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.”