Hollywood Isn't Going to Stop Being Dumb & Sexist On Its Own, So Jessica Chastain Is Helping
There’s a beautiful trend in television right now that we’re all witnessing, where actors are getting fed up with their specifically designated cog placement in the bigger entertainment machine. The whole hustle of branding and marketing yourself to fit a type, hoping someone will offer you the opportunity to play those one-dimensional characters, until hopefully, finally, you gain enough credibility to break out of the molds available— more and more actors are refusing to follow that long-laid out path. Some of the best comedies of the last few years (Broad City, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, to name a few) have come from actors and comedians who got tired of waiting around for opportunities, so they just started making their own work.
Of course, when you think of Jessica Chastain, you don’t think “struggling actor.” She has five movies scheduled to come out this year alone. But she has been repeatedly outspoken about the lack of opportunities for women in Hollywood. And just because she’s not wanting for work, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to see change, for herself, for other women, and for the industry at large. Back in December, Chastain penned a powerful essay on women in Hollywood, and included this anecdote describing what it is like to work on a project with more women than usual. Not even all women, not even half, just more than what a film project usually includes.
I’m in Prague filming a movie called The Zookeeper’s Wife with director Niki Caro. I can’t tell you — it’s amazing. I’ve never been on a set with so many women. We’re not even 50 percent of the crew — we’re probably something like 20 percent women and 80 percent men — but it’s way more than I’ve ever worked with on a film before. There are female producers (Diane Levin, Kim Zubick and Katie McNeill), a female screenwriter (Angela Workman), a female novelist (Diane Ackerman), a female protagonist and a female director. I’ve never seen a female camera operator like Rachael Levine on one of my films. And I’ve never, ever seen a female stunt coordinator like Antje “Angie” Rau.
We know how rare making this kind of film is. We’re giddy with happiness.
All of that may explain why Chastain has announced the launch of her new production company, Freckle Films. (Aptly, adorably named.) The company already has a partnership to develop two films with Maven Pictures, a financing production company dedicated to “showcasing female talent both in front of and behind the camera.” Together, they’ll be producing adaptations of two novels with female leads: The Magician’s Lie, about a female illusionist suspected of murdering her husband, and Life and Other Near Death Experiences, the story of a woman whose husband comes out as gay on the same day she learns she has cancer.
An interesting tidbit needling its way into this story is the fact that Aaron Sorkin is planning his directorial debut, and it was announced today that he’s offered Chastain the lead in that film. Molly’s Game is the adaptation of the autobiography of Molly Bloom. From Collider,
If accepted, Chastain would take on the role of Bloom, an intelligent and driven world-class skier and Political Science major, who opted to take a year off from school after failing to make the Olympics and through a bizarre series of circumstances ended up running an elite high-stakes poker ring for eight years before ultimately being brought down by the FBI.
Chastain seems like an obvious choice for Sorkin’s brassy, quick dialogue, but we’ll have to wait and see if fitting into one of Sorkin’s three existing female archetypes is something she’s interested in pursuing.