SPOILERS for Only the Brave follow
In Only the Brave, Jennifer Connelly and Jeff Bridges take on the roles of Amanda Marsh and Duane Steinbrink. Duane Steinbrink was the Wildland Division Chief for the city of Prescott and the man partly responsible for creating the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Amanda Marsh is the wife of Hotshot leader, Eric Marsh. Both actors wow you with their ability to disappear into their characters with Jennifer Connelly displaying such passion and dedication that makes you wonder why she isn’t in more films these days.
During this sit down with Screen Rant, Jeff and Jennifer discuss how they prepared to take on the roles and honor these real-life people.
I was completely ignorant of what happened in Yarnell so while I was watching the movie I was like, ‘something bad is going to happen’, but I did not expect all nineteen hotshots to die. So I was still in complete shock until your character comes out of that barn, drops to her knees and then I was just done for. Then the two of you in the truck, you portrayed such raw grief that I rarely see in films, you get the nice cry face. How difficult was it to portray that raw grief during those scenes?
Jennifer Connelly: Well it’s…I just have to say that it was an honor to be part of the movie honestly, and having the opportunity to play Amanda, and to tell her story. It was a tragic thing that happened. I suppose in the moment you try to…for me as best I could I tried to understand the circumstances, tried to grapple with it intellectually. Like what happened, the logistics of it, but in the moment doing it I guess you just empathize, and connect to something human that we all share. A kind of fundamental whatever we all may have experienced in our own lives. In the way when you read a story, when you see a film you can be impacted emotionally in a visceral level. You try to connect to that basic shared humanity and empathy.
Jeff Bridges: For me, kind of beyond words, beyond intellectualizing what your thing is those are all important elements that go into it, but then it’s just being in the presence of Brendan McDonough who survived the fire, who was often on the set, or Duane Steinbrink, my character, who’s the Division Wildland Fire Chief. Just having those guys in the room with you it’s kind of beyond words. The word that comes to mind is ‘vibe’, but it’s this vibe, and this commonality, and we’re here to represent what being a human being is like. A critical kind of mass happens. You do your best. You show up, and let it flow through you.
Marsh and Amanda. They have such a great love story in the film, it’s one of my favorite relationships in the film, also between Duane and Marsh, but the thing that gets in between them is his love for the fire, for his boys. Have either of you felt so consumed by something that has ever threatened a personal relationship in your life? I know that goes deep but…
Jeff Bridges: No, no, we’ve been doing these interviews now [turns to Jennifer], when you said about loving somebody, but having to send them off to this — and you don’t know if they’ll come back. I keep thinking of my wife Sue, you know I’ve been married 40 years, my wife has put up with me going off doing these different movies, becoming different people, coming back a little odd. I think there’s a call to be brave in all of our lives. That’s what was inspiring to me, to not draw back, but to really—like these brave firefighters, really go in there and face what you’re afraid of. It’s the relationship [points to Jennifer]. I love what they did [Jennifer and Josh]. It hit me personally.
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