Considering the body of work she has created in the last four years, it’s hard to remember that Jessica Chastain is a relatively fresh face (in fact, Sean Penn doesn’t realize she’s two decades younger than him). In the last few months of 2014 alone she stars in four anticipated films: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, Miss Julie, Interstellar, and A Most Violent Year. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Chastain talks about her place in Hollywood, praises her fellow actors, and reveals why she still has a love for the stage.
For the first five years of her career, Chastain was mostly a little-known television actress and describes her typical roles in those years as “the girlfriend or the crazy neighbor or the person that had something wrong with her.”
Unlike other actors, Chastain didn’t have many connections in the business and it wasn’t until Al Pacino cast her in a production of Salome that he was directing that she began to get noticed. She explains, “I didn’t know anyone in the business. It’s not like I could call a friend of my mom’s or something to get an agent. When I got cast in Salome … that’s where my career really started to change.”
Since then Chastain has starred in over a dozen critically acclaimed roles, and she considers herself something of a champion of strong female roles for herself and others. She points out, “I’m pretty outspoken about female roles in Hollywood. I know I’m really lucky, because I’m getting the best scripts. But there are incredible actresses out there … like how fantastic is Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl?”
Of course, she also has praise for her male co-stars, including her The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them co-star William Hurt. Of his acting style, Chastain says, “He’s just someone who’s completely open and in the moment. He’s not afraid of taking time and pauses, and every time we filmed the scene, he had his different ways. He’s very open to other actors. I felt it was like a beautiful dance. And those are the kind of actors I love to work with.”
Despite her great success in film, Chastain still turns to the stage. In late 2012 to early 2013 she starred on Broadway in The Heiress, and she is currently promoting a film adaptation of August Strindberg play Miss Julie. One aspect of working on plays — either on stage or on film — that she enjoys is the camaraderie of actors who have worked on the same material. She explains, “The wonderful thing about theater, which sometimes you don’t have in films, there’s this sisterhood or brotherhood of [actors who have played the same role]. So you take a role like Miss Julie and you look at all the actresses that have played it through the years. There’s not one version that’s better than the other. With writers such as [Strindberg] and Shakespeare, Chekhov, the writing is so dense and so good, it can go on like that for hundreds of years.”