British-born thesp Frances O'Connor may not be a household name, but that's all about to change with the Friday release of Steven Spielberg's highly anticipated futuristic drama A.I: Artificial Intelligence. In the pic, O'Connor who starred in the 1999 Jane Austen drama Mansfield Park adopts a robot boy (Haley Joel Osment) and finds her life turned upside down.
Personally, the thirtysomething actress doesn't believe real life will imitate A.I. art anytime soon. "I don't think we'll ever get to the point where we'll recreate people to that level," she says of Osment's eerily lifelike alter ego. "We might, but it won't be for a very long time. I think we might make computers to actually think like us or to approximate that, because we're already getting there."
Like everyone else connected to the Spielberg-Stanley Kubrick production, O'Connor had to sign a confidentiality agreement that forbade her from divulging any of the movie's secrets. In a way, she believes Spielberg constructed the iron curtain as a tribute to his late collaborator whose films were notoriously hush-hush. "I think Steven felt that, because it's Kubrick's film, he wanted to just follow in [that] tradition," she says. "And also, he didn't want to spoil the story. He wanted to keep it so that when you see the film, you just have a pure experience."
Well, had O'Connor been able to spill the beans about the ambitious project, she no doubt would have had a tough time finding the right words. Asked what A.I. is about, she struggles to formulate a nutshell response. "There are a lot of really universal themes in it, like abandonment and mother-and-child connection and what it [means] to be human," explains the Golden Globe nominee, who next will appear opposite Nicolas Cage in John Woo's Windtalkers. "It's hard to say it's about this; I think there are a lot of things in it."Somewhere, Stanley Kubrick is smiling.