Jennifer Connelly’s role in Only The Brave is the latest example of the kind of intriguing parts she’s been playing since making her feature film debut in the 1984 production Once Upon A Time In America. Whether it has been a mind-twisting film like Labyrinth or an Oscar-winning effort like A Beautiful Mind, Connelly has always worked hard to make sure her performance is as textured and full as possible.
In the case of Only The Brave, the feature film based on the 2013 tragedy that took the lives of 19 Arizona firefighters, that meant it was an absolute necessity for her to meet and talk with the real Amanda Marsh, widow of the supervisor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Because the film’s based on actual events, Connelly felt a deep concern to make sure her performance was on target for both the audience and the real subjects of the movie.
“Every job I do, I feel like it is an amazing opportunity,” Connelly says. “I try to throw myself into every role with everything I have. It is a different situation when you are playing someone who exists and her opinion really mattered to me.
“It was really important for me to learn what she wanted conveyed about herself and about Eric and their dynamic, their relationship.
“When you are portraying someone real I feel a responsibility to her. I felt in her relationship with Eric, they were partners. They loved a lot of the same things. They were best friends. They were sober together, which was a very important aspect of their relationship together.”
Connelly’s very appreciative of how open Marsh was about sharing details about her life with Eric (played by Josh Brolin) from the initial phone call to the face-to-face meetings they had. Although Connelly admits she didn’t have a lot of skill with horses before the filming, she and Marsh went riding so that Connelly could observe even small elements about Marsh.
What Connelly learned was that Marsh and her husband shared a history with some dark moments but at the same time the couple was a perfect match because of their love for the outdoors, animals and protecting the world around them. Marsh used those passions to take in abused horses and nurse them back to health.
All Connelly really needed to learn to play Marsh was how to ride so that she looked comfortable in the saddle. But Connelly’s determination to play the character to the fullest resulted in her learning how to work on the horse’s hooves and even how to get a horse to lay down in the stall. One of the things she loves about being an actor is playing someone who makes very different choices than Connelly imagines she would make in a very similar situation. Taking on that kind of role gives her a chance to discover why a decision was made in a certain way.
The key to Marsh became clear when she talked about her husband and how she worked with horses.
“I think she’s an incredibly loving person and an incredibly strong person,” Connelly says. “I think that to be open enough to love someone that fully and that deeply and also be strong enough to let them go to do that kind of dangerous work requires incredible fortitude.”
A career of varied roles proves there’s not a set guideline for how the 46-year-old New York native selects her next job.
“I pick different projects for different reasons,” Connelly says. “Usually, it’s a combination of things. I admire the director and I am interested in working with the director. Or, it’s the cast. I can be moved by the story.
“The ideal situation is you love the director and you love the cast. It’s an amazing story and the character is someone who captivates your imagination.” – Tribune News Service/Rick Bentley