Jessica Chastain


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… this space (Giggles).


A Most Violent Year opens December 31.


Deadline reports that The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby will be shown in its two parts, beginning October 10. The combined version will be released September 12. This is a film you luxuriate in every second — three hours of it would be heaven. Both Richard Linklater and Ned Benson are playing with form in cutting film up and re-arranging it back in unexpected ways. While Michael Apted surely did this with his Up series in documentary form, it’s rare to see filmmakers stray from the usual pattern of making a film, editing it and releasing it. It exists as a whole and complete thing, except when directors decide to recut their films later (none of these ever top their original).

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Ned Benson, with Eleanor Rigby, has breathed full life into each one of his characters but most importantly, the female characters. Romantic comedies these days tend to either turn into glossy high end fairy tales designed for mass female audiences or they’re quirky indies involving a manic pixie dreamgirl and some dude who comes of age within it, learning from her, becoming a man as a result of his association with her. That’s fine, of course, taking its cue from the grandaddy of all – Annie Hall. But how nice to see a deeper love story where what’s going on inside the woman matters too. There’s also something about these actors who are so well cast you could watch them all day, chief among those, Jessica Chastain who has a kind of magic about herself that makes you curious about every flicker of emotion on her face. She is endlessly watchable.

Chastain is having another one of those years where she’ll be in multiple Oscar contending Best Picture, starting with Eleanor Rigby, but also Interstellar, A Most Violent Year and Miss Julie.



**Slight Spoiler Warning*** Women don’t get to be anti-heroes much, at least where Oscar wins are concerned, whether male or female, voters prefer good or admirable characters to dark ones.  Good girls usually suffer no pushback but bad girls? They don’t get off so easy. It can get a little sketchy nowadays when a female antihero presents herself. The notion that women ought to always be portrayed is a positive light severely limits both the opportunities for actresses but also for women in the full spectrum of the human experience. A similar problem afflicts minority actors when they get sick of being stuffed into stereotypes — like black maids or street thugs, Chinese laundry attendants, etc. Women are stuffed into stereotypes too and sadly many of these roles are often delivered in an effort to portray them in a good light.  Some of the best performances on screen have been actresses taking on dark or sometimes soulless characters. Some of those have won Oscars (Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and some of them haven’t (Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction or Dangerous Liaisons or Reversal of Fortune).

By my count, since 1970, good characters or heroines have accounted for 35 of the 44 Best Actress winners. Only 4 could be counted as flat-out bad (Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and 5 could be counted as “complicated,” like Helen Mirren in The Queen or Kate Winslet in The Reader — they are mostly good but they are allowed complexities.  Contrast that with Best Actor where I counted 9 “complicated” winners, 6 flat-out bad and 29 good, or heroes. There isn’t a dramatic disparity between the sexes — though men have a slight advantage removing themselves from the “good” category and still winning — but it isn’t really so big it makes much of a difference.


This year, the likely Best Actress contenders range from flat-out bad to complicated, to good.  It’s still too early to tell how things might shake down in that regard — so it’s difficult to say which characteristic will dominate. In our poll, AwardsDaily readers have these five predicted:

Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Jessica Chastain, Eleanor Rigby

Close behind are a few others who may have a shot:
Hilary Swank, The Homesman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Michelle Williams – Suite Française
Jessica Chastain – Miss Julie
Nicole Kidman – Queen of the Desert

Amy Adams, as I recall from the footage in Cannes, plays a “difficult” character. But in subsequent readings of early screenings of the film it doesn’t sound that way. So right now I’m just not sure where she fits. course, it’s just too soon to know. These five can be considered this way:

The Good
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Jessica Chastain, Eleanor Rigby
Amy Adams, Big Eyes

The Bad:
Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Both Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars, and very likely Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl will represent this year’s anti-heroines. Both roles dwell in the 2014 zone of Kim Kardashian instagram devotion, the cancer of tabloid beatdowns of women on a daily basis, selfies, the incurable disease of self-improvement all pointing to what we women are afflicted with every day of our lives: the pressure to be all things: pretty, young, popular, thin, desired.  While we wait to see what writer Gillian Flynn, director David Fincher and actress Rosamund Pike do with the literary sylph “Amazing Amy” there is much we can glean from the character as written in Flynn’s book.

To my mind Amazing Amy from the book is the Frankenstein’s monster that the male gaze and the culture of overly-competitive women have created — and deserve. I dread the many articles that completely miss the point of the character Flynn wrote, a woman whose point of view must be taken into consideration when examining her character. The reason the book is so successful with women is that WE KNOW. We have grown up stuffing ourselves into the forms people want to see — what men want to see, what women want to see. We’ve been the object of bitchy middle-school girls snickering at our outdated jeans, we’ve been in on gossip clusters of girls talking about sluts. We’ve been watched by men who either lust after or reject our physical appearance. We’ve grown up shaping ourselves this way and Amazing Amy has MASTERED this shape-shifting. She has taken control of these requirements and delivered the “perfect” answer.

It is my hope that people, especially women, will get this and not fly off into the fascist notion that “all female characters have to be portrayed in a positive light.” If you think that’s true then talk to me about the tabloids. Cottage cheese thighs on women at the beach! So and so is cheating on so and so. Bad plastic surgery! Stars without makeup. Do we really think men are driving this disgusting industry? Sorry, ladies. I wish we could blame men for that one.

These fears and insecurities and mean-girl impulses weave cleverly throughout Flynn’s novel, all the while giving us a filter — what each character sees and how they interpret what they see.  It’s a magnificent novel written by a brilliant writer. The most famous passage in Gone Girl is the concept of the “cool girl,” a thing that will live on forever which is a description only we women understand.

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)”

When I first read this I was stunned that anyone could dig down that deep and be that observant to finally acknowledge in print what many of us girls have long known about fitting into very contradictory requirements of men.  They want you to eat but they don’t want you to be fat. They want you to be funny but not too smart. We all get it.  Another observer of this phenom is the funny and insightful Heather Harvilesky at The Awl. Check out this post.

Bruce Wagner does not pull punches where Julianne Moore’s character is concerned in Maps to the Stars — again, she is the sum total of our youth-obsessed culture  and the competition for Most Famous or Relevant person. But Wagner spreads the ugliness around to inevitably point the finger back where it belongs: squarely at us, the consumers.

In both cases, there will be some major pushback. Men could very well recoil in horror, while women might be inclined to take the “it’s misogynist” approach.  Either way, I suspect 2014 is going to get ugly.  So that brings us to the Oscar race.  After watching Maps to the Stars in Cannes, Pete Hammond said that it was a shame Julianne Moore was so unlikable in Maps to the Stars — she would win the Oscar otherwise.

Other potentially difficult female characters who dwell on the darker side would include Meryl Streep as the Witch in Into the Woods, Marion Cotillard as Lady MacBeth — if it’s released this year — and Anne Dorval in Mommy.  On the rest of the list, the women are admirable characters.

When I look back on Hollywood history, especially when actresses dominated, there was room for a full spectrum of types. Who can forget Anne Baxter and Bette Davis in All About Eve, for instance.   Would All About Eve get made today? Probably not. With so few films driven by female characters now is not the time to limit women to only those reflected in a good light. Well, at least not until tabloids disappear from supermarket shelves and gossip sites fade away.


The film is adapted and directed by Liv Ullman, slated for release in 2014.

Thanks to JustJared:


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On the BAFTA red carpet Jessica Chastain talks about a time when her three-legged doggie was let out backstage and “hopped” towards the sound of her voice. If you haven’t yet fallen in love with Jessica Chastain you soon will.





The New York Film Critics Circle Awards

“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

If you want to win an Oscar for Best Picture now, make an old fashioned Hollywood movie.  But make sure it is easy on the eye, entertaining and not too challenging.  Don’t let there be any controversy attached to it. And never remind us of the complexities in human nature. Focus on the positive. People are good. People do good things. Isn’t the world a nice place to be?  On the flipside there’s Zero Dark Thirty, which has to be judged on its own merits as a film.  The facts about the torture — whether it happened, whether it didn’t — can be had at a different time. What we have before us is a work of art.

Zero Dark Thirty was so upsetting it seemed to go even beyond the torture debate. I began to wonder, would people have been so personally pissed off if the director of Zero Dark Thirty had been a man? Moreover, if the lead character had been played by George Clooney do you think it would have changed anything? Would the movie be less threatening? Would sticking to the status quo have enabled people to fall in line and accept it?  Would the critics have rushed to give it their top prizes to begin with but then abandon it just as fast when the water got too high?

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I am not sure I’ve ever seen that happen, and especially not during Oscar season, but the hard-working actress has now taken the number one (Mama) and number two (Zero Dark Thirty) spots for the box office this weekend. That’s fairly amazing, wouldn’t you say?

In other box office news, at least so far, Silver Linings expanded its locations and took the third spot on Friday.



At tomorrow night’s Golden Globe ceremony you will see two competing Best Actress contenders likely win: Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence, who are in two different categories.  These award shows can sometimes build momentum in one actress’ favor propelled by how well they do in front of a crowd accepting the award.  Speeches can sometimes make a difference, though not always.  Both are beautiful young women with very bright futures ahead of them. But we will likely end the night still not knowing who will win Best Actress and that’s because the state of the Best Actress race has suddenly shifted.

When Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild were nominated in the Best Director and Best Screenplays categories, the chances for Emmanuelle Riva and Quvenzhane Wallis to win skyrocketed. The frontrunners are still the two bigger stars, Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty and Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook. The fifth contender is another potential dark horse, Naomi Watts for the Impossible.

My first instinct when I heard the nominations was to say that Emmanuelle Riva, the oldest ever Oscar nominee, is the biggest threat. But Wallis and Beasts is hard to resist. If you loved that movie you will love her in it. And if she won she would also make history as only the second African American actress to win Lead. In 85 years.

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1. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln. There might not be another actor alive who would devote many months just to find Lincoln’s voice. Fewer still who could take what history told us about him, subtract the multitude of falsely deep Lincoln voices because they sounded “more important” and give us the real Lincoln via his unusual and less familiar voice. He was going to take some shit for this choice, as no one was ready to accept a Lincoln with that voice. Take on its own in isolated clips it might at first have sounded  a little strange, but when you witness Day-Lewis immersed in Lincoln’s totality, the actor vanishes. The voice comes alive with thoughtfulness, and that unmistakable color of sadness that Lincoln carried around with him since he was young, when his mother and then his sister died. Somehow Day-Lewis knew how to capture that sadness. He knew that Lincoln was weary — from the war, from the burden of doing what was a right at a time when there opposing forces seemed insurmountable — and weary from his wife’s mercurial disposition, crying or raging, depending on the day or the haunting.

Day-Lewis has captured so much in one breathtaking turn that this becomes, maybe, a bar to which all others might aspire. His head hung to one side, his tall person’s slouch, his lopsided walk. That any group would award someone else for the prize of best performance only illuminates, in many ways, Day-Lewis’ unequivocal work. They can’t say he wasn’t good enough. They can only say they’d like someone else to have a chance to share the spotlight with him. If Oscars are meant to be given out as career achievements, Day-Lewis would easily and handily win his third Oscar. We all know that the Oscars, despite their intentions, do not always award the best. But history should remember Day-Lewis, whether they give him a gold statue for it or not.

The supporting players: Sally Field – for her astonishing work as Mary Todd Lincoln Field gained some weight and reseacrhed the extensive first-hand historical record, as any great actress would, to find out that Mary Lincoln possessed a fiery intelligence, shared a love for reading with her husband, and didn’t have much else to do back then but stand by her man. Field captures Mary Lincoln’s craziness, unending grief and inner battle with depression so well it makes you long for the days when you had to be this good to get into movies. Tommy Lee Jones brings with him the great memory of Thaddeus Stevens, and perhaps the best moment of his role is the conflicted scene when he has to support the notion of freeing slaves but knows he must withhold his feelings in agreeing that they’re equal in all terms. He does this through his teeth, against everything he believes in — but he does it because he knows that tearing down an old sturdy wall is done brick by brick. Other wonderful turns in Lincoln include James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the great Gloria Reuben as Elizabeth Keckley, self-freed slave who became an author.

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More pics after the cut, from ONTD.

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Yet another apparently great movie adds itself to the list with Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s film on the hunt for Bin Laden. Brooks Barnes at the NY Times has seen it, and includes some commentary in his interview with the Oscar winning team of Bigelow and screenwriter Marc Boal. It looks to be up to Bigelow’s preferred level of intensity, and will likely stand out among the other feelgood fare this year. Whose bringing the cojones? Bigelow’s bringing the cojones. There is something thrilling in that:

The new movie is not for the faint of heart or for those expecting typical Hollywood fare. Whether “Zero Dark Thirty” succeeds may depend on the willingness of audience members (and awards voters) to relive difficult events in a drama that Ms. Bigelow and Mr. Boal insist should honor the facts and protect sources, even if that means giving less attention to cinematic conventions like a love interest, comic twists (à la “Argo”) or characters’ back stories.


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By most estimations, Jennifer Lawrence has the Oscar race for Best Actress sewn up. The one-two punch of her work in Silver Linings Playbook, currently receiving very good reviews, and the $400 million she generated for the Hunger Games franchise, gives her the edge heading into the race.

But there are a few competing factors at play. The first, Jessica Chastain is about to hit with Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. Chastain carries the film. Unlike Lawrence, she isn’t “the girlfriend” but is the CIA agent obsessed with the capture of Osama Bin Laden. Imagine that, after all is said and done a woman gets to take credit for that? It is arguably among the best characters of the year.

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Two pieces of important information have come to light recently that may impact the Best Actress race: Anne Hathaway will be campaigned for lead as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises and Jessica Chastain will also go lead for Zero Dark Thirty. Whether either of them will break through in a crowded race is a different story. Much will likely depend on the nominations at the Globes, then the SAGs and the Critics Choice Awards. By then, a consensus will have emerged. Those early awards are great for pruning the crowd. Once the nominees are named, voters get to sit on judgement about whether those are deserving nominations or not, whether there are more deserving names that got left off the list, and how each nominations or win would make them feel.

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