Jessica Chastain: “I’m not an actor to be a personality.”



Why choose to be an actor? Or pursue any form of creative expression? The answers help define our identity as a creative person, and fuel our motivation.

Actor Ciarán Hinds recalled an armourer who spoke to him on the set of one of his sword-and-sandal epics: “He said, ‘Do you know what we call you guys? Talking props.’ That made me laugh so much.

“Bring on the talking props. That’s what we are. There’s a bit more to it. But sometimes not that much more.”

From post: Ciarán Hinds on egos and acting.

Jessica Chastain has talked about what inspires her to be an actor, and to make acting meaningful for herself and her audiences.

“I have always known I wanted to be an actress, but my New York experience made me realize that my desire had nothing to do with becoming famous or making money, I was interested in exploring the human soul, its complexity, I wanted to work to understand something about life and myself.

“Being an actress means being in another person’s shoes and therefore understanding what the person whose role you play feels; but also connecting with other human beings, as a mark of profound professional intimacy, that often touches the soul.” [imdb.com]

Chastain once commented about her unusual appearance and seeking roles: “When I first moved to LA, it was very difficult. All the casting directors didn’t know what to do with me, with the way I looked.

“I’m not blonde with tanned skin and tall and skinny. I looked very different – and they said I looked like I was from another time.” (imdb.com)

A newspaper article noted she has gained acclaim for her work and has at least three films putting her in Oscar contention: “Take Shelter,” “The Help” and “The Tree of Life.”

[Her outstanding performance in "Zero Dark Thirty" came later.]

The article continues:

‘But before she was everywhere, she says, she was nowhere. “I would be attached to these beautiful projects, with Al Pacino or Terrence Malick and Brad Pitt, or Helen Mirren and for some reason … the companies would just keep getting sold,” she recalls. “It was like, ‘Gosh, I am the most unlucky person.'”

‘In what appears to be a Chastain characteristic, however, the glass was always half-full. “I took advantage of the delays and kept working. The great thing is it created a blank slate,” she says.

“A director could see me without having knowledge of a performance that might have typecast me, so I took advantage of that a lot. This year … is the flip side of that.” //

‘Chastain started her arc toward the other side by earning a scholarship at Juilliard, and banging around in such TV shows as “Law & Order: Trial by Jury” and “Veronica Mars” for a few years until all of that hard feature work just took off. And now she’s having to deal with some of the biggest challenges of her career, including figuring out how to swing into the mainstream of success, keeping her open heart and earnest eagerness intact.

‘Already she laments feeling treated differently once she’s revealed as a movie actress. At a recent dinner party, a lively conversation quieted once she told the strangers she was talking to what she did for a living. “Immediately, I could see their eyes change,” she says.

“The conversation stopped being this free, equal thing. They separated from me. But I don’t want that to happen — how can I play normal people if I’m separate?”

‘Working next to Pitt showed her what being separate is like: “There were paparazzi trying to get pictures of him, and when the film came out, do you know how many people were asking me what he was like as a parent? That’s none of my business!” she says. “I remember thinking that for your whole life, there’s going to be someone who wants something.”

‘Her openness and sincerity, qualities that she telegraphs so clearly in her performances, are precious commodities and, at this stage, Chastain keeps them on her sleeve. It’s almost hard to imagine that one day she’ll have to draw them in a little deeper and keep the things that allow her to play an idealized mother, or the embodiment of grace, out of sight for her own protection. She already says she’ll stop doing interviews when the questions become about her, rather than the work.

“I love talking about the films, I love cinema. But me … that’s so uninteresting,” she says.

‘Many would disagree, even if the sentiment makes sense. For now, Chastain’s hat trick of performances threatens to undermine the career she’s worked so hard to build up.

‘No matter how award season wraps up, she’s going to have to fight hard to prevent her “it” status from flipping into celebrity of blockbuster proportions. Expect more indie films with strong characters, or perhaps a return to the theater. Whatever she does, however, she’ll do it with grace.’

“Right after ‘Tree of Life’ came out, I started hearing about strategies for my career,” she says. “And I made a decision that I wasn’t going to do anything based on a strategy. If I don’t continue to challenge myself and risk failure, I have no business being an actor.

“I’m not an actor to be a personality. I want to see every part I take like a master class. And you know what? I’m going to fail sometimes. And that’s OK. Because when you fail, you learn more.”

From Jessica Chastain wants to be an actress, not a celebrity, By Randee Dawn, Special to the Los Angeles Times December 15, 2011.

The challenges of fame

Chastain is rightfully wary of fame.  See post: Actor’s Privacy and The Dark Side of Fame.

Also see more related articles below.

Top photo: from post: Jessica Chastain on being sensitive and a loner.

Middle photo: Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer in “The Help.” Bottom photo: in “The Debt.”

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Comments (6)

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  1. Douglas Eby says:

    Jessica Chastain: "I'm not an actor to be a personality." http://t.co/0PDH67vm

  2. The Inner Actor – faced with the very same challenges of The Inner Creative. While there is the decision to not… http://t.co/VZtFUbLr

  3. Douglas Eby says:

    Tate Taylor, the screenwriter-director of "The Help" said he approached the script from a “place of total love”… http://t.co/TMo3PsxV

  4. Jessica Chastain: “I’m not an actor to be a personality.” http://t.co/6xlzM88o via @sharethis

  5. Douglas Eby says:

    "I always wanted to be an actress, but it had nothing to do with fame or money." Jessica Chastain http://t.co/GdOe35rU http://t.co/sJDbXbg2

  6. Douglas Eby says:

    Jessica Chastain: "I'm not an actor to be a personality." http://t.co/rL6aHhZ9

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