Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly tries her hand at horror in Dark Water, a psychological thriller about a mother and daughter who move into an apartment plagued by decidedly evil plumbing. And the actress – who is married to actor Paul Bettany and mom to sons Kai, 8, and Stellan, who turns 2 on Aug. 5 – did plenty of research for the role. "I watched so many (scary movies), it's ridiculous," she says. Connelly, 34, talked to PEOPLE about what frightens her and her grossest on-set experience.
I heard you were reluctant to appear in a scary movie. Why did Dark Water appeal to you?
I associated horror films with gory films, which aren't so much my cup of tea. Then I saw the original (Japanese) Dark Water, which opened up the door for me. I thought it was scary and thought-provoking and moving at the same time. In my research, I went back and watched lots of scary films and saw that there are some really wonderful films in this genre – like Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby.
Do you get scared easily?
I'm your average bear, except when it comes to the first 10 minutes of an airplane ride. Then I'm downright neurotic.
What do you do?
I kiss the plane and just grin and bear it. Then I just wait for the explosion. And when it doesn't come, 10 minutes later I'm fine and I enjoy the flight.
Your kids visited you on the set of Dark Water. Did they find it frightening?
Well, Stellan was too small to know what was going on. But yeah, (he and Kai) were there all the time. There were a lot of kids around – (costars) Ariel (Gade) and Perla (Haney-Jardine) and the stand-ins and the doubles. (Director) Walter (Salles) is very sensitive. The kids were never exposed to anything really disturbing.
What was your grossest on-set experience?
I'm not sure if the scene is in the film. They dumped all this debris on my head and just doused me with water. It wasn't so much gross as just ridiculous, the amount of water they blasted at me. I had kneepads and elbow pads on. It was the most unglamorous I've ever felt. It was like 70 lbs. of water coming out of each of these jets. I can't hear the little girl or even see her and I'm supposed to be fighting for her life. It was absurd.
What about your next film?
The next film is on dry land. It's called Little Children. It's a great script. I'm Cathy. And Kate Winslet is playing Sarah. We start rehearsals in little over a week. It's a different kind of character. I'm excited to play this strong, stable, well-grounded women. It will be a refreshing change for me.
Will you have any downtime this summer?
We always find time to relax. But Paul is doing The Da Vinci Code. We'll be bouncing back and forth. He'll be filming in London. It turns out none of our dates overlap, which is very convenient – and not entirely coincidental.