Working with Terrence Malick must be an extraordinary and unique experience?
For me it was a lot about giving up any idea of what the plan might be on the first scene, or on a day that we were going to film, it was all about capturing an accident. There was a scene where we were shooting a grief section and I remember I was watching Brad, he was so good, then there’s this Woodpecker going and Terry was like, “there’s a Woodpecker somewhere!” And he’d point the camera towards that. But there’s always ways to incorperate it, even in the trailer when you hear the voiceover go “there are two ways through life, the way of nature, and the way of grace,” you hear a bird in the background, that’s actually from the set, when I was doing the voiceover.
How did you go about shaping your character Jessica?
Jessica Chastain: When I first read the script I realised she’s the kind of woman that you just aspire to be. She’s all goodness, trusting, forgiving, all love. It’s difficult because you think, “gosh, how can I play a character that is this spiritual and loving and pure?” Then I kind of realised that the way into her was through her love for her children. I thought if I do that then that’s the key of finding of who she is. That’s where I started. Also I watched a lot of movies from the 1930’s and 40’s that Terrence Malick asked me to watch, I watched a lot of Lauren Bacall, he asked me to because there was a different way of talking back then. Terry said to me, which I find is true, and which I do a lot, the way we speak nowadays, we speak so fast because we’re afraid someone is going to cut us off, so we talk kind of rambling (laughs). But if you watch movies from the 40’s and 30’s there’s this confidence and directness, it’s very slow how they speak, which is actually the way Terry speaks in real life, he speaks very slow and direct, you don’t expect it to take as long as it takes (laughs), but you’re listening to every word. Those were the places that I started. I got to work with Terry about three months before we started shooting, I went to visit him a couple times. I had to cultivate a grace within myself, which meant a lot of meditating, a lot of reading about the spirit.
How was it portraying that grace?
Jessica Chastain: It was tough, in a way sometimes it was like acting with a straight jacket on, there’s these scenes where Mr. O’Brien, Brad Pitt, would be doing something that’s not necessarily the most generous or kind, especially to the boys. And me being who I am in the film, I just wanted to go up to him and say, “stop!” Because a lot of it, a lot of the movie, the way we filmed is so…..Terry would give us the lines, but then he’d also add lines as we’re filming, then also you’re encouraged to do want you want to do.
Making the film it was a huge lesson in completely letting go of control, of what you expect an outcome to be. That was a great lesson that I took away from the film, absolutely being in the moment when acting. With Terry you can’t plan any moment, there’s a section where a butterfly lands on my hand, it’s not on the script, we didn’t put anything on my hand to make it land there, he creates a set where he allows for those moments to happen.