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9 – Jennifer Connelly

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9 - Jennifer Connelly
Voice star Jennifer Connelly © Focus Features

It’s a first for actress Jennifer Connelly – the first time she’s voiced a character in an animated movie. In Shane Acker’s 9, which tells the story of a group of ‘stitch punk’ creatures imbued with human characteristics given to them by a scientist to survive in a post-apocalypse world, Connelly plays #7, a brave, self-sufficient warrior, fighting the Great Machine.

This your first experience in an animated feature, did anything surprise you?

Maybe how disconnected it all is, at least on this film. I don’t know how it is on other animated films, but there’s no rehearsal period to start with where everyone gets together and you do a read-through. I just showed up to do a recording session. And that felt very different to me, to feel so obviously committed to something and involved in something on one level, but also kind of felt comparatively disconnected in terms of a process, compared to how I’m used to working on live action films.

What did they tell you about #7?

#7 © Focus Features
#7 (voiced by Jennifer Connelly) goes on the defensive © Focus Features

Shane talked about her temperament and her ferocity and her impulsive spirit. I think all of the characters are a little bit off balance. They all have strengths, but none of them has the answer until #9 comes along, and he’s able to integrate all the different characters. So we wanted to let her be a little wild, you know? And sometimes she’s a little hot-headed. We talked about that, that is was okay, that she doesn’t have to be like the perfect heroine, that sometimes she goes a little far. But then also she has a really good heart. She’s very protective, and protective of the clan, and she’s always keeping an eye on them.  And even though she’s independent and she’s not going to hide out in the sanctuary, she’s right there if any of them need help.

Were you specifically looking for something in animation because it was new to you?

#9 and #7 © Focus Features
#9 and #7 flee for their lives © Focus Features

No, this just came my way, and I happened to really like it, and I happen to think Shane’s very talented. We all watched the short of 9 [which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture], my kids and my husband [actor Paul Bettany]  and I–and my kids loved it.

What’s it like being the one and only female?

It’s really fun. She’s a great female, she’s a great character. I think she has one of the coolest entrances I’ve ever seen on film!

Did you practice any of her action moves?

I can do all of that stuff. I’m only kidding. [she laughs] No, I didn’t practice the moves. I did do some of my own, albeit probably quite wonky, moves in front of the microphone trying not to make any noise, but trying to be involved in what I was doing.

Was part of the challenge separating the physicality from the vocal work?

A little bit. So much of what I did was “put voice to action sequences.” So yeah, there’s sort of trying to figure out how to do that and not be told off for stomping on the floor.

In coming up with the specific voice for 7, did they tell you to use your own natural voice, or to pitch it differently?

Jennifer Connelly performs as the voice of #7  © Focus Features
Jennifer Connelly performs as the voice of #7 © Focus Features

No, I think that Shane wanted it to feel as comfortable and natural as possible, so we didn’t really consider affecting a different voice. I think that was the whole gist of it, really, was that they were the last remnants of humanity, so I think he wanted it to seem as human and natural as possible.

You’ve worked in a number of genres, but you periodically come back to science fiction–The Hulk, Dark City, 9. Is there an appeal to the genre for you, or is it more a matter of finding the right people to work with?

I guess I thought those films were all creative and interesting, with interesting ideas and interesting writing. It’s kind of wherever find it. You know, it’s like how I am as a moviegoer. They are great.  That movie, Let the Right One In – would I say I’m a huge fan of vampire movies? No. Do I love that movie? Yeah, that movie was great. It was really interesting, you know? So I think it’s not really about the genre as where I find the talented people who happen to want to work with me. So that’s what I go with–interesting scripts, interesting characters, interesting film makers. And I guess I’m just not discriminatory in terms of genre. I find a lot of different kinds of movies interesting.