It's kind of remarkable to think that almost a year ago Jessica Chastain was barely known. Sure, geekier film folks (like us) might have known her as the girl who Terrence Malick had cast in "The Tree of Life," but few knew that she was going to be quite as omnipresent as she turned out be in 2011, starring and impressing in no less than six films (plus "Wilde Salome" on the festival circuit).
Now, she's firmly arrived, and served as part of the jury at the Marrakech Film Festival where we caught up with Chastain earlier in the week, and she spilled the beans on a few of her upcoming projects, including John Hillcoat's "Wettest County" and a brief reunion with Malick for his untitled next film.
The latter film, which stars Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem, Rachel Weisz, Olga Kurylenko (who we also chatted with at the fest) and more, wasn't initally reported as having Chastain as part of its cast, and there's a reason for that. Her appearance in the film was something of a last-minute occasion, brought about purely by personal connection. "What happened was I was working on 'The Help' with Sissy Spacek," Chastain said, "and her husband is Jack Fisk who does all of [Malick's] production design. And so they were over there in Oklahoma and we were in Mississippi, and I called him one time I was in my trailer... he just said 'Hey, why don't you come visit?', because I love that whole crew, they're like family to me. So I said okay, we planned this trip, I was going to come visit, and then, right before, I started getting calls from the producers that they were organising my airfare, and I was like 'Well, why are you guys paying?' And then two days before I got there, I got another call from a producer who was like 'Would you mind playing a part in the film?' and of course I would do anything on any of his films, I would work on the crew of his films, I love working with him."
Chastain says she wouldn't hold her breath to see herself in the finished film, however, "Because it happened like that I don't think I'm going to end up in the movie. I really just think I was there, three days, acting with Ben Affleck, and I don't know what the movie is about, I don't know what my part is and you know, my guess is I'm probably not in the film." She wouldn't be the first to be cut out of one of Malick's films, after all...
While we're still waiting for a release date on that project, John Hillcoat's period gangster tale "Wettest County" will land in the spring and finds Chastain co-starring with Shia LaBoeuf, Tom Hardy, Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce and Jason Clarke. It's one of our most anticipated films of the year, and it sounds like Chastain's looking forward to seeing it just as much as we are. "Oh, my, I think it is going to be such a great film," Chastain said. "I haven't seen it yet, but I had, like, the front row seat for the performances... Because, you know, I'm acting opposite Guy Pearce and Tom Hardy and Shia...And the work that Shia does in this film is not like anything I've ever seen him do."
And it sounds like it'll be a bit of a break from the wholesome portraits of motherhood she's played in "The Tree of Life," "Coriolanus" and "Take Shelter." "I play Maggie," Chastain told us, "she's this gun moll from Chicago and she goes on the run -- no one really knows why, she's this mysterious woman -- she ends up in Franklin County, this storefront with these three brothers and she asks for a job. So then you have the element of these men who never had a woman around, and she's, um, used to being around a lot of men, so it's a very fun dynamic. Most of my scenes are with Tom [Hardy]. There's a love story. It's fun because he plays a man who has no idea how to even talk to a woman, and so their roles are kind of reversed, she has this masculine energy, and he, well he doesn't have feminine energy, but he has this shyness, it's really a fun dynamic."
The film's nearly done, and it sounds like she'll be seeing the thing soon: "Nick Cave wrote the script and the music is INSANE, and I'm going to see it when I get back to LA, so I'm excited to see what they did in the editing room."And her next shoot, early next year, will be something very different again, a sci-fi tentpole from "Tron: Legacy" director Joseph Kosinski, opposite Tom Cruise, and Chastain says it wasn't just a simple paycheck. "It's a great, great script. The most important thing for me always is that the script is top notch, and the people I'm working with. It's funny because I've never done a film where I'm really not allowed to talk about the movie."
Another project on the way, that is not so certain at this point, is "Caught In Flight," a biopic of Princess Diana to be directed by Olivier Hirschbiegel ("Downfall"), which the actress was linked to last month. Chastain says she's in talks, but won't be locked down until she feels confident with the story being told. "I love taking risks and I want to always do projects that I think I may fail in cause then you really force yourself to rise to the occasion, but when you're playing a real person you have to be absolutely aware and educated as you can be on their life and that you're telling the right story in the right way. So all of us involved in this projects are looking to make sure that if and when it happens, it will be with great respect... it's a huge risk, which makes me want to do it more, but I also want to make sure it's the right story."
"Take Shelter" and "Coriolanus" are both in theaters now, while "Wettest County" hits on April 20th, 2012, the Malick project and the Guillermo del Toro-produced horror film "Mama" follow later in the year, and "Oblivion" will finally be unleashed on July 19th, 2013. We'll have more from our interview with Chastain soon. --reporting by Jessica Kiang