It’s hard to believe that Jessica Chastain’s career as an actress took off just five years ago in 2011. That year, she starred in “The Help,” which was both a critical and a commercial success, along with Terence Malick’s unconventional narrative, “The Tree of Life.” Thanks to “The Help,” Chastain not only became a household name, but also, at the same time, her participation in “The Tree of Life” garnered her repute as a serious actress amongst her peers.
2014 was perhaps Chastain’s biggest year yet. Her projects this year — “Interstellar,” “A Most Violent Year” and “Miss Julie” — demonstrate her flexibility as a performer, which is a skill that has made it possible for her to successfully work with many different types of directors, whose stylistic preferences in certain cases, may stand in direct opposition to one another.
The challenge of making a readjustment for a particular director, however, is what gets Chastain excited. As she points out in the video below, the main reason she took on the titular role in “Miss Julie” is because she relished the opportunity to work with world cinema icon Liv Ullmann.
In Ullmann’s cinematic adaptation of August Strindberg’s famous play of the same name, Chastain plays a young aristocratic woman who enjoys flirting with her father’s valet, played by Colin Farrell. The story takes place over the course of a single day, as sexual tensions between Chastain and Farrell’s characters escalate.
Chastain gives a searing performance as Miss Julie and in these two videos, she delves further into how the person in director’s chair — in this case, Ullman — impacts her decision to work on a project.
When trying to understand a character, Chastain tries to come at it from both the inside and the outside. “I always start with what she says about herself and what other people say about her,” Chastain says in the video below.
The way she describes her own approach makes us think that it’s not too far-fetched to think that some day we’ll be seeing her in the director’s chair herself.
This feature was originally published on January 12, 2015.