While I’ve done a lot of on-set interviews over the past decade, the group interview with Jessica Chastain on the set of Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak was extremely unique. Not only did we speak with her in her trailer, we got to watch her play her character’s lullaby on a small piano and met her extremely cute dog. Let’s just say, this is not the norm for on-set interviews.
During the interview Chastain talked about being able to pick her role, why her trailer was covered with disturbing images, her character’s backstory, her character’s hair and the wigs she had to wear, collaborating with del Toro, and so much more. Crimson Peak opens October 16th.
Question: So we heard that Guillermo approached you and said, ‘Here’s the script, take a look, whatever you want’ and then you decided that you wanted to be the antagonist.
JESSICA CHASTAIN: Yeah.
His quote was that you’re a smart girl.
What was it about the role that got you?
CHASTAIN: Well, first of all, I just wanted to do anything with Guillermo [Del Toro]. He was the first person I met with on Mama, that was the first meeting I had on the movie, and I remember I’d just got into a motocross accident, it was right when Tree of Life and everything had just come out; I was in crutches going into this breakfast meeting with Guillermo and he’s like, ‘I want you to do this movie’ and it just made me laugh so much that I was getting all these offers for these really sweet wives and he wanted me to play this punk rock girl wannabe in a horror film and I thought, ‘Well that’s a guy who thinks outside the box’ so I really liked that. I loved collaborating with him on Mama, he was the producer, and just wanted to do anything with him so when he sent me the script it was kind of just like, ‘Ok, what’s your next project?’ and then when he sent me this I think I gravitated towards Lucille [Sharpe] because as an actress I always want to play the roles that I haven’t played before and I always try to go for as different from me as possible, and Lucille is out of anything I’ve ever played the most different. It’s really far out there and it took a lot, the first three weeks were really difficult for me because I was shooting this and A Most Violent Year –J.C. Chandor’s film– at the same time flying back and forth, and I was very afraid. We’ll see, who knows, when you guys see the movie you can decide. I was very afraid that I wasn’t gonna quite get there on this.
By the way, as you’re going through that, he mentioned that there’s certain things in there that are secret that you can’t share.
No, no, just the other actors.
CHASTAIN: Oh, yeah, yeah [Laughs].
Show us everything.
CHASTAIN: Yeah, like, look at this. [Shows backstory].
And those are your note stickers.
CHASTAIN: Yeah it’s about my thing. But here’s just an example of it, [Reads] ‘Positives: Loyal, determined, intelligent, meticulous, decisive, observant, eloquent, artistic, passionate, sensitive, delicate, protective, unwavering. Negatives: Insular, narcissistic, violent, domineering, possessive, agoraphobic, germaphobe, vengeful, jealous, manipulative, depressive, demanding, suffocating. Secret dreams: To never leave Allerdale Hall’. He goes into descriptions like, ‘Likes: The smell of good tobacco, the taste of very bitter chocolate’ For me it’s a dream come true because then I look at this and then I go, ‘Oh my God, okay Chopin, graveyard poetry, I have a book of graveyard poetry now in my trailer. It’s a great starting out point. This is something I always do as a character, but the problem is when the director’s not involved then there’s a secret, when I’m playing something sometimes the director’s like, ‘Why is she doing that?’ they don’t understand the world that I’m coming from, but to have this and have a starting out point and have the secrets that have happened to Lucille; basically he’s written up her whole life up to the beginning of the movie. When he sees me play a scene, now he understands, ‘Oh, that is because of this. That’s where she’s coming from.’ Or, ‘It’s because she doesn’t want to leave the house’ or ‘She doesn’t like germs’ We now have our own language. But we had a rehearsal with Tom [Hiddleston] in London when he was doing Coriolianus because we wanted to create the bond ‘brother and sister’ and I was reading mine and then at some point when Tom started to read his I said, ‘Don’t read me anything that you wouldn’t tell Lucille. I don’t want to know what’s in your bio that Lucille wouldn’t know’.
Can you talk about what kind of siblings they are, with their relationship?
CHASTAIN: I think they’ve suffered a lot and the only happiness they’ve ever had in their lives was each other. They’ve only had –It’s the safety for her, for her home is her safety and her brother is her safety. I’m sure it can be very suffocating, it’s very co-dependent.
Two of the keywords I picked up, apart from suffocating, were loyal and possessive. So she’s loyal to his brother but also possessive of him which triggers jealousy?
CHASTAIN: Absolutely, but also if someone is your ‘everything’ in your life and the only reason for happiness, you’re going to be possessive of it because to lose that is to die. So I don’t see that as, I know, I don’t see that as a negative thing in her because any negative quality she has, everything comes from love.
Real love, is it real love or twisted love?
CHASTAIN: I don’t think there’s such a thing as ‘twisted love’. Everything she does is to give love and to receive love. She might be going about it the wrong way [Laughs].