Joaquin Phoenix doesn’t like to give too much away before his films hit theaters. ”Mark Ruffalo’s an amazing actor and Jennifer Connelly’s an amazing actor,” he says of Reservation Road, with just a hint of facetiousness. ”That’s two amazing actors in one movie. How about that, folks?” But don’t let the 32-year-old Road star’s nonchalance fool you. It was he who first got hold of the script, read it, and sent it to director Terry George, with whom he’d worked on Hotel Rwanda and Ladder 49.
The drama, based on a 1998 novel by Schwartz, takes place in a seaside Connecticut town where a young couple (Mark Ruffalo and Mira Sorvino) are going through a messy divorce. When another couple (Phoenix and Connelly) lose their son in a hit-and-run accident, the two emotionally scarred families end up crossing paths, which results in some pretty intense moments. ”There’s a scene where Joaquin and Mark confront each other,” says George, ”and just the tension and the subtext that both of those actors were able to bring…. They took it to a place I think audiences are going to find incredibly powerful.”
While Road may not feature the bloody, widespread atrocity found in his last project, 2004’s Hotel Rwanda, George realized after reading the script that ”the greatest tragedy is one that can impact ordinary people’s lives. With Hotel Rwanda, it was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is horrible that it happened — over there. In the United States, it just doesn’t enter people’s minds…until something like this happens.”