Jennifer Connelly for “Dark Water”

She’s an Oscar winner, a stunningly talented and highly acclaimed actress who’s also very down to earth and normal. I’ve interviewed many actresses over the years, but rarely has one sounded so genuine and interesting as Jennifer Connelly. She has become a well known star in recent years for her devastatingly upfront performances in the likes of “A Beautiful Mind,” “Requiem for a Dream,” “Waking the Dead” and “House of Sand & Fog”.

“Dark Water” is one of the more interesting departures for her, a move into the realm of the supernatural thriller – but don’t say this a film following a trend. “It’s not like The Ring or The Grudge or close in tone to those films” said the actress on Wednesday night over the phone from New York. In one of the first interviews she has given about the film, she cites and compares it more her favourite examples of the genre such as Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” and the artistic “Don’t Look Now” which she adores.

In terms of her attachment, Director Walter Salles was already a part of the project and approached Connelly with Rafael Yglesias script which she describes as “really moving and scary” and she loved the “allegory of the mother and daughter” aspect of it. Actually the script and the original Japanese film (which she saw after the offer was made) had her weeping with its emotional resonance. The trick with these films she says is that its not about the shocks, but an audience must “buy into the reality of these characters” and make the situation compelling to the point that when the emotion does come in, it hits you that much more.

She laughingly recalls one of the more difficult sequences on set – the scene from the previews with her apartment walls covered in gushing water – a scene she wasn’t even aware of. “It wasn’t in the script” she says, “Walter brought me into the apartment set where there were these chutes built into the ceiling and special effects guys were all up above ready to pour water and debris down the walls”. The water it seems was freezing during that initial scene, so much so that she thought the whole scene was a “cruel joke” on Salles’ part.

The actress was pleased in later scenes though when they not only heated the water, but installed a jacuzzi for her. “After a scene I would jump into the jacuzzi, clothes on to keep warm in between takes.”

She also claims the end of the film was a very physical scene and difficult for her, but its an experience she loved. What was her favourite thing about it? “Everything. This is the most enjoyable time I’ve had on a movie”.

Helping her through the experience was the talented and much loved veteran actor John C. Reilly whose humour had her and Salles giggling between takes to the point that the sound guys became quickly annoyed. Connelly stuck through it all though, it was a demanding schedule as she is in practically every shot. On top of that she had to deal with a newborn child between takes. Thus she was left run ragged for much of the time but came out of the whole thing with an appreciation of the work, and a film “I truly believe in”.

She would work with Salles again in a heartbeat, and regularly praises him throughout the interview. Salles in fact was telling her about his next film shot in South America and Jennifer volunteered “I can play a Brazilian boy” with a laugh. She’s busy gearing up for Todd Field’s “Little Children” which also stars Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson in a story that centers on different groups of young marrieds whose paths unexpectedly cross, propelling them into a world that heretofore they had no idea existed.

Til then though she’s about to commence the busy publicity campaign for “Dark Water” and was very glad to hear that initial screenings have yielded some very good word of mouth – “that’s fantastic” she says with a genuine sense of happiness. For someone still so young, she sounds amazingly centered and content to the point one can’t help but be envious of. You can see her in action on screen when “Dark Water” opens July 8th.