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Shooting “Scenes From a Marriage”: ‘I Cried Every Day’

There were days on the shoot for “Scenes From a Marriage,” a five-episode limited series that premieres Sept. 12 on HBO, when Oscar Isaac resented the crew.

The problem wasn’t the crew members themselves, he told me on a video call in March. But the work required of him and his co-star, Jessica Chastain, was so unsparingly intimate — “And difficult!” Chastain added from a neighboring Zoom window — that every time a camera operator or a makeup artist appeared, it felt like an intrusion.

On his other projects, Isaac had felt comfortably distant from the characters and their circumstances — interplanetary intrigue, rogue A.I. But “Scenes” surveys monogamy and parenthood, familiar territory. Sometimes Isaac would film a bedtime scene with his onscreen child (Lily Jane) and then go home and tuck his own child into the same model of bed as the one used on set, accessorized with the same bunny lamp, and not know exactly where art ended and life began.

“It was just a lot,” he said.

Chastain agreed, though she put it more strongly. “I mean, I cried every day for four months,” she said.

Isaac, 42, and Chastain, 44, have known each other since their days at the Juilliard School. And they have channeled two decades of friendship, admiration and a shared and obsessional devotion to craft into what Michael Ellenberg, one of the series’s executive producers, called “five hours of naked, raw performance.” (That nudity is metaphorical, mostly.)

“For me it definitely felt incredibly personal,” Chastain said on the call in the spring, about a month after filming had ended. “That’s why I don’t know if I have another one like this in me. Yeah, I can’t decide that. I can’t even talk about it without. …” She turned away from the screen. (It was one of several times during the call that I felt as if I were intruding, too.)


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Jessica Chastain & Oscar Isaac On Portraying The Intensity & Intimacy Of ‘Scenes From A Marriage’: “Bourbon Helped”

Deadline — Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain spoke this morning about some of the challenges behind new TV drama Scenes From A Marriage which is debuting at the Venice Film Festival.

Adapted from Ingmar Bergman’s lauded 1973 Swedish miniseries, the HBO mini-series re-examines Bergman’s iconic depiction of love, hatred, desire, monogamy, marriage and divorce through the lens of a contemporary American couple. Chastain plays Mira, a confident, ambitious tech executive left unfulfilled by her marriage. Isaac is Jonathan, a cerebral and accommodating philosophy professor desperate to keep their relationship intact.

The new drama heralds from acclaimed Israeli TV writer-director Hagai Levi, known for series including In TreatmentThe Affair and Our Boys.

Chastain admitted that the project was an intense one to make: “It felt incredibly exposing”, she said. “It was hard to go home and leave it at work. Part of myself was in it.” Continue reading Jessica Chastain & Oscar Isaac On Portraying The Intensity & Intimacy Of ‘Scenes From A Marriage’: “Bourbon Helped”

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Jessica Chastain and real-life pal Oscar Isaac redo Bergman

CTV News — Jessica Chastain has been friends with Oscar Isaac since their Julliard days but says it was “a blessing and a curse” to play his wife in a remake of Ingmar Bergman’s classic “Scenes From a Marriage,” which premiered Saturday at the Venice Film Festival.

It was a blessing because they didn’t need to get to know one another and could be brutally honest with one another. But it was also a curse because they couldn’t take a break from their togetherness and got to the point “where we were reading each others minds!”

“So I was like ‘Get out of my head!”‘ Chastain told reporters ahead of the premiere. “I felt on this job that there was no quiet time.”

The project was an intense one, reimagining in a contemporary American context the unravelling of a marriage depicted in Bergman’s 1973 Swedish television miniseries that starred Bergman’s longtime partner, Liv Ullmann. In this five-episode HBO series directed by Hagai Levi, the gender roles are essentially flipped and the circumstances brought up-to-date.

Isaac, who has two other movies showing at Venice, agreed that their close friendship posed “its own challenges” when filming such an inherently fraught projectm since “you care about the person so much.”

The two, who starred together in the 2014 “A Most Violent Year,”‘ used an intimacy coordinator and lots of talking to map out the bedroom scenes to make sure both were comfortable.

Isaac, who noted that their children are together in the same play group, said he and Chastain also watched films together to try to figure out how to represent the sexual side of their relationship to make it seem truthful without going overboard.

“There are so many times you don’t buy it, and then it can get too gratuitous and you don’t really buy that either,” Isaac said.

Chastain said she appreciated talking through the characters and mapping out their relationship ahead of time.

“I would still get embarrassed, so bourbon helped a lot,” Chastain said, giggling. “But the level of trust was high.”

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Jessica Chastain Reaches New Heights

The actress opens up about her upcoming film, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and television series, Scenes from a Marriage.

In 2012, not long after Jessica Chastain wrapped Zero Dark Thirty, a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller about the search for Osama Bin Laden that garnered the 44-year-old actress her second Academy Award nomination, she took a serious look at the Hollywood around her.

“I immediately saw there weren’t a lot of options for women, at least in terms of great characters that are different. Actresses were regulated to a single type,” says Chastain, talking via Zoom while on vacation with friends and family in Italy. Studying acting and repertory theater at Juilliard in New York had given her a wide breadth of choice roles, but, suddenly, she opened her eyes to see that the film world might be “a tad limiting in terms of what people were offering.”

It was around that time that Chastain stumbled on the 2000 documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Narrated by RuPaul, it’s about the life of the late Tammy Faye Messner, a Christian TV personality, singer and evangelist often parodied for her marriage to Jim Bakker (who was later imprisoned for fraud and conspiracy), not to mention her over-the-top style, which included heavy makeup and a perpetual tan. Messner died in 2007 of colon cancer.

“I knew about Tammy from what I’d seen on Saturday Night Live, but I actually had never seen her give an interview until I watched the documentary,” Chastain says. “My impression from sketch television was that she cried all the time, she was a crook and always had mascara running down her face.”

But Chastain found herself particularly moved by the film and Messner’s message that “everyone is deserving of love,” she explains. So she called her agent and manager and bought the narrative feature film rights to the documentary herself.


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Why televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker was the hardest role of Jessica Chastain’s career

Jessica Chastain’s whole body was shaking. She’d never been this nervous on a film set — not with the kind of anxiety that gave her trouble breathing.

What am I so afraid of? The thought reverberated in her head. She’d played a superhero so powerful she could rearrange the structure of matter. The ringleader of a high-stakes underground Hollywood poker game. A CIA analyst who took down Osama bin Laden.

But this was Tammy Faye Bakker, the infamous televangelist recognized more for her heavy makeup than the fact that her husband, Jim, stole millions from his own parishioners. To play her, Chastain would put on gobs of mascara and lip liner, adopt a thick Minnesotan accent and belt out songs about loving Jesus.

“I was scared the people were going to make fun of me,” the actor recalled of her on-set jitters. “And there’s going to be a lot to make fun of if I fail because it’s so out there. I’m swinging for the fences here.”

But that was the reality Bakker — who died in 2007 after a long bout with cancer — faced every day. Remembering the ridicule Bakker endured — and ultimately ignored — allowed Chastain to quell her panic: “You have to let go of your ego and wanting to look cool. This is connecting you to her.”

“The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” out Sept. 17, will mark the culmination of Chastain’s near-decade-long journey to bring Bakker’s story to the big screen. In 2012, while on the press tour for “Zero Dark Thirty,” she was switching through the TV channels in her hotel room when she stumbled across a documentary on Bakker. Chastain had seen the film — directed by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey in 2000 —- before, but on this night she connected with it on a different level.

So she secured the rights to the doc, which had the same name as the eventual feature film. She had yet to establish her production company, Freckle Films, but still found a home for the project at Fox Searchlight. The studio will debut the film next month at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the 44-year-old Chastain will receive the event’s Tribute Actor Award.

She has another movie playing at the festival — “The Forgiven,” a drama co-starring Ralph Fiennes — and also will appear in an HBO limited-series remake of Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes From a Marriage” beginning Sept. 12.

From her home in the countryside of New York, where only birdsong interrupted her speech, Chastain spoke to The Times about playing Bakker.


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Jessica Chastain Enters Oscar Race with TIFF Award Tribute

As the 46th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (running September 9–18) moves forward in hybrid form with live events in Toronto as well as virtual screenings, Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey, Co-Heads of TIFF, are adding another awards tribute to follow the already announced TIFF Ebert Director Award to Canadian auteur Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”). This year’s Actor Award goes to two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, whose performance and makeup as a notorious televangelist in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (September 17, Searchlight), is picking up Oscar buzz. Michael Showalter’s long-delayed marital dramedy will make its world premiere at TIFF.

2021 Oscar-winners Sir Anthony Hopkins (Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Father”) and Chloé Zhao (Searchlight’s “Nomadland”) and nominated composer Terence Blanchard (Netflix’s “Da 5 Bloods”) all launched their Oscar campaigns at TIFF’s second annual Tribute Awards fundraiser. The year before, TIFF’s first Awards Gala honored eventual Oscar winners Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”) and Joaquin Phoenix (“The Joker”).

In a statement, Vicente cited such notable TIFF Chastain premieres as “The Debt,” “Take Shelter,” “The Martian,” “Crimson Peak,” and “Molly’s Game,” adding, “She is one of the most respected actors of her generation. Her recent portrayal of Tammy Faye Bakker is a testament to her exceptional onscreen presence and talent.”

“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” will track “the rise, fall, and redemption through the ’70s and ’80s of thick-lashed singing televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker, who rose with her husband, Jim Bakker, from a humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park.” Eventually, their heavy spending and financial improprieties brought down their empire.

Chastain will next be seen opposite Oscar Isaac in HBO’s “Scenes from a Marriage,” an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s 1970s miniseries. In 2022, she will be seen in “The 355,” an international spy thriller based on an original idea by Chastain for her production company Freckle Films. Chastain will shortly play music legend Tammy Wynette in the limited series “George & Tammy” opposite Josh Brolin.

In 2019, Chastain starred in the global hit sequel “It Chapter Two,” and, prior to that, in the X-Men franchise, “Dark Phoenix,” and Aaron Sorkin’s “Molly’s Game,” which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. She has also starred in the critically acclaimed “A Most Violent Year,” “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” “Miss Julie,” “Interstellar,” and Terrence Malick’s Academy Award-nominated drama “Tree of Life,” “The Debt,” “Take Shelter,” “Zero Dark 30,” and “The Help,” for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Source: Indiewire.com

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