Jennifer Connelly had long been an admirer of the science fiction classic The Day The Earth Stood Still and when she received a script for a re-imagining of the film for a contemporary audience she was immediately intrigued by the possibilities of working on "such a great story" alongside Keanu Reeves.
Directed by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose), with
Keanu Reeves as Klaatu, Connelly plays Helen Benson--played in the original by
Patricia Neal--a scientist who befriends the alien when all the other humans
treat him with a mixture of suspicion, aggression and fear.
Helen is an astro-biologist who is part of the team that is called in
to interrogate and analyze Klaatu after he lands on Earth. She's also a single
mother who can see beyond the obvious scientific interest in him as a
‘specimen' and connects with him on an emotional level.
When he escapes from his captors, he meets up with Helen and her young
son Jacob, played by Jaden Smith, who give him shelter as the increasingly
anxious authorities try to track him down. In the new film, Helen plays a far
more active role in the story compared to the original.
Question: The story in the original is dominated by the threat that mankind is about to destroy itself with nuclear war. How has the story been updated?
Answer: Our film has been updated on a number of levels. The original
was very much a film of its time that really spoke to the political climate of
1951, and it largely focused on the issues of the Cold War era and the
proliferation of nuclear weapons. Now it's the threat of violence but also the
way we are living on the planet, the way that we treat each other and the way
we treat the Earth. It looks at the fact that as a culture, it's not
sustainable to live like this on a number of levels. So I think the movie
speaks to us now in terms of the crises we face.
Q: Jaden was very good in Pursuit of Happyness. Is he good in this?
A: He's lovely. I think it
was a hard line for Jaden to walk because Helen and Jacob have a relationship
that is complicated and I think Scott Derrickson [the director] wanted to use
that to serve as a kind of microcosm for Klaatu. It's hard to play a kid who is
a bit bristly with his parents and yet you still love him and you get where
it's coming from. I think it was a little bit complicated and it's to Jaden's
credit that he managed to do that in such a convincing way. He is really good.
Q: Let's talk about Keanu Reeves....
A: I think he was absolutely marvelous as Klaatu. He is so hard-working and so devoted to his work. He cares so much about what he is doing and I found it really moving in terms of the extent to which he cares about everyone and the way he works and pushes himself. He's incredibly polite and incredibly professional, and so kind to everyone on the set.
Jennifer Connelly was born in Brooklyn and first acted as a child,
memorably making her film debut at just 13 years old, playing young Deborah in
Sergio Leone's gangster epic Once Upon A Time In America. She went on to
star in George Lucas's fantasy film, Labyrinth.
After studying English
at Yale and Stanford, she resumed her acting career with films including career
opportunities, Mulholland Falls and Inventing The Abbotts. Her
other credits include Waking The Dead, Requiem for a Dream and A
Beautiful Mind, playing Alicia, the wife of tortured mathematics genius
John Nash, a searing performance which would earn her the Oscar for Best
Actress in a Supporting Role.
More recently, her films have included House of Sand and Fog
with Sir Ben Kingsley, Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio and Reservation
Road with Joaquin Phoenix.
The Day the Earth Stood Still opens December 11 in theaters nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.