LOS ANGELES—Twenty-three years after she wandered through Jim Henson’s imaginative world in Labyrinth, Jennifer Connelly is lending her voice to an animated character for the first time. She and David Bowie were among the few live-action characters in Henson’s puppet-driven 1986 movie. However, Connelly was never hired to do voice-over work. She was a teenager then, and a mother of two now, and she says that when she was asked to do a voice for the movie 9, she was given a copy of the short film that it would be adapted from and said ”˜Yes’ after her two children had seen it and approved.
“I have been offered other things before, but there was never anything that came up that I felt was interesting,” she says in an L.A. hotel room. “A lot of my interest was because of the children. They loved the short film. My older son, Kai, loves the feature film, and my six-year-old, Stellan, loves the short, but he has only seen part of the feature because I am familiar with the film and I saw it with him. I spent a lot of time covering his eyes. I think, left unsupervised, it would be too frightening for him to see. I thought it was an interesting film. I don’t know much about animated movies, but I felt there were parts of the movie that were like paintings. I marvelled at that, and I don’t know how one accomplishes that. It makes no sense to me, but I think it is remarkable.”
Watch the trailer for 9.
In 9, which stars Elijah Wood in the title role, Connelly’s character, #7, is one of several dolls made by a scientist who created machinery that eventually destroyed humankind. In an attempt at redemption, he took the few things that were left to him and made dolls that could think and act on their own. They have found one another and are out to discover a way to get control of the machinery that still dominates what is left of the world.
Connelly worked steadily as a teenage actor in 1980s films, including Labyrinth and Some Girls. She kept her career going throughout the next decade and more, with independent movies like Pollock and Requiem for a Dream. She took her career to another level when she won an Oscar for 2001’s A Beautiful Mind. Although she continued to do independent films, she also took lead roles in studio movies like Hulk, Blood Diamond, and The Day the Earth Stood Still. She says that her husband, actor Paul Bettany, who is Stellan’s father, had to go back to the Henson film in order to find one of his mother’s films that Stellan would be able to watch from beginning to end.
“The children have seen hardly anything that I have been in until now,” she says. “Paul tried to show Stellan Labyrinth, but he was scared by the characters. Kai, who is 11, did see The Day the Earth Stood Still, and he thought that was cool. It’s interesting, because I don’t think they care about what their parents do more than any other kid cares about what their parents do, which is good because they aren’t fazed by stars. We were at [the comic-book convention] Comic-Con with 9, and the kids came. They loved Lord of the Rings, so I brought Elijah over and said to Kai, ”˜Look, it’s Frodo,’ and he said, in an impatient way, ”˜Yes, I know.’ I thought, ”˜Oh, that’s good, they are not that interested in that kind of thing.’ ”
Even Connelly is not impressed with her fame. She says that she has never gone out of her way to be a movie star. And although she will listen to advice, she feels that most of the bad decisions she has made have come when she allowed the opinions of others to carry the day.
“I look for a combination of things when I am deciding on a movie,” she says. “I want a script that intrigues me and is being made by someone who can pull it off in an interesting way. People weigh in with their opinions, and I do ask for them, but I really try to make sure that I have made my own decisions, because it never works out for me if I rely on others. I have done it in the past, but believe me, it has never worked out. Never. I think, ”˜Here I am acting miserable, and I can’t make it work, and it’s a nightmare.’ That has always happened when I have relied on others. I really have to take responsibility for my own life and career. I welcome suggestions, but at the end of the day, it’s always my choice, for better or worse.”