“This year’s amazing, but there’s a lot of congratulating going on,” she says. “A lot of slapping each other on the back and going, ‘Isn’t it good? We’re so diverse!’ When that stops, when you have diversity in films and the congratulating stops, then something’s changed. In the future, I’m hoping we won’t see people going, ‘Can you believe it?’ ”
Hence the actor’s careful selection of films. Whether it’s as part of a cast of strong women like in “The Help”—“Female ensembles have a higher percentage of getting their money back than male ensembles,” she points out—or under a female director like Caro, Bigelow, Liv Ullmann (“Miss Julie”), or Susanna White (the upcoming “Woman Walks Ahead”), Chastain chooses projects to shift Hollywood’s status quo.
Then there are her politically relevant roles, be they subtle (“A Most Violent Year”) or thrillingly overt (“Miss Sloane”). “Interstellar” and “The Martian,” Chastain’s back-to-back sci-fi drama hits, found her playing a quantum physicist and commander on a Mars mission, respectively. “My joy is that young girls are now saying [to me], ‘I want to be an astronaut,’ ” she says.