In a park in New York's Greenwich Village, the sparrows won't leave Jennifer Connelly alone. I'm reminded of those Bacharach lyrics, "Why do birds suddenly appear/every time you are near?'' A likely answer: at 29, this former teen actress is as raven-tressed and voluptuous a beauty as Eve.
But much has changed for the girl who debuted big in the 1980s with Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America and the Jim Henson/George Lucas hybrid Labyrinth. Though she flirted heavily with stardom, Connelly never quite broke through to the big time. She did, however, manage to get an education at Yale and Stanford and gradually find perspective. "I wasn't a kid who wanted to be an actress," she says now. "I suddenly found myself making movies, and eventually I had to stop, take acting apart, and then choose it again on my terms." She went on to work steadily in films from Higher Learning to Mulholland Falls to Inventing the Abbotts--nothing spectacular, nothing dreadful. Then, in 1997, she had a child (with photographer David Dugan), whom she's now raising on her own. "Becoming a parent was a huge transition," Connelly says. "And since time with my son is a precious commodity, I now think a lot harder about which projects to get involved with. I've also evolved as person, and that affects my movie choices." Though her last few films may have been little-seen, apparently someone in Hollywood is watching Connelly--in fact, 2000 might turn out to be her renaissance year. First up was the independent film Waking the Dead, a wrenching love story with Billy Crudup. Now there's Requiem for a Dream, director Darren Aronofsky's follow-up to his critically acclaimed π, in which she stars as a drug addict opposite Jared Lero. "It's about the dynamics of addiction," Connelly says. "The way Darren tells the story, it's like a funhouse mirror: a reflection of reality, but grossly exaggerated." Next she plays action painter Jackson Pollock's young mistress in Pollock, directed by and starring Ed Harris. Connelly will radically shift gears with Fox television's "The Street," "Melrose Place"/"Sex and the City" producer Darren Star's drama about Wall Street. Impressive as the idea and credentials behind the project may be, showbiz vet Connelly was more concerned with the location: "It's shooting 10 blocks from my New York apartment. I'm looking forward to a year of not traveling and having a more-or-less normal life."