“The 355” star Jessica Chastain details for Carlos Bustamante the scariest stunt she performed while shooting the film. Plus, Chastain shares why her favourite aspect of the film was working with other actresses who also own the film.
The two-time Oscar nominee joins EW’s The Awardist podcast to discuss her first time in heavy prosthetics and her first singing-extensive role in The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye, in which Jessica Chastain portrays the campy televangelist of the ’70s and ’80s, Tammy Faye Messner, marked multiple firsts for the two-time Oscar nominee. Notably, this was the first time she had to act through heavy prosthetics and the first time she took on a heavy singing role. That second part was a little more anxiety-producing than the first.
In a short period since blasting out of a cannon on the big screen in Terence Malick’s Oscar nominated and Palme d’Or-winning The Tree of Life in 2011, Jessica Chastain has quickly built a resume of playing strong willed women. Alas, some are Greek tragic heroes, who reach for the stars, only to fall short; Tammy Faye Bakker being one of them. She, along with her husband Jim Bakker, built PTL into a massive multi-million dollar earning evangelical television network, a solid amount he siphoned for personal use, ultimately serving close to five years in jail. Tammy Faye Bakker meant a lot of things to a lot of people: a soulful Christian singer, a sensitive preacher who reached across the aisle to recognize the plight of LGBT during the AIDS epidemic, as well as material for late-night talk show hosts in her ambitious fashion and make-up sense. Chastain yearned to get under her skin and tells us how she prepared for the role in the Searchlight movie and produced it.
DEADLINE: When did you get the desire to play Tammy Faye Bakker? Was it after seeing the documentary?
JESSICA CHASTAIN: It was definitely after the documentary, and I saw that around the time of Zero Dark Thirty press. I was jet-lagged somewhere, and I thought, wow. First of all, I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been made before as a film. She’s such an incredible character, but I think it was also that I was disappointed with how the media had told her story. And that Steve Pieters interview for me was such a radical act of love.
She really went against what the conservative evangelicals were saying at that time, and in some sense, the fear and the homophobia that was really prevalent in society across the board. I mean, the U.S. government wasn’t even talking about AIDS. So, what she did was so rebellious, such a radical act of love, and I wanted to celebrate that, and also, I think as an actress, I don’t think there’s a scarier part to play, because really, you know, your ass is on the line. The voice, the pitch is different, the accent is different. The singing, which is so embarrassing for me. I learned her songs and learned how to sing, you know. And then, also, this wonderful, ridiculous, camp quality that she loved and embraced. I mean, there’s so much in there that is just terrifying, but really, there’s a lot to tackle with this role.
Yesterday, Jessica attended a screening of her new movie “The Eyes Of Tammy Faye” in New York City. On November 18, she also attended another screening of the film before a Q&A in Nashville.
The 355 is coming, and Universal Pictures released a new trailer for the film. Enjoy watching it below!
The short film “The Sands Between” that Jessica shot under the direction of Aidan Tanner is finally here!
The short tells the story of a woman has a phone conversation with her significant other which slowly deteriorates as she comes to realize that the world around her might not be real.
Star Jessica Chastain takes the cover of Vogue Greece Magazine‘s December 2021 edition with a wonderful new photo shoot by fashion photographer Ned Rogers.
Jessica Chastain is hard to pin down. Her filmography so far includes sci-fi (Interstellar), drama (Scenes From A Marriage), thrillers (Zero Dark Thirty) and horror (Mama) – but with last year’s Ava and upcoming film The 355, she’s carving out a corner for herself as an action heroine.
A stylish spy movie with a stellar cast that also includes Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, Penélope Cruz and Sebastian Stan, The 355 takes inspiration from the code name of one of the first female spies for the United States during the American Revolution. It’s a passion project for Chastain – she pitched the idea to Simon Kinberg, after working with him on X-Men: Dark Phoenix, who became both writer and director for the project.
For Chastain, this was an opportunity to contribute something new to the female-led spy film canon. “I feel like the film industry has really got female spies wrong,” she tells Empire. “They’ve portrayed them as honeypots, and that’s not the reality of the situation. Women weren’t being used for their bodies, they were being used for their minds, which is a more interesting concept.”
The search for more challenging, expansive female roles could be, it seems, part of the reason for her genre-spanning career. “In the past seven years, I’ve really looked at the projects I’ve joined and the parts that I’ve played in terms of, ‘What difference am I making?’” she says. “‘How can I shape a conversation?’ I never really had the dream of being an action hero at all, but the reality is I’m excited to have 13-year-old girls and 13-year-old boys see women in these roles. It’s very important for society. We’ve moved against the status quo, and we’re creating our own narrative for it. This film is, in some sense, a political act.”
Jessica Chastain, Kirsten Dunst and Emilia Jones also join the discussion, sharing and swapping advice on industry anxieties (COVID or otherwise), the moment when success seemed furthest away, and the head of state they all admire.
“Welcome to the industry!” joked Jessica Chastain and Kristen Stewart to their younger cohort Emilia Jones as this year’s six participants on The Hollywood Reporter’s Actress Roundtable commiserated about overlooked labors of love (“Is anybody ever going to watch it?”), the degree to which fear drives their decisions (Jennifer Hudson and Kirsten Dunst say no, Tessa Thompson and Stewart say no longer) and navigating COVID-19 to give some of the year’s most acclaimed performances.
Convening at THR‘s headquarters in late October were: Chastain, star and producer of Michael Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye, in which she resurrects the infamous televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker; Dunst, who brings to life a 1920s remarried mother tormented by her brother-in-law in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog; Hudson, who channels Aretha Franklin in Liesl Tommy’s biopic Respect; Jones, who portrays a hearing child of deaf parents in Sian Heder’s CODA; Stewart, who inhabits Princess Diana in Pablo Larraín’s Spencer; and Thompson, who plays a 1920s Harlem housewife reconnecting with an old friend passing as white in Rebecca Hall’s Passing.
At the gathering, old friends Stewart and Dunst embraced while everyone exuded gladness to be communing in person. As Dunst put it, after nearly two years of living and working in a pandemic, it is a time to be appreciative of things more important than movies. “How do you define success? Your grandparents are alive,” she says with a wry laugh. “It’s a weird time.”
We are sitting down at a time when you’re each receiving widespread acclaim for your work, a time that must feel like a professional high point for each of you. Meanwhile, many tuning in to this conversation dream of a moment like this but feel it’s very far away. What, for each of you, was the moment when this seemed furthest away? And did you ever consider not continuing down this path?
JESSICA CHASTAIN No, because I grew up very poor. I think that’s a great thing, because I never had parents who were like, “You need to be a doctor!” It was just kind of like, “Whatever you want to do, go for it.” When I was in high school, I dreamed about being in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, working in the repertory company, so this is beyond! As long as I could pay my rent and had food, I was happy. I never really had a moment of, “I’m going to give it all up.”
Jessica is on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter November issue with a brand new photoshoot by Victoria Will. Enjoy the photos in the gallery!