Oscars 2012 Behind the Scenes: Casting “The Help”

CASTING JESSICA CHASTAIN AS CELIA

Chastain was already attached to the 2011 film Texas Killing Fields when Barden and Schnee began working on that movie. But hearing they were starting to cast The Help, her manager sent Barden a copy of Chastain’s 2008 movie Jolene. ”I watched that and really liked what she had done and made special efforts to get her in,” he says. “She was shooting in New Orleans in the swamps, and I called her manager and knew that she had four days off that would make her available to come in for the audition. She came in and was just unbelievably wonderful.”

Barden says Chastain also read two different scenes: the one where Celia first meets Minny and the one where she’s come home after the bridge club made her stand out on the porch. “We continued seeing people after her audition, but after her read it was pretty clear that she was who we all wanted,” Barden says. She moved them to tears. “Oh my God, yes. As soon as her audition was out, we were just a mess — which is good, when somebody moves you that way after you’ve seen 50 other people reading the [same] lines and doing very good jobs. It’s such a well-written script that it’s hard to screw it up, and obviously, at the level of actresses coming in to audition, they were more than competent. But when an audition scene in 10 minutes is that deep, you just kinda know that it’s something special — which is what Jessica is.”

Even if she wasn’t the Marilyn-esque figure Celia was described as in the book… “When you’re casting a fictional character you have a little more leeway,” Barden says. “It is about trying to find the best actor for the role, somebody who has the heart and soul of the character, and then if it’s not exactly the look that’s written in the book — like Emma Stone’s not six feet tall and gawky — you make it work. Clearly, Jessica is a phenomenal actress.”

Source: EW Special Oscars 2012 coverage

Luciana

Waiting for the day I can ‘professional fangirl’ for a living.