Jennifer Connelly is unaware of the Nepo Baby debate
Sundance: And she’s not wrong when the star tells IndieWire why she wanted to work with Englert on her remarkable feature debut, Bad Behaviour.
Here’s what Jennifer Connelly packs: a good script, an original script, some humor, definitely something different. And that’s exactly what the actress found in Alice Englert’s feature film debut “Bad Behaviour”. It never occurred to Connelly that Englert, who also stars in the film as Connelly’s daughter, is the real-life daughter of filmmaker Jane Campion. The ‘Nepo Baby Debate’, what is it? After 40 years on the big screen, the Oscar-winner recognizes excellent work when she sees it. That is what she stands for.
And Connelly’s inclinations are spot on with this one. In “Bad Behaviour,” Connelly is cast as someone who might sound a bit like the actress on paper (Lucy is also a former child star) but isn’t at all like the actress beyond basic biographical facts. Unable to cope with her life, Lucy makes her way to a silent retreat run by weak guru Elon Bello (the very funny Ben Whishaw) where she has to mingle with other struggling folk including Beulah Koale and Dasha Nekrasova. Meanwhile, her daughter Dylan (Englert) struggles similarly as she tries to ramp up her stunt career on a shoot in New Zealand.
While both women are prone to misbehaving, Englert’s film takes some wild turns, aided by plenty of humor and a strong bond between the leads, and delivers something fresh. Connelly loved it, and as she tells IndieWire, she can’t say enough good things about Englert, “Nepo Baby” claims dammit. Also, responding to the massive success of Top Gun: Maverick, Connelly shares her joy in playing villains and shares her love of research with any filmmaker who wants to work with her.
The following interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.
IndieWire: What was your first clue that Bad Behavior was something special?
Jennifer Connelly: First I read the script, which I thought was very special and I found it very creative and original. I thought it was beautifully written and I thought it was funny. I appreciated so many things about it. My first meeting with Alice was a Zoom meeting. Actually I never met her in person until I came to New Zealand!
She’s so smart and I think she’s really brave in her writing and her decisions. Her voice is very much her own and I was immediately drawn to her and I was really curious about her vision. I wanted to see what she would do with the film.
So you come to New Zealand, meet in person for the first time – how did you connect then?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I think she wrote really beautiful scenes that I felt were very intimate and specific. We had an amazing working relationship. It wasn’t like we had time outside of our fast and wild schedule, but I really admired and adored her and immediately felt very, I don’t know how to put it, we just dived into the material and the collaboration.
Her character, Lucy, is someone shaped by growing up as a child star and teenage star. I assume that’s something you’re personally connected to.
Not like Lucy does. I mean, we certainly have that in common, but I don’t think her life bears any resemblance to mine. I started working when I was 10 but that’s sort of the end of the parallel as I have in no way based it on my history, experiences or relationships.
And with Lucy, I think, as the title says, she’s misbehaving really badly. Still, you spend time with her like she’s a protagonist, not an antagonist, and kind of genuinely look at her. I thought it was pretty brave of Alice but had her write a project about characters who behave like this.
I love looking at things we Everyone to struggle, like what do we do with the things we inherit that may not be the best stories we have? How do we escape this path and how do we move forward and forge better relationships?
Courtesy of the Sundance Institute
But it’s also funny!
I think the tone of the film is so interesting and it’s kind of its own thing and she own thing. I find it really funny! I love that so much of it is really funny and the characters kind of get ridiculous and kind of kidding themselves. But it’s not cynical. There’s nothing cynical about that.
Without giving too much away, things shift around halfway through the movie and suddenly the plot moves us to a place where you and Alice can share the screen. What was it like actually playing with Alice then?
It was so much fun when we finally got to work together. It was really wonderful. I loved shooting this. I loved shooting the scenes we had in the hotel room. I thought the scenes were so well written. There were scenes I was looking forward to.
I thought she was fabulous, she was so easy to work with and so much fun to work with and explore. She was so confident, but also…so confident I think, but also open and flexible. It felt very easy to play family with her.
Alice also put together a wonderful supporting cast. Ben Whishaw is a guru and he really doesn’t seem to have any of the answers, but yeah you might want to follow him anyway.
I love this character. I think he’s that good. He’s so good in this movie. It was a pleasure working with him. I hate categorizing people and it’s just my impression of what he’s like as an actor. He could totally disagree. But I felt like my experience working with him was like that, I really found him so available and open to where a particular take could go and in this case so connected to me, the other actors he’s with worked.
I really found it fun to work with him and all the cast. I thought the whole cast was so good and such a joy, really. It was so much fun working with everyone. Beulah was so great. Dasha was so great.
Alice is someone who grew up in a very creative environment and I’m sure you’ve seen this kind of ongoing stuff about “Nepo Babies” that technically both Alice and her mother, the amazing Jane Campion, are.
I haven’t been following the Nepo baby debate.
I don’t know what the debate is.
Well, the debate is just, “Did you know that some of these famous people also have famous parents?”
But this is not a debate. I think Alice’s mother is incredibly talented and has made great films. And I worked with Alice because I read her script and I found her script really interesting. I’ve seen her shorts, the two shorts that she directed, and I thought they were so good. You are so funny, I thought, in a way I had never seen before. I was just fascinated by her as a filmmaker.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask a question about my favorite movie of the last year, Top Gun: Maverick.
Did you have any idea it was going to be this absolute juggernaut?
No! I had no idea how it would be received. I mean I was really excited to work on it. I was really excited to make it. I had a great time making it.
I first saw it at the IMAX theater but with no audience just with my family believe it or not because it was during COVID and Tom Cruise wanted to do a screening and I think he has screenings for cast . He really wanted us to be able to see it projected on a big screen. I think the first time I got a feel for what it’s like could play in front of an audience [was when] I watched my kids’ reaction to it. My daughter was literally sitting on the edge of her seat and her leg was bouncing up and down the whole time she was watching.
I think Joe Kosinski is a great director. I’ve been fortunate to work with him twice now. He’s a great director and such a pleasure to work with. And of course Tom is… There’s no one like him. He is exceptional. That was really a testament to him. It’s a big hit for him and Joe and Jerry Bruckheimer. I think they made a great film, really.
Bad Behavior premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It is currently looking for distribution.
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https://www.indiewire.com/2023/01/jennifer-connelly-bad-behaviour-interview-1234802082/ Jennifer Connelly is unaware of the Nepo Baby debate