Sunday, 4 September 2011

Watch This Space: Jessica Chastain

Unless you are a reasonably serious film fanatic, you probably haven't heard of Jessica Chastain. However, there can be no doubting the fact that by this time next year she will be a major star. The pale-skinned redhead is 30 years old, but only made her first major film appearance this year as the ethereal Mrs O'Brien in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. However, for the next year or two, the world will be seeing a whole lot of Jessica Chastain, and it will be seeing her in a number of highly anticipated films.

Hit the jump to see what I mean...

In a nutshell, she is the daughter of a fireman and a vegan chef, attended the Juilliard School of Drama in New York and was in the graduating class of best friend Jess Weixler (the blonde who acted in the disturbing-but-funny Teeth). That's all I really want to say, because the following list of films should say it all!

The Tree of Life

Director: Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven, the Thin Red Line)

Release Date: 16 May 2011 (Cannes)
and 12 August 2011 in SA.

Co-Stars: Sean Penn and Brad Pitt

Character: Mrs O'Brien, the wife of Brad Pitt's character, and in essence his polar opposite. Where his path through life follows "the way of nature", hers follows "the way of grace". And boy does she pull it off. In fact, she steals the show from two of the best actors in the business. One of my favourite sequences in the film commences with the clip below. There have been some murmurings that she may be in with a shot at an Oscar nomination for this role. Well, she has my vote!

The Debt

Director: John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, Proof)

Release Date: it played in some festivals in 2010 (including Toronto), but was released in the US on 31 August 2011. No SA release date yet.

Co-Stars: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson

Character: the young Rachel Singer (the older version is played by Helen Mirren), a Mossad agent. I have not seen the movie yet, so I don't want to see or write anything more. Her co-stars have praised her performance, and Sam Worthington even went so far as to secure a reunion in the Texas Killing Fields (see below). As he said director Ami Mann: "Get this girl. Trust me. She’s sweet and soft, but she’s a chameleon". The Debt has premiered to pretty solid reviews, from audiences and critics alike.

The Help

Director: Tate Taylor

Release Date: 10 August 2011 in the USA, 2 September in SA.

Co-Stars: Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney.

Character: Celia Foote, a buxom blonde southern wife with a heart of gold. People have been raving about the performances of Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis and Bryce Dallas Howard, but Jessica Chastain's performance cannot be overlooked. I loved her from the moment she appeared on screen, and her character brought some of the best scenes to the film, both comic and tragic. She had to gain some weight for the role and, being a vegan, ate melted soy ice cream to up the calories. Tasty. I actually watched the Help a short while before writing this, and loved it. Hopefully I can get round to doing a review soon.

 Take Shelter

Director: Jeff Nichols

Release Date: premiered 24 January 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival, in theatres 30 September 2011 in the USA, no date yet in SA.

Co Stars: Michael Shannon

Character: Samantha LaForche, wife of likely best actor nominee Michael Shannon's character. This is one of my top 5 most anticipated movies of this year, and I am crazed with excitement to see it. The New York Times sums her up nicely: "Michael Shannon may have the showier role as a man in the process of mentally unraveling, but it is Ms. Chastain’s performance as his supportive wife that’s the beating heart of that psychological thriller." Critics have been raving, and Take Shelter was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year, and won the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes. Finally, not only is the poster for this movie beautiful, but check out the trailer and try not to get goosebumps. Please, release it in SA now!


Director: Ralph Fiennes (yes, the actor, on debut)

Release Date: premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2011, in theatres in the USA on 13 January 2012. No SA release yet.

Co-Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave.

Character: the loyal Virgilia, wife of Coriolanus. The movie is a modern day adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy of the same name. It has been getting positive reviews, but not too much has been said yet. I am not sure how keen I am for this, since these loose Shakespeare adaptations have not always worked too well. However, with that cast, I will give it a shot.

Texas Killing Fields

Director: Ami Canaan Mann (daughter of the great Michael Mann)

Release Date: 14 October 2011 in the USA, no date yet in SA.

Co-Stars: Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Chloe Moretz.

Character: a small town cop, something different yet again from Ms Chastain! I don't know much about this film, but it stars one of my favourite young actresses (Chloe Moretz) and the trailer looks decent, so yet again I will be checking this one out.

Wilde Salome

Director: Al Pacino (yes, him!)

Release Date: currently showing at the Venice Film Festival. It premiered today, 4 August 2011.

Co-Stars: Al Pacino

Character: Salome, who else? This adaptation of the controversial Oscar Wilde play has been a labour of love for Al Pacino for many years. It has been described as an uncanny mix of documentary, fiction and improvisation, and a scintillating tale of lust, greed and one woman's scorn. This is what Pacino had to say today, just before the premiere of the film: "There is Jessica Chastain, who I really believe is the reason I made the movie", and "as soon as I met her, and saw her, I thought: This is the person to play 'Salome' and I must get her to play it before the world picks up on her — which it has done — and turns her into the next big star." Nuff said!

The Wettest County in the World 

Director: John Hillcoat (the Proposition, the Road)

Release Date: December 2011 in the USA (maybe).

Co-Stars: Shia Labeouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska, Guy Pearce. Character: Maggie. I don't know much, but she appears at the top of the list, so probably the lead. And wow, this crime-drama centered on a family of Depression-era bootleggers in the American South is directed by the crazy brilliant John Hillcoat, written by Nic Cave (the musician who wrote the Proposition, one of my all time favourites) and has one of the best casts conceivable. I cannot wait for this!

On the Horizons

As if the above list is not impressive enough, Ms Chastain will be starring in Terrence Malick's next movie too, tentatively titled The Burial (which has wrapped, but knowing him could come out anytime in the next 3 years) and the Guillermo Del Toro (love) produced Mama, based on the creepy-as-shit short film (where she plays a he plays a tattooed, child-hating bass player - say what?!). Finally, she is rumoured to have been cast alongside Tom Cruise in Joseph Kosinski's sci-fi movie Horizons (formerly Oblivion). If this rumour is true, she would have beaten the likes of Olivia Wilde (the current sci-fi "it girl"), Noomi Rapace (aka Lisbeth Salander), Olga Kurylenko (Bond-girl) and fellow up and comer Britt Marling to the role. Its a massive, tentpole sci-fi production, and is coming in 2013.

How did it all start? Well, apparently with Al Pacino, as Wild Salome has been in production forever. He praised her performance to Terry Malick, who cast her in the Tree of Life. He then recommended her to Steven Spielberg (whose Dreamworks Pictures made The Help), Jess Nichols (Take Shelter) and John Hillcoat (The Wettest County). The rest is history!

With eight movies coming out in 2011 alone, all of which look absolutely fantastic, we can be sure of one thing: Jessica Chastain is going to be huge! Considering that she is not only a brilliant actress, but also insanely hot, the more we see of Jessica Chastain in future, the better.

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