Connelly's The Beauty Behind the Beast

At 32, Connelly is still a newlywed — married in J
Jennifer Connelly would like to die one day in the Italian village of Tuscany. It's always been a favourite spot, the Oscar-winning actress shares: "It just doesn't get any more gorgeous than that."

Of course, Tuscany will have to wait. At 32, Connelly is still a newlywed — married in January to actor Paul Bettany, 32 — a doting mom to 5-year-old Kai (from a previous relationship) and co-star of the much-anticipated Marvel Comics movie The Hulk, opening Friday.

Oh yes, did we mention baby No.2 is due in August? (It's a boy.)

Connelly, a former Stanford University drama major once described by David Bowie as "a teenage Elizabeth Taylor," was a last-minute no-show at last week's press junket to promote The Hulk in Los Angeles. But that doesn't mean she's been sitting around her Manhattan apartment eating pickles and ice cream.

"It's a big thing having a baby on the way, especially when you have an almost 6-year-old running around the house," Connelly shares by phone. "Life doesn't ever really stop for the pregnant lady."

And that's just the way she likes it. This summer, Connelly will head to England where Bettany is filming the tennis movie Wimbledon with Kirsten Dunst. "Our fantasy is that we can be working together or at least be in the same city" once the baby is born, she says.

Bettany is a London native who caught Connelly's eye when they appeared together in the 2001 drama A Beautiful Mind, for which she won Hollywood's biggest honour, an Oscar. Both were involved in other relationships at the time, "but I was definitely moved by him," she remembers. "I felt really strongly about not having things overlap, so we finished the movie, he went back home and I stayed in my relationship for a long period of time before we got together."

Bettany is anxious to share in diaper duty, Connelly reveals, adding: "I am convinced the baby is gonna look just like Paul."

But the big question remains: Will he be an American or a Brit? You see, there is a small international rivalry brewing in the Bettany-Connelly household — tongue-in-cheek, of course.

"He likes to make fun of me for being an American and he loves to talk about how he hates Americans," she says with a laugh. "But he married one, and he's living in America."

Connelly got her first taste of European culture when she flew to London at age 15 to film Jim Henson's fantasy adventure Labyrinth.

"I remember thinking at that point that I couldn't stand the food," she admits.

Since then Connelly has appeared in more than 20 feature films (The Rocketeer, Requiem For A Dream), a short-lived television series (The Street) and even cut a pop record entirely in Japanese (she's also fluent in Italian and French).

Few experiences were as enjoyable, she says, as working with director Ang Lee on The Hulk. The movie is based on the popular Marvel Comics series in which scientist Bruce Banner — after absorbing a normally deadly dose of gamma radiation — develops an inside presence that causes him to turn into a large green monster when enraged.

His ex-girlfriend Betty Ross (Connelly) finds herself torn between her love for Banner and her military general father, who seeks to destroy him.

Connelly's real-life father, Gerard, is an Irishman who worked for years in Manhattan's garment district and chose to raise his family in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. But he always preferred to live among the artists and hippies in the upstate New York town of Woodstock, where Jennifer spent four years before landing her first movie role in Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In America at age 11.

"It never did make sense to me that my dad worked in the garment industry (her mom, Eileen was an antique dealer)," she told Vanity Fair. "He is not particularly materialistic; he is one of the few guys who could wear head-to-toe Armani and still look like a wreck."

In 2000, the actress' parents divorced after 30 years of marriage. Maybe that's why Connelly — who dated a string of actors including Billy Campbell (of TV's Once And Again when she was 20 and he was 30) and Josh Charles (Dead Poets Society) — was never in a hurry to rush down the aisle.

She even declined to wed photographer David Dugan after the birth of their son in 1997, saying recently the decision "was deeply personal ... and I didn't arrive at that place where I felt it was the right choice."

So far, Kai has been unable to see any of his mother's work — much of it involving nudity or other forms of mature content that would be unsuitable for children. Even The Hulk might not make his viewing list for a few years, Connelly says.

"It is difficult for him because he has issues watching me. He sometimes can't separate the fact that it is just acting."

Compare that to the task of appeasing fans who made The Hulk one of the biggest sellers in the Marvel catalogue.

"It's a bit daunting taking on a series like this because fans can be so passionate about what happens when you make comics into a movie," she concedes. "But I watched The Hulk as a kid on TV and I have always been a fan, too. I think this movie is very respectful to its past."
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The Toronto Star