- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2016

She’s come a long way from the teenager who ventured into a fantastical maze to save her baby brother from David Bowie’s Goblin King in “Labyrinth.” And in “American Pastoral,” opening Friday, Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly turns yet another page in her lengthy acting resume.

“I think it’s a great story. I really like the book,” Miss Connelly told The Washington Times of the adaptation of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book about a midcentury New Jersey tanner named Seymour “Swede” Levov (Ewan McGregor) and his wife Dawn (Miss Connelly), whose lives are turned upside-down by unspeakable acts committed by their daughter Mary (Dakota Fanning).

“I was very curious about Dawn, maybe because I was so focused on her when I was reading the book,” Miss Connelly said of her on-screen avatar, a Gentile who marries “the Swede” over the initial objections of his traditionally Jewish father Lou (Peter Riegert).

“The film focuses more on the relationship between Dawn and the Swede and their daughter,” she said. “I was very moved by [Dawn] as a character. I thought her journey was very interesting.”

In addition to portraying the Swede, Mr. McGregor also directs the film — his first. Miss Connelly had faith in her co-star, having worked with first-time director Ed Harris on “Pollock” in 2000.



“He was really collaborative. He created an environment for us all to work in,” Miss Connelly said of “American Pastoral“‘s director. “He was clearly interested in giving his cast the space to take part in telling the story together with him.”

While a crucial key to the film involves young Mary’s protesting the Vietnam War, Miss Connelly believes that the themes of “American Pastoral” are timeless, and anyone who has experienced complicated familial relationships will be intrigued by the plot.

“The story of a family whose daughter has rejected them and has rebelled against them, and they’re left wondering why and where everything went wrong, that’s kind of universal and timely,” she said.

Miss Connelly has three children of her own but insists she didn’t want to tell her own story as a mother when imbuing Dawn with the tragedy of the Levov family.

“I have a lot of empathy for her. I don’t know that that’s necessarily because I am a parent,” she said. “One of the things I like about being an actor is taking on characters who are different from me and learning to kind of understand their POV and experience their life from their perspective.”

Furthermore, Miss Connelly said the film raises questions of identity and the bias of seeing another person through one’s own prejudiced viewpoint.

“All of the characters sort of struggle with their own identities and the ways in which other people perceive them,” Miss Connelly said. “The movie talks about the ways in which we get each other wrong. I think that’s something we experience because of a tendency to perhaps make judgments based on very superficial criteria and to see each other in very black-and-white terms.”

Miss Connelly’s previous credits include “Requiem for a Dream,” “The Rocketeer,” “Noah,” “House of Sand and Fog,” “Dark City” and her Oscar-winning turn as schizophrenic mathematician John Nash’s wife Alicia in “A Beautiful Mind.”

And yet Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth,” which she starred in with Bowie when she was just 16, continues to be a role fans know her for.

“It was a really magical experience. I was so in awe of everyone working on the film,” she said of Henson’s project, which utilized his signature puppets amid its fantasia.

“He was so creative and such an artist and a gentle person,” Miss Connelly said of the Muppets creator. “This group of people who worked with him were so extraordinary. It was amazing to hang from wires and be flown around and run around through these mazes.”

Miss Connelly said that while she didn’t keep in touch with Bowie in the years after they made the film, the former co-stars would occasionally cross paths up until the time of his death in January.

Miss Connelly has one film, “Granite Mountain,” in production for a 2017 release. Asked if she has any dream projects still awaiting, the 45-year-old actress maintains she is simply grateful for the career she has enjoyed.

“I love what I do, I’m really grateful that I’m still doing this, and look forward to continuing to do it in the future,” she said.

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