Before They Were Stars: 12-Year Old Jennifer Connelly in “Once Upon a Time in America”

To commemorate our 100th episode of Shouts from the Back Row, we each selected a movie for our fellow podcasters to watch and review and I decided to choose Sergio Leone’s four-hour gangster epic, Once Upon a Time in America. How appropriate that one of my favourite films would feature the screen debut of one of my favourite actresses, as Jennifer Connelly would be cast to play the 12-year old version of the main female character, Deborah, during the film’s flashback scenes. The older version of Deborah was played Elizabeth McGovern and this was actually a perfect piece of casting since the two actresses do have a resemblance to one another. What’s funny is that the role required Connelly to perform ballet in her introductory scene, but even though she had no ballet training at all, she faked it well enough to win the role.

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