Jessica Chastain on ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Research and Her Broadway Debut in ‘The Heiress’

Jessica Chastain has just earned her second Oscar nomination for her role in the terrorist drama, Zero Dark Thirty.  The actress, previously nominated for her role in last year’s The Help, became fully immersed in her role as a CIA agent in the film.

“I asked [screenwriter Mark Boal] a lot of questions about the CIA, about the woman, everything about the scenes…You don’t think there are that many questions but there are thousands that come up,” Chastain said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.  “I read The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright.  Michael Scheuer’s book, Osama bin Laden, which I found to be fantastic.  I learned so much about him which I could never have learned from reading articles or following regular news.  Then I had to use my imagination to fill in the blanks of what I couldn’t find in the research about this woman.”

While researching her role as Maya, a character based on the woman who ultimately found bin Laden, Chastain learned that many CIA analysts in the field are women.  “To be a targeter, you have to be really smart.  I believe Maya’s the smartest person the room,” she said.  “I believe she’s always been the smartest person in the room, maybe when she was a little kid.  I don’t think she thinks in terms of the glass ceiling and the CIA and the sexism.  It’s more about, ‘Just listen to me.’  That was constantly in my head the whole time I was playing the role.  I just kept thinking, ‘Just listen to me.  Why is no one listening?’”

Right now, Chastain is also starring on Broadway in The Heiress, which she’s juggling with press for Zero Dark Thirty.  In fact, she’ll probably be even more in demand now that her Oscar nomination has been announced.  But for now, she’s been too busy to do any planning for the future.

“It’s always been my dream to be on Broadway, so I’m just really excited to have the opportunity to do it,” she said.  “I can’t wait to get back to a schedule where I have the days to just have a normal life and then do the play at night.  I haven’t experienced that yet because even when we started previews, I was constantly doing ADR [additional dialogue recording] for Zero Dark Thirty or ADR for Mama, or magazine shoots because magazines are three months ahead from the release.  So the days were always booked.

“But that’s ok because I love my job.  I think the month of March I’m going to go to Europe and just disappear for an entire month.”

Zero Dark Thirty hits theaters Friday, January 11.

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