You might want to remember the name Jessica Chastain. The reason is while you don’t know her name right now, by the end of the year, you will. That’s because Chastain has been acting in a ton of high profile movies over the past few years and most are going to get released this year. Here’s the list: Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, Ami Canaan Mann’s The Fields, John Madden’s The Debt, Al Pacino’s Wilde Salome, Tate Taylor’s The Help, and she’s about to start filming John Hillcoat’s The Wettest Country in the World opposite Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy. As I said, she’s about to step into the spotlight.
At this year’s Sundance, I was able to sit down with Chastain for an extended video interview to talk about Take Shelter – which premiered at this year’s Festival. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories), the film is about a young husband and father that must decide whether to shelter his family from the storm, or from himself, after being plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions. The film stars Michael Shannon and he delivers an incredible performance. Of course one of the reasons he’s so great is being able to play off Chastain, who really impressed me as a young mother and wife.
During our extended conversation, we discussed her early TV work like NBC’s Journeyman, what it was like to work for Malick on Tree of Life and his next film which stars Ben Affleck, who she plays in Wettest Country, and so much more. If you’d like to learn a lot about this rising actress, hit the jump to watch the interview. I’ve also pulled some quotes about working for Malick which only make me more excited to see The Tree of Life.
Here’s the time index of the interview. The video is further down the page.
- Jessica asks me what I thought of the movie
- :43 – What drew her to the project, talks about loving director Jeff Nichols’ previous film Shotgun Stories and how what he did with such a small budget for his first film made her eager to work with him on his second film.
- 1:47 – Talks about how the last few years of her life has been crazy, starting with working with Al Pacino, then meeting Terrence Malick which changed her world. Working with Malick led to her working with John Madden, Ralph Fiennes, John Hillcoat, Jeff Nichols, etc.
- 2:40 – Talks about being on the brink of “losing her anonymity.” Says she’s hoping to remain someone that people can relate to.
- 4:22 – Talks about being on the TV show Journeyman. Says while on the set of Journeyman she got a call to fly down to Austin to meet Terrence Malick.
- 5:25 – Talks about the sale of Take Shelter. Says the film was bought blind, before the festival even started. Says it was because of Michael Shannon, talks about working with him and how great he is.
- 6:00 – Talks about being at Sundance. Talks about being able to share the experience with her best friend.
- 6:45 – Talks about being at the premiere of the film and seeing it for the first time with a crowd. Says she could tell on Day 2 of filming how special the film was going to be.
- 7:47 – Talks about seeing the effects in the film for the first time. Says it was terrifying how real it looked.
- 8:31 – Talks about Tree of Life and waiting for the release. How the long wait has given her the opportunity to play characters different from her character in Tree of Life since no one’s seen it: “In the beginning it was like, ‘Oh my God when is this movie [coming out]? I just want everyone to know what I know about this film!’ The great thing about—I’ve done ten films so far, I’m about to go shoot my eleventh, and no one has seen really anything that I’ve done. The great thing about that is it’s allowed me to go meet directors, and them not have the baggage in their mind of a performance that I’ve done. They can actually, because they haven’t seen it, they actually go ‘Okay I can see her’ as the character I’m about to do. So I’m excited for everyone to see Tree of Life, but the great thing about it taking so long to come out is that it’s given me a lot of opportunity to do characters that are different from the character that I play in Tree of Life.”
- 9:41 – Talks about her experience working with Malick. Says she filmed a couple of days on his most recently filmed movie starring Ben Affleck: “I knew the script. I knew the story. Of course, every night he would give me pages to memorize for the next day, and sometimes when you’re on set you keep collaborating and he’s constantly giving you things to say and ideas to work with. But yeah he works in a very free form way. I actually went to that set and I played a couple days in Terry’s new film, and who knows if I’ll even end up being in Terry’s new film. But that was even a different experience than Tree. I think the great thing about Terry is he continues to evolve as a filmmaker and as a person so you can’t ever say ‘This is the way he makes a movie’ because, you know I did four months on Tree and then I went to his new set and it was kind of a different process. Similar, but still he’s always growing as a filmmaker.
- 11:20 – Talks about Malick’s camera work and what it’s like to act in that environment: “With Cheval the DP and Jörg the operator and Terry and myself, we would be working on a scene and it’s not ‘I’m the actor, you guys watch me I’m gonna do this.’ When we all work together, it’s all four of us [and] it’s like a dance. I know that sounds strange. But we don’t know what’s gonna happen. So I have these lines I’m gonna say, I’ll go out to the space that we’ve decided to film in and Jörg will start the camera and then start leading it towards me and then go past me and then Chiva would say ‘Oh the trees! The trees!’ And then Terry will yell out ‘Jessica!’ and then he’ll say a line, and then I’ll pause as everyone’s talking until it’s quiet, and then I’ll say the line right when the camera comes back. So you can’t take any credit. Like when people see the film it’ll be strange for me cause [they’ll say] ‘Oh great job!’, it’s difficult to say ‘Thank you’ because it’s not just me it’s Chivo it’s Jörg, it’s Terry it’s costume, everyone creates the character. Which is unlike anything I’ve ever done before.”
- 12:42 – Talks Wettest Country and how the project recently got financing and is back on track. Talks about meeting with director John Hillcoat.
- 14:10 – Talks about getting ready to start filming Wettest Country. Says they start filming in Atlanta in March. Talks about her character in the film, Maggie. Says the film is basically a 1930’s gangster movie.
- 15:24 – Talks about The Fields. Says she hasn’t seen the film yet, but a distribution deal is closing right now. Talks about working with director Aimee Mann.
- 16:10 – Talks about being prepared to go out and do promotion for all of the films she has coming out. Says she enjoys one-on-ones but that she hasn’t really gone on the road to promote a movie before.