Fashion Story: Jessica Chastain

Vogue.it
Roberto Croci, Vogue Italia, April 2012, n. 740, p. 212

Jessica Chastain already has a handful of films under her belt and an Oscar nomination. Now she is preparing another five movies. But she defines herself as “just a normal girl”.

“It is a profession that allows me to get to know lives and experiences that otherwise I could never discover. A fire burning inside of me, that regenerates me for each role. This is the reason why I chose to be an actress: I always play different roles. If we take into consideration the work I did in Wilde Salome, The Tree of Life, The Help and The Debt, you can see that my women don’t just live in different historical periods, they also have opposite personalities. I grew up with American cinema, especially that of Al Pacino and the seventies, even though I have to say that I admire the work of you Europeans”.

Jessica discovered foreign cinema from across the Atlantic in New York, when she studied at the prestigious Juilliard School. “Before coming to New York, I had never had the possibility to come close to creativity of that kind. No one in my family had ever had anything to do with that environment, therefore at my audition at the Juilliard I risked a lot, especially on an emotional level. When they accepted me I found myself in another world”.

“I have always known I wanted to be an actress, but my New York experience made me realize that my desire had nothing to do with becoming famous or making money, I was interested in exploring the human soul, its complexity, I wanted to work to understand something about life and myself. Being an actress means being in another person’s shoes and therefore understanding what the person whose role you play feels; but also connecting with other human beings, as a mark of profound professional intimacy, that often touches the soul”.

“Fashion for me is another form of telling a story. I love being an actor because I love telling different stories in how self-expressive that is. It’s just probably why a lot of my characters look so different. They’re different stories I’m telling. I feel the same way about fashion.”

Destiny is ironic for actors: some of them immediately achieve success, while others must work hard to reach their goals. This is what happened to Jessica Chastain, a Californian actress who is finally reaping the fruit of years of work.

She realized she wanted to be an actress when she was young: her grandmother took her to the theater to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and that was the beginning of it all. In the early 2000s she was still studying at the Juilliard School in New York, when she appeared in an episode of ER and in one of Law and Order: Trial by Jury. In 2004 she played the role of Carolyn Stoddard in the pilot of a Dark Shadows remake. Meeting Al Pacino, with whom she worked at the theater and at the cinema, was the prelude of what happened in 2011, her lucky year: she acted in 6 movies (The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick, which won the Golden Palm at Cannes, and The Help by Tate Taylor, among the others), thanks to which she got many awards and nominations, including one as Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the 2012 Academy Awards.

Even if she’s not a red-carpet veteran, when it comes to style, she knows what she wants, as proven by the Zac Posen yellow dress (a bold choice for a redhead) worn at the Cannes Film Festival or the McQueen dramatic dress she wore at the latest Academy Awards. “For me I never choose something because it’s cool or it’s what everyone else is wearing,” she explains. “I always pick dresses and clothes based on an emotional reaction that I have.”Her style icons? Kate Moss (“Very edgy, a little bit of rock ‘n roll”), Cate Blanchett (“She’s also someone I feel doesn’t dress for the masses: she dresses for herself”), Isabelle Huppert (“So elegant”) and Rita Hayworth as Gilda.

She loves “clothes that accentuate a woman’s body” and says she’s ready for gloves to come back, symbol of a long-gone Hollywood glamor which still fascinates her. Back then, “getting dressed was a ritual”: “There was effort in it, which I kind of like when you can tell someone has put effort in the way they look.” For her, elegance is a sort of “inner glow” which shines through even if you’re wearing jeans and t-shirt – a quality she’s got plenty of, judging from the grace of her red carpet appearances.