The Cinema Society threw a banging party at the Crosby Street Hotel in Soho last night to celebrate this Friday’s release of Jennifer Connelly’s new film, Virginia. Juliette Lewis, Billy Bob Thornton, Alexa Chung, Eve, Jane Lynch, Nina Dobrev, Zoe Lister-Jones, and Girls’ Christopher Abbott and Adam Driver joined Connelly and writer-director Dustin Lance Black for the special screening co-hosted by Shiseido (Connelly was recently named the brand’s first global ambassador.).
Black, who wrote Milk and wrote for HBO’s Big Love, drew on his Mormon upbringing for Virginia, the story of a schizophrenic single mother (Connelly) having an affair with a married Mormon sheriff (Ed Harris) who is running for state senate.
Harris (whose real-life spouse, Amy Madigan, portrays his wife in Virginia) has co-starred with Connelly in four films, including A Beautiful Mind, for which she won an Oscar. “Ed’s such a talented actor; I would work with him on any film,” said Connelly. “I think he’s fantastic.” Connelly will also reunite with her A Beautiful Mind co-star Russell Crowe, when shooting starts this summer on Noah (Her Requiem for a Dream director, Darren Aronofsky, will helm the ark-building drama, due out in 2014).
We asked Connelly how she approached her fragile portrayal of the deeply damaged Virginia. “I feel like one can do as much background work as possible, trying to understand her psychological state, where she’s coming from, what she’s feeling and what her fears are,” she said. “So I spent a lot of time doing research before coming to the set. But in the moment, one has to just surrender to it emotionally.”
Juliette Lewis, whose films include Cape Fear, Kalifornia, and Natural Born Killers, knows a thing or two about playing characters on the edge. “It’s always rooted in humanity, in truth, in something I’ve seen before. It’s the person who, when you’re out on the street, you know to walk the other way; you intuitively feel a manic kind of energy. I don’t want to get all metaphysical but for me, acting is about energy and capturing different people’s frequencies. Even when I do comedy, it also has to be rooted in something honest. I’ve always been connected to some kind of pathos, right or wrong. To tell you the truth, I’m a magnet for the misunderstood and the unloved. I like to shine a light on these kinds of voices.”
Lewis was feeling the love last night from her “friend,” Gym Class Heroes frontman Travie McCoy, and she’s currently working on her own album in London: “I’ve been touring and making records for the last nine years. There’s always this eternal hunger when I write, but I also have fun tracks on the record.” The effervescent Lewis is also acting in NBC’s The Firm, based on the John Grisham novel.
Another actor currently laying down tracks—with his band, The Boxmasters, on their new album, Providence—is Billy Bob Thornton. “I’m doing another movie in the fall, but mainly I’ve been working in the recording studio,” he explained. Thornton is in town for a Barnes & Noble signing of his new memoir, The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts. “It’s a darkly humorous book about my upbringing and a little bit of talk about our society these days,” he told us. “It’s also a prologue to something I’m afraid is going to happen!” He need not worry; as the U.S. President in Love Actually, Thornton was quite comfortable playing commander-in-chief. “That was actually a combination of Bush and Clinton,” he laughed.
While Thornton was sporting lizard-skin cowboy boots and a goatee, Alexa Chung was making a different kind of fashion statement. Chung was deep in conversation with Grey’s Anatomy actress Nora Zehetner most of the evening, but she did tell us that her crème blouse and black shorts were Carven. Connelly, meanwhile, wore a slim black Alexander McQueen dress.