. She is doing her best for her two sons in difficult circumstances.
“I was actually shooting a scene in the other room when the sow was in labour,” Connelly recalls. “It’s someone else pulling the piglet but, by the time I got there, they were hoping that there was still another piglet (to be born). I tried for one! I did have my hands in there!”
Aloft is a departure for Connelly. It’s an austere drama in which her character is tough, emotionally complex but not always sympathetic, least of all in her dealings with her own sons, Gully and Ivan. Connelly doesn’t set out to “sell” the character to the audience by softening her in any way.
“I felt she was the type of character that might be harshly judged for her actions,” Connelly reflects. “Being approachable and affectionate and warm toward her son Ivan is really not her strength…I thought it was a bold choice to put a character like that at the centre of a film.”
Aloft was shot in Winnipeg, Canada, in circumstances very different from those onsome of the bigger budget films in which Connelly has appeared. The schedule was tight.
“Working on a movie like (Darren Aronofsky’s) Noah, you start shooting in August and you’re still filming in November. This movie I had only a few weeks to shoot all my scenes.”
The crew was relatively small. Nonetheless, she describes working with Peruvian director Llosa - a Golden Bear winner for The Milk Of Sorrow - as one of the most rewarding experiences of her career.
“What really stood out for me in the process of making this film with Claudia was how incredibly fulfilled I felt…I felt so happy to be doing it.”
Having made Aloft, Connelly went on to star in her husband Paul Bettany’s directorial debut Shelter, sold by Voltage.
This film, described by Connelly as “a love story,” was made on an even lower budget. She plays a woman living rough on the streets of New York. Anthony Mackie is the homeless Nigerian man she falls in love with. Connelly talks of the rush to shoot a set number of script pages each day.
By contrast, Aronofsky’s Noah is a film on a huge scale.
She first worked with Aronofsky on Requiem For A Dream and clearly relished having the chance to appear in Noah, which she describes as both biblical epic and closely focused family drama. And, no, there won’t be any piglets for her to deal with this time round.
“There were no live animals used on the Ark,” she clarifies.
Connelly is currently between roles. “I had done a string of films back to back, (Akiva Goldman’s supernatural drama) Winter’s Tale then Noah then Aloft and then Shelter. I just had to take a little break…”