​Jennifer Connelly on "Shelter"

Jennifer Connelly won an Oscar for her performance opposite Russell Crowe in the 2001 film "A Beautiful Mind" -- quite a different role from the one she plays in her latest film. Tracy Smith has our Sunday Profile:

In the new movie "Shelter," Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Connelly is a homeless heroin addict on the streets of New York City: dirty, emaciated, desperate, and almost too believable.

"How detailed do you get when you're getting into a character?' Smith asked. "Like, how much do you need to know?"

"I get really detailed," said Connelly. "For a character like Hannah who has this habit, her world is reduced to getting her daily fix. And it's very much revolved around her kit -- you know, her drugs and her gear. And so I was very specific about the bag, and what kind of bag, and what kind of needles.

"This is really more information than you want."

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Jennifer Connelly in "Shelter."
Screen Media Films

"In this case it was so authentic that when you were out on the street panhandling with your cup, people actually were giving you money -- real New Yorkers were stopping and giving you money?"

"Yeah. I had that happen. It was really uncomfortable. I felt terrible."

The movie is a love story about two of the city's estimated 60,000 homeless.

And when Jennifer Connelly takes on a role, there's no off-switch.


"It's hard for me to stop thinking about what's coming up when I'm working," she said.

"Does it keep you up at night?"

"Sometimes, yeah."

"Are you a little obsessive about it?"

"Maybe just a bit!"

Her dedication made things a lot easier for the crew. It was the first time that Paul Bettany had ever directed a film -- or, for that matter, his wife.

"She has to go to some really dark places in the film," he told Smith. "But I'm pretty convinced she trusted me because she knew she could just beat the hell out of me for the next 25 years if I got it wrong!"

No worries there: Connelly has spent a lifetime making directors look good.

She's at her best as the troubled beauty, whether she's a woman defending her home ("House of Sand and Fog") or the loyal wife keeping it together while the world crashes down around her ("Noah").

Smith asked, "You don't do a lot of comedies. Why not?"