The Help, Tree of Life, Zero Dark Thirty, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, and now A Most Violent Year, Jessica Chastain is a hard working actress. Jazz Tangcay sat down with the actress to talk about her role as Anna Morales in A Most Violent Year, , J.C. Chandor’s ’80s-set thriller in which she plays an embattled immigrant’s wife trying to make it in a rough-and-tumble New York.
Awards Daily : What inspired you to get into acting?
Jessica Chastain: I’d always been a very imaginative child. I didn’t do so well in school, I didn’t think I was very smart. I had difficulty in connecting with teachers and didn’t have a way of expressing myself, until my grandmother took me to see a play, I saw a little girl on stage, it was a professional theater company, I was told this was their job. I thought, “This is my job.” I was probably 7 at the time.
AD: How did you come across this role?
JC: I met JC when The Help came out, it was the same time as Margin Call. We were at the New York Film Critics Awards dinner when we first met. I really liked Margin Call a lot. Then I went to Cannes and I saw All Is Lost, I was very impressed with that. This director, who’s first film was all about a lot of dialogue and relationships, then his second film with no dialogue, and no relationship. He’s brave also, he’s taking a risk, he’s saying, instead of staying in that world, I’m going to try something different. I just really believed in him.
AD: You penned a three page email to JC about Oscar, What inspired you to do this and what was it like working with him?
JC: JC likes to say it was a three page email, that’s a slight exaggeration. I did send an email to JC about Oscar and I very rarely do that with directors. I don’t want to invade on their process. I have so much respect for film makers, I knew he considering Oscar, and I just wanted to express my experience of working with him and knowing him for 12 years.
I love going to the movies, I love being an audience member, and I love championing other people’s work, and it came very naturally to do to champion Oscars work because he’ sos tlaented. He’s an actor that’s under appreciated for the work he does.
AD: Can you tell us about Anna?
JC: What I love so much about Anna, is that you underestimate her. JC (Chandor) wanted to do that deliberately. When you first meet her, she’s putting make up on in the mirror, a stereotype of the wife of a crime boss. You expect her to follow the tropes of the genre, when in fact as the film goes on, when she shoots the deer, she starts to become intoxicated with the power that she’s feeling, the action she starts to take in her life. In her mind, if her husband isn’t going to be the most powerful man in the room, then she will. By the end of the film you realize she’s actually the boss of the company and that’s very excting to me, to do something that surprises the audience and who underestimates a female character and defies the stereotype.
AD: What was your biggest challenge in making the film?
JC: Probably the biggest challenge was the cold, it was very very cold in New York. It’s all real snow and we were freezing our butts off. We were shooting very quickly.
That and doing two films at once, because I was flying back and forth from New York to Toronto, I was working on Crimson Peak and they were very different characters, so those were the challenges for me.
AD: You’ve made four films this year, how easy was the transition from one mindset of a film to the next?
JC: Actually, I made two films, but I have four films. Disappearance was made years ago. A Most Violent Year was this year, some films take a while before they find their release date.
As an actor, I’m interested in playing characters that are different than me, characters that I get to learn more about myself, learn more about who we are as human beings. The way you do that is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see a point of view that you never thought of yourself.
AD: Would you like to direct one day?
JC: I have no interest right now in directing, but I do have an interest in teaching , maybe I’ll go to Julliard at some point and teach or some other school. I like the idea of helping someone free themselves artistically creatively or emotionally. That is so inspiring to me.
AD: You’ve said in a recent interview, that there are two types of women roles, the slut or the girlfriend. With your career, Zero Dark Thirty and A Most Violent Year, you’re doing your part, what do you think Hollywood and other actresses could do to help the situation?
JC: I wouldn’t blame it on actresses at all. I do not think it’s the problem of the actresses. I’m very vocal about speaking about diversity and cinema. When I speak in terms of female roles and that there are so few roles for women, I’m not speaking for myself and I’m not speaking from a selfish place, because I’m a very lucky person and I understand that I get sent things most people don’t. I’m speaking as an audience member who wants to see Asian-American actresses up there. I want to see more African-Americans in leads, I want to see women in their sixties or seventies up there as leads in films. I’m speaking from that place, trying to help the industry, because as an industry we all want the same thing.
Chris Rock wrote this amazing essay for The Hollywood Reporter recently, and it’s a fantastic essay, and it’s honest. So much of us are saying the same thing. The more we talk about it, we don’t need to feel shame, or point fingers and judge. We’re a community.Everyone wants the same thing. I believe that because it’s such an important topic of conversation right now, that it will change.
AD: Who else would you like to work with?
JC: I’d love to work with a female DP. There are so many people I’d like to work with. I can’t talk about it right now because there’s a probability that I will be working with this person….so..watch this space (Giggles).
A Most Violent Year opens December 31.