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The Debt - Jessica Chastain interview

The Debt, Jessica Chastain

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JESSICA Chastain talks about the appealing of making The Debt given the intelligent nature of the script, the strength of her leading character and the opportunity to work closely with Helen Mirren.

She also talks about her career to date and how a wealth of recent roles – including The Tree of Life, The Help and Coriolanus – have provided her with plenty of opportunity to keep learning new things.

Q. What was the appeal for you?
Jessica Chastain: I was really excited when I read the script, with the character, because it’s rare I think to get a script where a woman is allowed to be very strong but at the same time vulnerable. It’s either like sometimes in a film, if the female role is strong that’s all she is. I felt with Rachel there was so much complexity and duality in her that was really exciting to explore. And of course working with John Madden, I was such a fan of his work and was so excited. I knew I would learn a lot from working with him. So, I was desperate to, and of course sharing a part with Helen Mirren. You can’t even get close to matching how brilliant she is, but I knew that I just wanted to be around her and just soak up her greatness.

Q. Did you have to work with Helen to develop seamless accents and mannerisms?
Jessica Chastain: I actually can give you an example of it, we were talking about the character at one point, and Rachel is twice in front of a group of people and they’re asking her the question: “Wwhat were you thinking, what was going through your mind when this incident happened?” She says: “I was thinking about my mother.” We both say that at different points in the film. And it was [John’s] idea actually. Helen said it’s interesting she’s telling the same story, it’s almost like being at a press junket. And when she said that we realised, in a way, that Rachel is telling the same story… she is putting on a character. So, when you watch that part in the film, it’s very obscure, but at the point when we say ‘I was thinking of my mother,’ both of us touched our heart at the same time. We assume that for those 30 years that she’s telling that story she’s doing the same thing because it’s almost like she’s living her life as a robot.

Q. You seem to have a lot of new movies out in the coming months, how do you deal with that and keep yourself grounded?
Jessica Chastain: It really is feast or famine in this business, which I’ve learned recently. I’ve made 11 films over the past four and a half years and for me it’s all about the experience of making the film because I have no control over how the film turns out, if it’s successful or not, or if it comes out or not. How long it takes for it to come out. So, I’ve always tried to choose projects that were a type of master-class for me, that I would leave gaining something from arriving to it. It’s a very strange experience now for me to learn the other side of the profession, the press side of it. In fact, we were talking on the way over here that I’d never done a press junket before this year, and now all of a sudden within the last six months it’s like every day, meeting people and talking about the films.

So, I’m still finding my footing with it. In real life my normal, personal life is exactly the same, I never get stopped, I think I’ve been recognised twice. Sometimes I get recognised for Bryce Dallas Howard! [Laughs] So, it hasn’t been difficult for me to stay grounded, because no one really treats me differently. Another exciting part is I get to meet filmmakers and actors that I’ve always really respected, and that’s an exciting time as the door’s opening for that.

Read our review of The Debt

Read our interview with Helen Mirren