Jessica Chastain Reveals How Tom Cruise Saved 'Zero Dark Thirty'

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By Stephen Galloway, The Hollywood Reporter

Jessica Chastain would never have made Zero Dark Thirty if it weren’t for one person: Tom Cruise.

“I got cold-called by [director] Kathryn Bigelow,” said the actress, describing how she first got word of the role as a CIA agent for the 2012 film. “I was in Toronto, and I had heard from [producer] Megan Ellison. We had done a film, [2012’s] Lawless, together. And she said, ‘By the way, do you know Kathryn Bigelow’s trying to get a hold of you? She wants to meet with you on something.’ And I was like, ‘What? Please give her my number.’ ”

After speaking to Bigelow, she accepted the part even before reading the screenplay. But with the Mark Boal script in hand, she knew she had to make the film. That’s when she encountered trouble.

“I was signed to do another movie,” she continued. “I was contractually obligated to do something else that I was really wanting to do, and I was excited to do [the 2013 thriller Oblivion, starring Cruise]. But when this came my way, I realized I had to do this. And the person who made it possible for me to do this movie is Tom Cruise. Someone contacted him from my agency and said, ‘Listen, she wants to work with you. And she would love to, but there is this other film, and it’s so important.’ And he said, ‘OK, we’re going to let you out of your contract.’ ”

The two have never worked together, said Chastain, but “I really hope to find something in the future to do with him because I’m very grateful.” She added, “I’ve seen him afterwards. And I was like, ‘Dude, you’re awesome!’ ”

So is the character Chastain plays in her new movie, The Zookeeper’s Wife, based on the Diane Ackerman book about the real-life Antonina Zabinski, who saved hundreds of Jews from the Nazis by hiding them in her Warsaw zoo. The picture opened March 31. Chastain never got to meet Zabinski, who died in 1971, though she did speak to her daughter. But she has thought about whether she might do the same thing in similar circumstances.

“I think to answer that so easily diminishes the danger and the peril and the sacrifices that people made,” she said March 29, speaking at Loyola Marymount University, where she took part in the Hollywood Masters interview series. “I would like to think in every part of my being that I would have done the same thing. It was a big decision for them to make, This is why there was so much tragedy in that time period. You know, if you did anything to help, your children would be shot.”

While making Zookeeper’s Wife in 2015, Chastain wrote an impassioned article for The Hollywood Reporter on the pleasure of having so many women working on a movie.

Asked if anything’s changed since, she replied: “I haven’t witnessed big changes. The more we hold people accountable, that’s how you get action. It’s one thing to say, ‘Oh, thank you for talking about it,’ [but what matters is] what are you doing about it? All the studio heads who say, ‘You know, when I’m casting or I’m hiring a director for a film, they’re not on the list,’ well, if someone hands you a list that’s only male directors, it’s your job to say, ‘Can I please also have female directors on this list? Can you give me some diversity?’ You have to look at your life and say, ‘What can I do to put it in action?’ Because talk is cheap.”

She added: “Someone should write an article about [the] incredible filmmakers that I love, and look at their lives and their careers and say, ‘Have they ever made a movie about a woman?’ And that’s the sad thing, because there are many people I would love to work with [who haven’t].”

Click the link if you want to read the transcript of the full interview with Jessica Chastain at The Hollywood Reporter.

‘Oblivion’ starring Tom Cruise (and almost co-starring Jessica Chastain): Watch a trailer:


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