Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany Recall the Moment They First Met 15 Years Ago

by Valentina I. Valentini 9:49 AM PST, November 12, 2015
Playing Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany Recall the Moment They First Met 15 Years Ago

Working with a romantic partner is certainly no easy feat. (Just ask Angelina Jolie.)

Yet, for Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany, their experience on the new indie drama, Shelter, was something entirely different.

“I feel very creatively aligned with him,” Connelly tells ETonline about being directed by her husband. “We are drawn to similar types of films and filmmaking.”

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The movie, which debuts in theaters and On Demand on Friday, Nov. 13, stars Connelly as Hannah, a drug-addicted homeless woman struggling to live with her husband, Tahir (Anthony Mackie), on the streets of New York City. Loosely inspired by a couple living outside Connelly and Bettany’s apartment, the Oscar-winning actress went to great lengths -- dropping 25 pounds, spending time at NYC drug and rehabilitation centers and talking with the city’s homeless -- to embody their challenges on screen.

“Using heroin has a different effect on different people, not everyone becomes rail skinny, but I thought it was appropriate for Hannah,” the 44-year-old explains.

While the film serves as Bettany’s directorial debut, the couple has actually worked on four films together since first meeting 15 years ago on the set of A Beautiful Mind, which earned Connelly an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. 

Although the two did not begin dating until after filming, Connelly recalls the moment she first noticed him on set. “I remember meeting him at the first read through,” she says with a smirk. “I thought, ‘Hmm, he’s really good, that guy.’”

Bettany was also struck by her that same day. “I’ve never been this close to someone that beautiful before,” he gushes. “I remember thinking, ‘I bet every man you ever met has tried to flirt with you.’” 

“He started playing guitar and it was all over,” she admits, revealing what finally won her over.

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The two eventually married in January of 2003 and now have two kids – Stellan, 12, and Agnes Lark, 4 -- together and Kai, 18, Connelly’s son from a previous marriage.

While they mostly kept work and family life separate while making Shelter, it sometimes spilled over into the home with the kids taking notice. “My son said don’t direct again,” Bettany says, noting that the 21-day production did take its toll on the family. (But the 44-year-old actor adds that he hopes to find another opportunity.)

Yet, Connelly still found the experience a welcome one. “I would absolutely do it again,” she says of working with her husband. “I felt I had a lot of freedom to explore. Because he’s my husband and I trust him so much, I felt very safe.”