Let Me Be The Bad One

Marie Claire
Published October 08, 2012


Rising stars. Jessica Chastain walks the suite of Royal Monceau in Paris and it seems like her 50’s style dresss prinkles stardust all over. It isn’t surprising that the Oscar actress brings such class: in The Tree of Life she was a pure light soul, such as Terrence Malick didn’t find awkward to let her float from the ground. Now, while she welcomes us in this temple of grandeur like it is her own living room, she looks all of a different grace: sensual, seductive and perfect. You cannot admire her, the ex thin girl from a any place in North California who studied (acting in Julliard, because of a subvention to meritorious students donated by Robin Williams, and also dancing, many languages, Renaissance arts…) like a real nerd, breaking into the star system like a divine diva. Real. And it’s so for her mysterious charm and strong-willed soul that Yves Saint Laurent chose her as new testimonial of its perfume Manifesto. <>, Chastain starts during our meeting in occasion of the launch of the perfume.

SHE IS SOON TO BE recognized icon of beauty and style. What would you like women and men to admire in you?

I would like women to admire my differences. I am not 1.78 tall, I don’t look like a top model, I’m different: if they would admire this in me, probably they’d feel more comfortable with themselves as well, with their particular traits which make them unique and beautiful. As for men, I would like them to admire my passion. They love femininity, but if you find a partner who loves you for your strength it’s the best.

But we do not know if she found that one; she even mysteriously hide her real age, think of it (from Julliard archives it seems like she is 37…). But please, we never see you in company and at the Oscar (nominated for The Help) you were with your grandmother. Aren’t you afraid of being labeled as hot spinster of Hollywood?

I’m not afraid at all! I know people ask why I never am pictured with a man, but my work is being an artist, an actor. More than a celebrity an actress. If people want to think of me as a spinster, it’s okay. I would be… ( she corrects herself she’s more charming if she’s not being too modest). I would be a very glamourous spinster! And it’s really a good thing. It does show, indeed, women don’t need a man to define. I define myself.

DO IT BY HERSELF it is, after all, the drive that leads her life, since she can recall.

When I was younger I read To Kill a Mockingbird and I heard a earthslide: it was the first time I met such determinate female protagonist. I did even called one of my dogs Radley, from the Boo Radley character (she even has a dog she named Chaplin as a cinematic like she is). I do read the book again as soon as I’ve some time, and I suggest it to others. Just like I often see The Wizard of Oz: the scene in which Judy Garland sings Somewhere over the rainbow, black and whites become colors and she starts the way it’s… it’s what I’m living now. I am inside The wizard of Oz.

So for, after Malick film and the red carpet in Cannes, Chastain’s career didn’t just go on, it exploded: on November 1st she will be in Broadway in The Heiress piece (with role that in 1949 was to Olivia de Havilland); in December she’s in cinemas next to Tom Hardy in Lawless, screening and musics by Nick Cave. She just ended shooting Zero Dark Thirty from Kathryn Bigelow about the capture of Osama Bin Laden and she is on New York set of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, a two acts love story (from his and her points), with James McAvoy. To arrive to here you must have put some specific rules. Did you break them?

The rule I follow everyday is to look in people’s eyes, the strangers ones too, like the waiter who brings me the dinner. My diktat is to make a connection.
At work, instead, I do easily transgress than I used to do in the past: in college I studied really hard. Even my teachers suggested me to slow down a bit, to try and get some fun. But I forced myself into concentrating, I was never going out. I still apply very hard, but I’m more open to take it easy now.

Is it for this severity that directors involved you in movies about morality and interior rules?

Maybe because I am a girl that act with passion and impulse, but the same time I don’t let it to afflict me. I have a deep sense in justice. I know where is the right. As a kid I suffered from injustice and humiliations, they keep mocking me because I was red-head, fragile and different. So I learn to take the part of the defenceless. Bullying people is the worst thing in the world. So maybe that is the reason: when I see the bad I become sort of a fighter. Free cruelty gets me very angry, it fires up a light in me.

Fire. It’s a word they often use to describe you. And your father is a firefighter and you dream of a fireplace: is this your element?

It’s funny, but it’s true! I found the apartment with a fireplace, in New York. I will be there around Christmas time, it will be very cold and I’m sensitive to cold. And I love the smell of burnt wood around the house. I’m happy to come back home the evening after the play and find a fireplace to wait. And yeah I’ve to admit I’m a very hot woman.

She laughs the divine Chastain, but looking in her eyes you can see she isn’t much joking.

HOT you have to be when, unknown, you dance without music in the veiled role of Salomè, in front of Al Pacino. It was an audition in 2006: he signed her up as protagonist for the theatre play and for the movie after (Wilde Salomone, never out here in Italy). How do you feel to be in frond of cinema legends?

I’m clumsy, at first meetings I’m always embarassed. The most awkward situation it was with Philip Seymour Hoffman (she played with him in Othello). He came to me, started to talk and I couldn’t keep my hands off my face. I was there, with my fingers pressing my nose and repeating “Oh my God, I can’t believe it!”. So he became strange… I’m lucky I’m a fan who can meet her idols. And learn from them. (Who knows if after auteur films and inspiring duets, will you be ready to be, don’t know, the next Bond Girl). I wanna be bad,in a Bond movie. Wouldn’t it be cool? I’m interested in a bad-girl role, powerful and tough. We are much more than just beauty. Is it why I’m so happy about the innovative project of Yves Saint Laurent, with Manifesto. Beauty and femininity are important, and we know how to use them as a weapon with men. But I also want to play roles of brilliant minds. This, the best would be a genius bad girl, with a trained body, who can fight!

She answered all our questions with elegance, without hesitate. At last I ask her to note on a paper her music playlist. She accepts it smiling, but for the first time I see her thinking deeply asking fortime to do it:

It’s hard to chose. I’m feeling the pressure.

Just like three (very romantic) songs could, or should, tell the world who is Jessica Chastain.

Tranlated to English by Claudia