Again, this is material written for the Labyrinth wiki I’m working on. Check it out!
Early concept paintings by Brian Froud produced to provide inspiration for the look of the film feature a beautiful young woman with long brunette hair, and she is the girl who formed the basis for the character.
Director Jim Henson told Starlog magazine that “We began with the idea of a young girl going through the labyrinth to rescue her baby brother. At first, she was going to be a fairy tale princess in a fantasy world, and then a Victorian girl.” The decision to make the protagonist a teenager from contemporary America was made in order to make the film more commercial.
Sarah was discussed at many of the early production meetings held to develop the film, and a lot of thought was given to how her emotional journey should be reflected in the film’s visuals.
Casting for the role began in April 1984, and a wide range of actresses including Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Jessica Parker, Yasmin Bleeth, Laura Dern and Mia Sara auditioned for the role. Jennifer Connelly auditioned on 29th January 1985, and was cast less than a week later.
In the same interview with Starlog magazine, Henson said that Connelly “was right at that moment between child and woman. During filming, she was 14-and-a-half, and some of the time when you talked to her, she was like a child, and at other times, she was very much like a young woman.” This made Connelly ideal for the part, as according to Henson “We basically wanted to make Labyrinth about the growing-up process of maturity, working with the idea of a young girl right at that point between girl and woman, shedding her childhood thoughts for adult thoughts.”
Connelly herself was acutely aware of the film’s subtext, telling Elle magazine “It’s about a sort of awakening… a young girl growing out of her childhood, who is just now becoming aware of the responsibilities that come with growing up.”
Connelly enjoyed working alongside Henson. “I really trusted him and everything he was doing. As a person, he’s very gentle; he’ll never raise his voice. He’s very under control, calm and easy going. I don’t think anyone could really dislike him.” Despite initially being intimidated by him, Connelly also got along well with co-star David Bowie “He has this way about him that as soon as I met him, I felt so comfortable, and all the barriers just disappeared. I was just able to be myself and very comfortable with him.”
In more recent interviews Connelly has indicated that she found the shoot of Labyrinth a challenging experience, remarking in 1991 that “it was my first experience with a movie that was so vast. It was a really big responsibility and a huge role. I was in almost every scene and, often, I was the only the human in those scenes. It was rough. I remember sometimes feeling emotionally at odds with what was happening.”