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.
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.”