“I want to make sure I’m contributing to creating diversity in the industry,” wrote Jessica Chastain in a guest feature for The Hollywood Reporter yesterday. Chastain has a long and inspiring history of championing Hollywood inclusivity, both onscreen and behind the scenes, so this essay is far from the first time she’s directly contributed to revitalizing the industry by pushing the dialogue forward.
“The Martian” star is currently in Prague filming “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” directed by Niki Caro (“McFarland, USA”). Chastain gushed that she’s “never been on a set with so many women… way more than [she’s] ever worked with on a film before.” The female-centric project is not only helmed by a woman, but produced and written by women. “Usually on a movie it would be me and maybe two or three other women, even though there are 100 people there,” the Oscar nominee contextualized. (She estimated that the set of “The Zookeeper’s Wife” is still only about 20% female — but that’s dramatically more women than she’s used to having around on set.)
Chastain challenged the notion that men and women can’t or shouldn’t direct certain genres or stories on the basis of their gender, citing her “Zero Dark Thirty” director Kathryn Bigelow as an example of a woman who can do “incredible action films,” as well as the late Anthony Minghella for helming “beautiful, sensitive romances.”
“For me,” she explained, “sex really isn’t the qualifier in the way someone directs — but I just know that when you have a set with predominantly one gender, whether it be all men or all women, it’s not going to be a healthy place.”
Chastain wrote that having both sexes represented helps foster community on set, with everyone “participating in the exchange of ideas.” “You don’t feel a hierarchy,” she said. “You don’t have anyone feeling like they are being left out or bullied or humiliated. Sometimes being the only girl on set, you can feel like a sexual object.”
“We all hang out all the time — there are no strange power plays or egos,” she said of her experience making “The Zookeeper’s Wife.” She continued, “We know how rare making this kind of film is. We’re giddy with happiness.”
Chastain listed the female directors she has worked with, including Ami Canaan Mann (“Texas Killing Fields”) and Liv Ullmann (“Miss Julie”), and mentioned that she’ll be working with another woman in a project that hasn’t been announced yet (so we have that to look forward to!).
She noted, “In this industry, female filmmakers have had a really hard time of it,” and cited the fact that only about “four percent of Hollywood studio movies are directed by women.” Chastain vowed, “I don’t want my percentages to be the same as the status quo.”
The actress observed that when it comes to female directors versus male directors, women simply “are not given the same opportunity.”
Chastain’s piece is definitely worth reading in full. She also addresses the need for more female critics, why she thinks things are finally changing for the better and documents her own experiences dealing with sexism from male directors.
[via The Hollywood Reporter]