The Stunning Transformation Of Jennifer Connelly

Jennifer Connelly has long been a mainstay in Hollywood. Born on Dec. 12, 1970, as noted by Hello!, Connelly has spent most of her life in front of a camera in one way or another. She started off her career in show business as a child model and quickly pivoted to acting, landing her big break in Labyrinth. Connelly seemed to avoid the child star curse, although that doesn't mean she escaped completely unscathed. Connelly has maintained a successful career throughout her life, but it's a career that has had some major ups and downs. Connelly got through her hardships, though, and is now thriving. 

Connelly seems to have struck the ideal work-life balance, continuing to act as well as spend time with her family, which includes her husband, fellow actor Paul Bettany, and her three children. Clearly, Connelly has changed a lot since her early years in the acting industry. Here's a closer look at her stunning transformation. 

Jennifer Connelly started modeling at the age of 10

Jennifer Connelly's career got off to an early start. At the age of 10, she broke into the entertainment industry as a model after a family friend suggested to her parents that they bring her to an audition, as noted by the Independent. The friend's instinct about Connelly's potential as a model proved to be correct, as she was signed to the Ford Agency.

Connelly found success as a model and made appearances in magazines and television advertisements. It wasn't long before her acting career took off in 1984's Once Upon a Time in America. She was just 12 when she landed the role, telling Rolling Stone that she "was this tiny, nervous, mousy little thing."

Connelly hadn't enjoyed modeling, but acting proved to be a better fit for her skills and interests. To Rolling Stone, she revealed that Once Upon a Time in America, in which she played the younger version of Elizabeth McGovern's character, is "one of the few movies" of hers that she enjoys seeing since she has so little screen time. In an interview with CBS News, Connelly discussed the film, saying that her first film experience was "magical."

Being a child star led to an unhappy adolescence for Jennifer Connelly

While Jennifer Connelly's career got off to an early and successful start, establishing her career so young also led to a lot of unhappiness. The actress views her childhood through a critical lense, telling the Independent that, while she got a lot of steady employment and worked hard, "there were good things about it and things that were difficult" in regards to being a child star. Connelly said that life as a kid actor was far from glamorous and that she found her career "a bit stagnating." Connelly referred to her younger self as "underdeveloped emotionally," adding, " I didn't become a teenager until my twenties."

While Connelly loves acting, she's had a love/hate relationship with her stardom, telling Vogue that her "life had been sort of hijacked by this career." Learning how to balance her career with having a life outside of work was something that would take Connelly years to figure out.

Jennifer Connelly had a hit song in Japan

Many of Jennifer Connelly's fans in the western world are unaware of the fact that, for a while, she was kind of a big deal in Japan. For a time, she was even unaware of this herself. When she was a teenager, she appeared in some commercials in Japan. Even though, as she said on The Graham Norton Show, she had "no aspirations to be a singer," she sang a song in Japanese in a Japanese commercial advertising a Technics sound system. She forgot about the commercial for years, until she was notified by Graham Norton that the song had actually become a smash hit in Japan, hitting the top of the Japanese charts.

Connelly's reaction to being told she had a no. 1 single in Japan was one of shock. She admitted that she wasn't even been sure what she was singing about as she doesn't actually speak fluent Japanese.

Labyrinth was Jennifer Connelly's big break

While she'd already been acting for a while when she landed her role in 1986's Labyrinth, the movie would prove to be a turning point in Jennifer Connelly's career. It would also turn out to be one of her most memorable roles. Connelly was just 15 at the time and was in awe of getting to work with the legendary David Bowie. "I got to know him as much as one gets to know David Bowie," she told Rolling Stone.

The movie, which featured some seriously dark moments, was a box office bomb, but it would go on to become a cult classic. After Bowie's death in 2016, Connelly spoke to Entertainment Tonight about how much working on the film with Bowie meant to her. "He was lovely," she said. "He was just a nice, sweet guy — cracking jokes and friendly with the crew." She added that she was struck by Labyrinth's "beautifully designed" sets, saying, "It was like wonderland for me." 

Haven't seen the movie in a while? Here are things about Labyrinth that only adults notice.

Jennifer Connelly studied at Yale and Stanford

Being a child star didn't mean that Jennifer Connelly completely missed out on a normal adolescence. She decided to take a break from acting to go to college. She initially enrolled at Yale, where she studied English, but ended up transferring to Stanford. Connelly told The Telegraph that she initially attempted to study physics but "just bombed."

After two years of college, Connelly transferred to Stanford, but never finished her degree. In an interview with the Independent, she revealed that she hadn't been "looking for a vocation" in college, but instead she just wanted her "own private self-edifying experience outside of the movies." She decided to return to acting, saying she found she enjoyed it a lot more as an adult. "I went through a bad patch, but when it's good it's great, it's really great," she said of her career. 

Connelly still uses a lot of what she studied in college and enjoys reading and writing poems.

Jennifer Connelly struggled to be seen as a serious actress

Even though Jennifer Connelly had established herself in her career at a young age, she found herself struggling to prove herself as a serious actress. Instead, people saw her talent as superficial. While she was recognized as a sex symbol, she wanted to be respected for her art. 

Part of the problem was that Connelly wasn't being selective enough in the roles she was taking on. "I wasn't really making the choices," she told the Hartford Courant, recalling the time one of her professors mentioned seeing her in a suggestive display for one of her films, in which she rode a mechanical horse. Connelly decided then that she wanted a change, thinking, "This is not what I want to be. I don't want to be that girl in that tank top right now."

Connelly determined from then on to have more autonomy and to maintain more control over her career and her image. This would prove to not only be a turning point in her professional life, but in her personal life as well.

Starring in Waking the Dead was a turning point in Jennifer Connelly's career

While The Guardian noted that it was 2000's Requiem for a Dream, in which Jennifer Connelly played a heroin addict, that helped her "claw her way towards respectability" and establish herself as a serious actress, Connelly said that she considers Waking the Dead (also released in 2000) as the true turning point in her career. Connelly revealed that she "really campaigned for" the part and auditioned for it twice. Waking the Dead was the first film she made after having a baby, and she "knew that everything was changing... at that time."

Filmmaker Keith Gordon was initially reluctant to cast her in the film. In an interview with Senses of Cinema, he recalled thinking that Connelly was "this gorgeous woman with a great body" but "not a great actress." Connelly's agent pushed Gordon to look at some of her lesser known performances, including 1996's Far Harbor. Gordon was blown away by her performance.

Waking the Dead opened the door to meatier roles for Connelly. In 2002, her efforts to transform her career were rewarded with an Oscar for best supporting actress in A Beautiful Mind.

Becoming a mom transformed Jennifer Connelly's approach to acting

Things changed a lot for Jennifer Connelly after she had a baby. Not only was she responsible for another human life, but her approach to her career was also transformed. "Being a mother is so much a part of what I do every day and who I am that it informs pretty much everything I do on some level," she revealed to Traveling Boy. "It's hard for me to separate from that because I've been a mom for so long."

Connelly said that she loves motherhood and also loves work, considering herself "really privileged to be able to do both." She added that, while motherhood has influenced her acting, her job has also affected her parenting. "I'm fulfilled having my own creative outlet, which contributes to my ability to parent my kids in the way that I parent my kids and having that balance at home impacts my work," she said.

The actress revealed that there's no great secret to juggling her career with her family. It's "just a matter of ... looking at calendars," said Connelly.

Sparks flew the first time Jennifer Connelly met her husband, Paul Bettany

Jennifer Connelly is married to fellow actor Paul Bettany, and the pair have been together for quite some time. While many celebrity couples have their lives splayed across the tabloids, Connelly and Bettany do their best to keep their lives out of the public eye. The couple first met in 2000 on the set of A Beautiful Mind. While they didn't immediately become a couple (both of them were in relationships with other people at the time), they did share a mutual attraction. Connelly told Entertainment Tonight that she was immediately struck by Bettany's talent, while her now-husband said he'd "never been this close to someone that beautiful before."

The couple met again "months and months" after A Beautiful Mind wrapped. Both were single by that time, and Bettany asked Connelly out. Connelly told Glamour that they "got together really quickly" and that she fell for him because she felt he was "someone singular and rare and beautiful."

The couple were married in 2003 and have two children together, Stellan and Agnes Lark, in addition to Connelly's son from a previous relationship, Kai.

This is why Jennifer Connelly tends to take on darker roles

While Jennifer Connelly is a talented actress with a diverse range, she typically takes on gritty, serious roles that some might even call dark. While she has a handful of comedies under her belt, including the 2009 comedy-drama He's Just Not That Into You, her funny roles are few and far between. Connelly blames her face for this, telling CBS News that her eyebrows make her "look stern" even when she's not trying. She added, "If I'm not feeling cross, I look a little bit cross. I can't help it. It's just my face."

Connelly also tends to gravitate towards more serious roles for another reason. In an interview with Vogue, she said that she finds "dramas with women who are, you know, grieving" to be more "interesting."

The actress admitted that the types of roles she typically takes on have influenced how people think of her. She insisted that, in real life, though, she isn't "a particularly sad person." Connelly continued, "I don't feel bereft or depressed. I don't think of myself as chilly."

Jennifer Connelly used to be a bit reclusive

Jennifer Connelly may act for a living, but that doesn't mean she's naturally extroverted. The actress was quite reclusive in her younger years. When she was in college, she kept to herself, although this wasn't entirely by choice. The actress admitted to Vogue that, while she "wanted so much to be part of a community," she "had no idea how to do it." She threw herself into her schoolwork instead of developing a social life.

This pattern continued for years, and it wasn't until she became a mother that Connelly really began to transform. "From the moment Kai was born, it was like everything was thrown open," said Connelly, adding that she learned "how to be part of a community" for the sake of her son. These days, her husband, Paul Bettany, whom she describes as "the most extroverted, social person," also helps her maintain a more active social life.

Jennifer Connelly tries to live a quiet life off-camera

Jennifer Connelly may be more social than she was as a young adult, but she's also still a very private person. She doesn't share many details of her personal life with the public, sticking mostly to speaking about her career in interviews. Her quiet life might be part of the reason that her marriage to Avengers: Infinity War star Paul Bettany has lasted for well over a decade — a long time by Hollywood standards. 

Connelly told the Independent that she'd prefer to spend time with her family and her kids when she gets a break from work. "Going to premieres is not my idea of a fun night out," she said. What is fun is going to the U.K. to hang out with her husband's friends, and Connelly said that she has a special fondness for London and also enjoys traveling to Ireland. She's not being chauffeured around in a limo on her trips, either. "Last time I went [to Ireland], I rented a car and spent most of my time in Dublin and on the west coast," she said.

Jennifer Connelly has been vocal about gender inequality in Hollywood

Far from the "mousy little thing" she once described herself as, Jennifer Connelly is now an outspoken and fierce feminist who isn't afraid to weigh in on issues that are important to her. It's no secret that gender inequality has long been a huge problem in Hollywood, and Connelly is one of the people who has taken a stance against it. In 2017, she was one of the actresses in the growing #MeToo movement who condemned Harvey Weinstein. She told Today, "I think that no woman should have to suffer those kinds of violations to get or maintain a job." She decried his actions as "a violation of human rights."

Connelly is also frustrated at how women are viewed in the industry, noting that the kinds of questions she gets asked by journalists are very different from the kinds of questions her husband, Paul Bettany, gets asked. "No one ever asks Paul if it's tough juggling work and family," she told Net-a-Porter's The Edit (via People).

This is why Jennifer Connelly often takes long breaks between projects

While Jennifer Connelly once took on roles as they came, she's now much more selective about the movies she signs on for. Part of this is because of the commitment she made to only take on roles that fit her plans for her career, and part of it is because she simply wants to spend time with her family. Her IMDb profile shows that she'll often take two years between projects. From 2012 to 2019, she only racked up nine credits, appearing in nothing released in 2013, 2015, or 2018.

It's a mark of how far Connelly's career has come that she is happy to go years without a project, especially after her long struggle to establish herself as a serious actress. She has no regrets over her more sporadic acting schedule. "I got to spend the whole year with my kids and my husband," she told The Guardian in 2009 towards the end of a year-long hiatus both she and her husband took from the business. "And that's wonderful. My job really suits me."

Jennifer Connelly decided to join a major 2020 movie

Jennifer Connelly has changed since she landed her first acting roles more than 30 years ago, but the industry has transformed as well. In an interview with L'Officiel, she discussed how the film industry has changed with more people streaming movies instead of going to the theater. "These days, the films made for theatrical release have to be spectacles," she said.

Top Gun: Maverick, the 2020 sequel to 1986's Top Gun, could certainly be considered one of those spectacles. Connelly couldn't share many details about the film, although she said she "loved working on that project" and that the film "promises to be extraordinary." Connelly plays a character who was mentioned in the first film.

Tom Cruise confirmed Connelly's involvement in the film in 2018, telling Extra that he's an admirer of Connelly. "She is enormously talented," he said. "She's gonna be amazing in the movie."