The actress on her role as a feisty warrior in ‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War,’ her recent string of dark movies and the wage gap between men and women
Actress Jessica Chastain says people often ask her if she looks for strong female characters to play. In her view, she’s just playing real women. “I want to play a character who’s in charge of her own destiny, and while some people might describe that as strong, I just describe that as normal,” she says.
Ms. Chastain, 39, has become known for her roles in “The Help” (2011), “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012) and “Interstellar” (2014). Her latest is a starring role as a warrior who battles an evil queen in “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” a sequel to the 2012 film “Snow White and the Huntsman.”
Her last few films have dealt with somber subjects, including “A Most Violent Year” (2014), about New York’s 1981 crime wave. So Ms. Chastain decided that it was time for a more lighthearted role. “I had just done a string of very dark characters, and I was feeling very down,” she says. “I was like: I need to get a comedy. I need to get something just really silly and fun.”
“The Huntsman” isn’t exactly a comedy. Still, when the Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, who plays the title character, gave her the script to consider, the warrior’s feisty side piqued her interest. She also liked the fact that the warrior and the huntsman, who fight alongside each other and become romantically involved, treat each other as equals. In romantic relationships, she says, “You don’t want one person to be the one making all the decisions and the other to follow. You want to be a partner.”
USA Today has published an interview with Jessica, as part of The Huntsman: Winter’s War promotion.
Good luck pitching Jessica Chastain a supportive wife role.
Chris Hemsworth learned that when he proposed she be his wife in The Huntsman: Winter’s War (in theaters Friday), a prequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman.
“Chris came up to me,” Chastain, 39, recalls. “It was the first time I met him at Critics’ Choice Awards and he talked to me about it. I said, ‘Listen, you’re great. I loved the first movie, I’d love to work with you — but I’m not interested in playing the wife who sits at home and cheers you on. You know what I mean?’ ”
By phone, Hemsworth recalls the scene exactly. “She said, ‘Don’t bother sending it to me unless I get to kick (butt),’ ” he laughs. “And I said, oh, we’ll make sure that’s the case. And she does.”
Winter’s War turns back fairy-tale time. Charlize Theron returns to the screen as the evil Queen Ravenna, but instead of sharing the screen with Kristen Stewart’s Snow White, this time it’s Emily Blunt by her side as her once-sweet sister, Freya. When Freya’s infant daughter is murdered, her icy fury is released, and Freya gathers up all the children in the kingdom, including Chastain (who plays Sara), to create an army of child soldiers.
Jessica did a great interview to The Guardian, that was published today. Read it below:
Jessica Chastain is such an extraordinary actor that you almost miss her. She brings so little ego to the roles she plays, so little of herself, that you go away with no idea who that actress actually was. Some Hollywood stars seem adept at pulling a film’s centre of gravity towards them; Chastain seems to exist in a quiet gravity of her own.
In The Help, which gave her an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress (and won her a Bafta and Golden Globe award), she played Celia Foote, a brassy, busty blonde. Given that the script traded on stereotypes, you can imagine another actress making more of a meal of it. But Chastain’s Celia, even when drunk and out of control, had a quietness that was devastating.
Her second Oscar nomination was for Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, in which she played Maya, the CIA operative who tracks down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. When watching President Obama on the news, saying that America does not torture, her expression remains inscrutable, even though we know she has been party to such torture. “That vacant face partly explains, I suspect, why Zero Dark Thirty has stirred up so much controversy,” wrote Manohla Dargis, admiringly, in the New York Times.
All of which leaves me wondering whom I am actually going to meet, when I arrive at Universal Studios in Los Angeles to interview her. We are introduced in a trailer (not hers: it’s fairly impersonal). She is charming, immaculately groomed in a smart short dress, sitting with a poise that feels almost old Hollywood. Except that she then admits she’s freezing in her smart short dress and can someone fetch her coat to put across her knees. She is friendly but not gushing; she doesn’t pretend we are going to be best friends. You realise she has become a movie star because she has spent her whole life preparing to be a movie star.
Within minutes, though, the stuff Chastain is talking about is so new Hollywood as to be almost radical. When we meet, a lawsuit filed by the pop star Kesha, who wants to get out of her Sony contract because, she alleges, her producer Dr Luke has repeatedly raped and abused her, is all over the news; Adele has just announced her support, while Taylor Swift has offered to pay some of her legal fees. Dr Luke has denied all of Kesha’s allegations. Meanwhile, the fight for equal pay in Hollywood is hotting up, too, and Chastain is massively encouraged by all of this.