20 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Jennifer Connelly
Jennifer Connelly is an actress with serious range. Beginning as a child actor and model, she has proven across her career that she can help everything from cult classics filled with puppets to Oscar-winning dramas to horror movies and romantic comedies. As if her diverse filmography wasn’t enough, Connelly also speaks several languages, spent time studying at Yale, and married her number one fan.
In honour of this iconic actress, today we’re showing you 20 facts you might not have known about Jennifer Connelly.
20. She went to two Ivy League colleges
Jennifer Connelly has been acting in films ever since the age of 11, so it may surprise you to know that she also had time to get a college education.
Nevertheless, Connelly took a break from acting to study English Literature at Yale for two years.
She then went on to transfer to yet another prestigious college, Stanford, where she swapped to studying Drama.
Speaking to the Telegraph in 2005, Connelly even confessed to being a total nerd while attending university.
“I wasn’t really concerned with having a social life or sleeping or eating much,” she said.
“I was really nerdy and pretty much stayed in the law-school library, which is open 24 hours, most of the time I wasn’t in class.”
19. She released two singles in Japanese when she was 16
We’ve already established that Jennifer Connelly is studious from her choice of colleges, but did you know that she is also intelligent in other ways?
For example, talented Connelly is fluent in several different languages such as French and Italian.
Connelly was also able to expand her language repertoire when, early in her career, her agent asked her to record two songs in Japanese.
These songs were called Monologue of Love and Message of Love and were recorded when Connelly was just 16.
The lyrics had to be written out phonetically for Connelly since she couldn’t speak the language.
Amazingly, both songs became chart-toppers in Japan despite originally being recorded just for advertising purposes.
18. She was future husband Paul Bettany’s childhood crush because of Labyrinth
Jennifer Connelly and her husband Paul Bettany have been together since 2003 and have two children together, Stellan and Agnes.
The two seem to have an idyllic relationship, even managing to costar in films without ever getting sick of each other.
What you might not have known is that Bettany had been obsessed with Connelly ever since he was a teenager.
Bettany knew Connelly was the woman for him after watching her iconic performance as Sarah Williams in Labyrinth.
Bettany had sworn to marry Connelly after seeing her in the film, and that promise to himself eventually came true.
14 years later, the two met on the set of A Beautiful Mind back in 2001. The rest, as they say, is history.
17. Heathers was written with Connelly in mind – but she turned the part down
By the time Jennifer Connelly was in her teens, she already had half a decade of film experience under her belt and had starred in several highly successful projects.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that several filmmakers wanted to cast her in their next film.
Some even went as far as writing whole projects with the talented actress specifically in mind.
Notably, Daniel Waters wrote the screenplay for teen cult classic Heathers with a view to casting Connelly in the leading role.
This was a risky game to play and Waters was ultimately left scrambling for another star when Connelly turned down the part.
Thankfully, Winona Ryder had a similar blend of earnestness and edginess, as well as the same dark hair.
16. She never really wanted to become an actress
Despite working on film sets from a young age, Connelly never expected to go into acting full-time.
Even as she was starring in huge projects like Labyrinth, she always expected to eventually grow up and move into a different career.
Speaking in an interview with the Guardian in 2002, Connelly revealed that she hadn’t intended to become an actress.
“I had no aspirations of being an actor. I was still like ‘Oh, I’ll be a vet when I grow up and I’ll help sick animals.'”
Connelly’s mind only changed after she took a break from acting to attend college and finally realised that being in movies could be “a good job.”
She went on to say: “I still don’t know if I have the hang of this acting thing. I think I’m kind of a work in progress.”
15. She won an Oscar thanks to Meryl Streep
Most people have an actor that they look up to, whose work they always go see and who provides inspiration to them throughout their life.
Even famous actors themselves have other performers that they see as idols, and this is especially true for Jennifer Connelly.
Connelly won an Academy Award for her performance in A Beautiful Mind, and she essentially credits Meryl Streep for her victory.
Connelly made it clear in a 2002 interview with the Guardian that she idolises Streep.
“I always looked up to Meryl Streep when I was a kid. I think she’s just a phenomenal actress,” she said.
“From time to time when I’m working I think, ‘What would Meryl do?’ and I’ve let that guide me.”
14. She married Paul Bettany without ever dating him
As established, Paul Bettany fell for Connelly before they even met after he watched her performance in Labyrinth.
But did you know that they also married without ever really dating? Instead, the two worked on cultivating their friendship and romance just happened to follow.
After meeting on the set of A Beautiful Mind, the two were drawn to each other, but kept things platonic as they were both romantically involved with other people.
But Bettany’s first thought after 9/11 was that he needed to call Connelly – and that thought made him realise that he must be in love with her.
He tracked down her number and rang her immediately, apparently opening the call by saying “I’m coming over, let’s get married.”
Bettany immediately moved to New York to be with Connelly, and the two got married just a couple of months later in a private ceremony in 2003. How romantic.
13. She believes in ghosts
Back in 2005, Connelly starred as Dahlia in Dark Water, a supernatural horror drama film.
The film features paranormal occurrences and ghostly appearances – but does Connelly herself believe in any of that stuff?
It seems so. Connelly opened up about her brushes with the paranormal in an interview with The Independent back in 2012.
“Walter [the film’s director] came to my house before we started filming, and a week later the house flooded,” she explained.
“And it didn’t just flood once, it flooded twice. I hold him directly responsible,” she quipped.
“I do absolutely believe in ghosts and the abstract, though. There seem to be lots of haunted people walking around out there.”
12. She’s passionate about charity work
When Connelly isn’t busy working on a film, you can likely find her campaigning or fundraising for a number of worthy causes.
Speaking to the Independent in 2007, she revealed that she “recycles furiously and drives a hybrid car.”
She also opened up about her work for Amnesty International, which she has been doing for several years.
“Africa made me feel like I really don’t do enough. We tried to do what we could when we were there [filming for Blood Diamond].”
“We all felt good about putting 40 or 50 million dollars into the economy. We created this fund which was then matched by the studio [Warner Brothers] to help the very local communities in which we worked.”
“I called Amnesty when I got home and asked them to put me to work whenever they can. But you do leave there thinking, ‘Gosh, I wish there was more I could do’. And I’m sure there is.”
11. She found David Bowie “adorable”
One of Connelly’s first major roles was as Sarah Williams in 1986 musical fantasy film, Labyrinth.
Connelly starred alongside iconic glam rock star David Bowie – and she’s only ever had nice things to say about him.
Speaking to L’Officiel back in 2019, Connelly recalled what it was like to work with such an influential man.
“David Bowie was adorable and generous,” she recalled in the interview, looking back on her time with the star.
“He had a great sense of humor and made everyone feel at ease in his presence, and I admired him for that.”
Although a financial and critical failure, the film has since garnered a sizeable cult following.
10. She was always Ang Lee’s first choice for Betty in The Hulk
Connelly put on a fantastic performance as Betty, Bruce Banner’s love interest, in Ang Lee’s 2003 adaptation of The Hulk.
According to Lee, he had always envisioned Connelly as Betty. “Jennifer was always the first choice,” he said in NY Mag in 2002.
“She’s beautiful, sober-looking, intelligent. She also looks quite intense, so that’s great because you can see the Hulk from her point of view.”
Lee went on to say in the interview that he was deeply impressed by Connelly’s commitment to the job.
When he saw Connelly at the 2002 Golden Globes, he was delighted to find her “unfazed” by the glamorous event and instead totally immersed in Hulk research.
“She […] totally 100 percent wanted to dive into the role — doing her homework, lots of questions, lots of discussions.”
9. She thought The Rocketeer would be her big break
Following her success in Labyrinth, Connelly appeared in several lighthearted films such as Seven Minutes in Heaven.
However, Connelly was keen to do away with these more frivolous roles and make a name for herself as a formidable, earnest actress.
And yet this proved difficult, and for years Connelly struggled to land any big, serious jobs.
However, the film was released in the same summer as classics such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and paled in comparison.
Connelly’s career appeared to go through a slight dip after The Rocketeer until she finally got a meatier role in Requiem for a Dream.
8. She thinks her looks have prevented her from landing comedy work
Nowadays, Connelly is renowned for her sheer talent when it comes to playing steely, emotionally complex female leads.
But now she’s conquered more dramatic roles, Connelly would love to get involved with more comedic parts.
“At this point I might have a bit of trouble trying to get myself cast in a comedy, but I’d love to do one,” she told Female in 2002.
She also once divulged her suspicions about why she’s never been cast in such a role with CBS Sunday Morning.
“I think it’s my eyebrows. I look stern even when I’m not stern. If I’m not feeling cross, I look a little bit cross,” she said. “I can’t help it. It’s just my face.”
Connelly has managed to star in a few comedies at least, including Career Opportunities and He’s Just Not That Into You, with great success. For example, He’s Just Not That Into You brought in $178.9 million at the box office.
7. She felt ‘shallow’ making her Oscars acceptance speech
Every actor or actress likely has a different view on how best to tackle an Oscar acceptance speech.
While some make political statements, others thank their families. Some talk, and talk, and talk, while others say a simple ‘thank you’ and leave it at that.
Back in 2002, it was Connelly’s turn to make a speech after she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in A Beautiful Mind.
“I remember looking up and seeing the sign that said you only had 45 seconds to speak and just feeling shocked by the exposure,” Connelly told the Telegraph in 2003.
“It made me feel quite shallow. You just don’t know what to expect up there,” she said.
Speaking to the Independent in 2012, Connelly also revealed that she hadn’t expected to win. “You grow up watching the Oscars on TV and you think it happens to fancy people and it’s hard to think, ‘how did I get here?’. It was really surreal.”
6. She got into voice acting for animation and Marvel so her children could finally see her films
Connelly has also done a spot of voice acting in her time. Notably, she voiced the AI suit known as Karen in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
According to Connelly, there’s a rather sweet reason why she decided to try her hand at acting in animated films.
“A lot of my interest was because of the children,” she revealed back in 2009.
“The children have seen hardly anything that I have been in until now,” the actress and mother-of-three recalled.
“Paul [Bettany] tried to show Stellan [their son] 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.”
5. She’s not very tech-savvy
Connelly isn’t exactly a million years old – far from it – but she’s a bit behind the times when it comes to tech.
Back in 2015, Connelly ran into a spot of bother when she dropped and smashed her iPhone screen.
The Apple technician she asked to fix her phone was aghast to learn that she hadn’t backed up her data anywhere.
Connelly has always been old-fashioned when it comes to technology, however, as she revealed in a 2015 interview with Town and Country.
“In college I wrote on an old typewriter,” she revealed, demonstrating her more ‘vintage’ approach to tech.
“Anything that we had in our house—which at that point was, like, a CD player—my parents, if it didn’t work, would be like, ‘Can you fix it? Can you make it work?’ […] I am that person in my house now—the one who’s like, ‘Can you please tell me how to print the whatever?'”
4. She was a child model before she was an actress
Given that Jennifer Connelly seemed to have no dreams of being an actress from childhood, people have often wondered how and why she got into the business in the first place.
The story is simple: a family friend encouraged Connelly’s parents to introduce her to acting work, and she was immediately signed by the Ford modelling agency.
From there, Connelly appeared in several print advertisements, before going on to shoot television commercials.
This led her neatly on into the acting world – before she knew it, she was taking Hollywood by storm.
She was cast in her first film role at the age of 12 when her mother took her to an audition for Once Upon A Time In America.
She impressed Sergio Leone with her performance and was cast in the role of Deborah Gelly, marking the start of her long and successful acting career.
3. She’s obsessed with taking on darker roles
Jennifer Connelly has been open about having a very happy and peaceful life, which stands in stark contrast to the lives of the characters that she often chooses to play.
Many people have noticed her preference for tragic or moody roles, which has led the public to assume she is a morose person by nature.
Instead, Connelly explained in a 2007 interview with Vogue that she naturally gravitates towards these roles because she finds them more interesting.
“I don’t often play characters who are the happy-go-lucky girl next door,” she revealed in the interview.
“For the most part I have made dramas with women who are, you know, grieving.”
“But I don’t think that’s necessarily a reflection of how I live my life. I don’t think I’m a particularly sad person […] These are just parts that I find interesting.”
2. She replaced Uma Thurman in The Hot Spot
Connelly dazzled as Gloria Harper in 1990 neo-noir film The Hot Spot, starring alongside Don Johnson and Virginia Madsen.
But Connelly was never meant to play the part. Instead, she replaced Uma Thurman, who was initially cast in the role.
In fact, the a lot of the film’s line-up changed dramatically in its early stages. As well as Thurman, Sam Shepard and Anne Archer were supposed to be in the film.
But circumstances changed which led to Connelly, Johnson, and Madsen bagging the three leading roles.
The film received positive reviews, including a rating of three out of four stars from Roger Ebert.
Financially, however, the film was a failure: it grossed only $1.2 million in North America.
1. She ends three of her movies standing on the end of a pier
Many actors end up in a situation where a lot of their films share the same hallmarks.
Perhaps they’re known for starring in goofy romantic comedies that always have a happy ending, or the running joke is that they die in every movie they’re in.
For a while, there was also a cliche associated with Jennifer Connelly movies, even if it was far more niche.
For some reason, Connelly has starred in three movies where there are shots of her standing dramatically at the end of a pier.
Those three films are 1998’s Dark City, 2000’s Requiem for a Dream, and 2003’s House of Sand and Fog.
It doesn’t seem like there’s any deeper meaning behind this – instead, it’s merely a strange coincidence.