TORONTO — After meeting on the set of A Beautiful Mind nearly 10 years ago, real-life couple Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly say they spent a long time waiting for the right movie project that would allow them to work together again. They found it in the Charles Darwin biopic Creation.
Bettany stars as the celebrated scientist while Connelly plays his devoutly Christian wife, Emma.
“I certainly had wanted to work with my husband for a long time and we hadn’t seen anything that seemed appropriate for us to do together,” Connelly said last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the movie premiered as the gala opener.
“Somehow this felt like the right project for us. It felt like the sort of film that wouldn’t be in any way negatively affected by our personal relationship.”
Part psychological thriller and part love story, Creation weaves back and forth in time as a young Darwin struggles to grasp the consequences of his emerging evolutionary theory while grieving over the death of his 10-year-old daughter.
The New York-raised Connelly says she was intrigued by the film’s deeply personal take on Darwin’s controversial ideas, adding that working with British-born Bettany “felt like an extraordinary privilege.” If anything, their private relationship added a nuanced dimension that otherwise would be difficult to achieve, she suggested.
“Charles and Emma Darwin were, of course, not only husband and wife but first cousins and (they) grew up together. I felt like perhaps this sort of personal shorthand that my husband and I have together could give us a head start,” she said.
Bettany admitted they were initially nervous about what the experience would be like. He joked that it would be difficult “to come home after a long day and moan about the leading actress if she is your wife.”
“But it became immediately really easy and a wonderful working relationship,” said Bettany, who gained 40 pounds for the period piece.
“And also we didn’t have much time to make the movie, so it was good being able to make use of our evenings together and talk about tomorrow’s work, the next day’s work . . . .Were she not my wife, I would say it was an honour and a privilege to work with her as an actress, but she is my wife so I’ll say I carried her through the whole movie,” he said smiling.
While such onscreen partnerships are relatively unusual, there have been several high-profile examples — think Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut, Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor in Zoolander, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony in El Cantante and Canadian comics Jason Jones and Samantha Bee who teamed up for the indie Coopers’ Camera.