By Maria Estevez, MWN
Jessica Chastain was recently praised at the Toronto Film Festival, where she presented her new film ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye.’
“The first time I came to Toronto was in 2011. I was an unknown actress. But showing up here with three films – Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life,’ Tate Taylor’s ‘The Help’ and the sci-fi film ‘Take Shelter’ – changed my career forever,” the actress said.
“I’ve stopped being afraid of failure by showing up at festivals like this,” added Chastain, whose meteoric rise in Hollywood was solidified by two Oscar nominations for ‘The Help’ in 2012 and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ in 2013.
“If I’ve struggled against anything in my career it’s been against the label of being an ‘It Girl.’ I didn’t set myself up to be the girl of the moment, because you are replaced from one year to the next.”
In her new film called ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye,’ she makes a performance that could put her into the race for Oscars. The movie is a biopic about the late televangelist and singer Tammy Faye Bakker who, along with her husband, Jim Bakker, went from fame to infamy in the late 1980s when sex and money scandals involving Jim torpedoed their Christian broadcasting empire.
“The idea of gender has been erased because it flows the other way. A woman can be soft and at the same time an ambitious leader. You can be a man and show gentleness, but also be brave and strong. I have played different types of women throughout my career, and of them were powerful, because all women are. However, in this case, I liked the chance to dive into Tammy’s inner struggle.”
Tammy escaped the hit, but not the public shaming.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to meet her because she died in 2007, however, I had access to several documentaries about her that guided me to play the character,” the actress explained.
Chastain claims to respect Faye for her Christian values and her courage in supporting a gay minister in the 1980s against the views of evangelical opponents who criticized homosexuals during the AIDS years.
“It was very punk of her to remind the world that Christianity talks about having the strength to love one another and forgive. Tammy was a working woman who was unfairly judged for her husband’s mistakes. She was able to create three television networks and several broadcast networks. She hosted a lot of shows every day. She wrote books, she recorded songs, she worked constantly. She wasn’t greedy, she was a woman who was able to consolidate an empire.”
The magic of Chastain’s success is rooted in the characters she plays and in the empathy she conveys.
“I want to believe that feelings are contagious. There is a religion that says that if someone is violent you should respond with love because it changes people’s energy,” she concluded.
‘Scenes from a Marriage’
On the small screen, Jessica Chastain has appeared in the new HBO series, ‘Scenes from a Marriage.’
In 1973, Swedish television aired ‘Scenes From a Marriage,’ written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. It told the story of a couple who saw their marriage crumble over the course of several years, later condensed into a film that has been seen by virtually everyone. Almost 40 years later, television introduced a new chapter of the old story written by Hagai Levi, and starring Oscar Isaac and Chastain.
Their infidelities, resentments, guilt and emotions are portrayed in a narrative that, at times, seems like an exercise in acting.
“Oscar and I have known each other since college, we’ve been friends for a long time, but with this series, I tried to see it from another perspective. I was filled with Mira (her role) and Oscar became Jonathan for me. I even changed his name on my phone to Jonathan,” the actress explained.
The pair already collaborated on ‘A Most Violent Year’ in 2014. Chastain, who has two children from her marriage with fashion executive Gian Luca Passi, and Isaac, who has two children with his wife, screenwriter Elvira Lind, chose to meet again in the fiction of ‘Scenes from a Marriage.’
In order to find a meeting point to the current social moment, the new series changes the gender roles of the plot. Chastain’s Mira abandons Oscar’s Jonathan who works from home to care for their daughter.
“She’s been trying to live by the gender roles that society dictates and, when we meet her, she’s a mute version of herself. In her evolution, we see a woman who crosses a desert to discover a love story without property, without possession, without gender roles or masks. I wanted to show that happiness can come from being an independent woman,” Chastain commented.
This intimate saga reveals how personal and professional growth, as well as social pressures, can affect two people in love.
“Shooting this character has been heartbreaking. I’ve never played such a difficult character in my career,” she concluded.