Comedian Jon Stewart used to joke that fame in Hollywood is like a nightclub with increasingly exclusive VIP rooms, one after another, leading ultimately to the final velvet rope, beyond which Jack Nicholson sat alone, having a party all by himself. Jessica Chastain can relate, she says, at least in one way. After winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in The Eyes of Tammy Faye earlier this year, she went to a few parties but says, “Parties aren’t really my thing.” She would often just sit and people watch, which she loves to do. “I’m quite shy in groups of people,” she says. At one party where she had parked herself on a quiet couch for the duration, the host came over and asked her if he could introduce her to the other guests. “And I was like, I’m good here,” she says. “He was so sweet, and then he goes, ‘There’s one other person who comes to my party and sits exactly where you are, and they never moved: Jack Nicholson.’”
Wallflower or not, Chastain has a majestic screen presence that made for a very splashy entrance to the collective consciousness in 2011, eight years after she had graduated from the acting school at Juilliard, with an incredible run of films including Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or winner, The Tree of Life, and The Help, for which Chastain received her first Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actress. The following year, playing a fictionalized CIA analyst on the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain introduced us to the zeal and determination that have become signatures of her characters in the time since. Hers is a massive, concussive performance as the heroic and tarnished leader of Team America, effectively, for which she received a Golden Globe for Best Actress and her first Oscar nomination for the same category—in a film that has gone on to become one of the most talked about and second-guessed American films since 9/11. None of which is incidental to Chastain, who has said that filmmaking is a political act, a line she attributes to Jean-Luc Godard. And, incidentally, when I begin to ask how we ought to think about Zero Dark Thirty now—about whether the film should be diminished in our estimation by claims that it is an instrument of CIA propaganda and misrepresents the effectiveness (and so endorses the cost benefits of) torture—Chastain wants me to know that those lines of thinking were introduced to the discourse by a competitor in that year’s Oscars race, someone involved in a competing campaign who she says is no longer in the industry. “I know about the criticism, and I disagree with it,” she says. I also seem to remember the film being recognized as a watershed for women in Hollywood: produced by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, directed by Bigelow, and with Chastain front and center. But, she says, “it wasn’t marketed that way at all. I wasn’t even on the poster.”
“I like to meditate, do yoga. That to me is a luxury, because in my job it’s the opposite of quiet”
Check the HQ Digital Scans I added to the gallery and the outtake (click on the magazine cover for the first and the other photos for latter) and read the full article/interview in our press library.