‘Tree of Life’ Star Jessica Chastain Talks About Her Very Busy Career
Phot: Fox Searchlight
Even more remarkable is how different Chastain is in each role. In "The Help," she's a bubbly Southern sexpot. In "The Debt," she's a deathly Israeli Mossad agent. And in "Tree of Life" she is a grieving '50s housewife. Her range is something to behold.
I managed to talk with her while she was on location in Canada for a horror flick called "Mama." We talked about working with eccentric director Terrence Malick, having a busy movie schedule, and the prospect of winning an Oscar.
Jonathan Crow: You're starring in six movies in one year. How did you do that?
Jessica Chastain: Yes, it's crazy isn't it? I never planned it like this. I didn't know that this would happen. But, you know, it's bizarre, my life hasn't changed at all. I went to the movies the other day and the movie theatre had three movies I was in. No one gave me a second glance. I'll be getting my popcorn, ready to go into something else and no one even looks at me. It's really kind of interesting, but… it's cool because it probably means that my characters perhaps looked different from me and maybe [viewers] don't connect the two.
Jonathan Crow: So tell me. How did you get into "Tree of Life" and all these other films?
Jessica Chastain: Well, "Tree of Life" was my big break. That was three years ago…
Jonathan Crow: You shot that three years ago?
Jessica Chastain: Yeah. I did the play "Salome" with Al Pacino and then he made it into the movie "Wilde Salome." That premiered in Venice Film Festival this year.
And then I got cast in "The Tree of Life." It was a huge audition. I knew the description of the character -- a woman from another time and filled with grace. So I tried to embody that in the audition. It was a couple of months, [the] audition process, and then I got the part and then they gave me the script.
Jonathan Crow: I am just curious: What did the script look like versus what you ended up seeing on the screen?
Jessica Chastain: It's very similar to what was on-screen. It's the exact same story that he wanted to tell. You didn't know how he was going to tell it but you knew the characters, you knew their significance. And it's beautiful; it's the best screenplay I've ever read because it's more than that. It's written almost in prose and in fact there are 20 pages of the script with no dialogue. It's all just prose, and it's beautifully written.
Jonathan Crow: And what was Malick like as a director?
Jessica Chastain: He is lovely. He is like a scene partner. He is not someone sits behind a monitor and then comes out and gives you notes. He's not like that. He is very close to the camera with [cinematographer] Emmanuel Lubezki and Erik Brown, the focus puller, and Jorg Widner, the camera operator. And as I am acting, they are also guiding me. We were inspiring each other. It's my favorite way I've ever worked. It's unlike anything I'll ever do again.