The Carpetbagger: Jessica Chastain Feared Speaking Out Would Hurt Her Career



Jessica Chastain in a scene from “Molly’s Game.” Credit STX Entertainment

Jessica Chastain received news of her Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a dramatic feature while promoting that film, “Molly’s Game,” in Paris. Directed by Aaron Sorkin, the film tells the true story of Molly Bloom, a world-class skier who began running high-stakes, celebrity-magnet poker games. Speaking by phone shortly before she was due to fly to Amsterdam, Ms. Chastain said the Globe nomination was especially gratifying because she had been outspoken about recent sexual harassment accusations and had worried that she would face industry repercussions.

This is your fifth Golden Globe nomination. Do you feel like an old hand?

Not at all. The first, I think, was for the ceremony in 2012, for “The Help.” I struggled for so long to try to create a career. To have five nominations in such a short amount of time, it’s really shocking, and more than I ever imagined. I just feel so much gratitude and happiness.

“Molly’s Game” is an Aaron Sorkin film with acres and acres of dialogue. Was that daunting?

I feel everything I had ever done prepared me. This is a dream for an actress. It’s not normal for a film to really rely on what a female character says. I understood the importance of that. I understood the importance of doing an Aaron Sorkin film. He’s a political filmmaker. This is a film about gender politics, patriarchy. You see it with Molly’s father, and in her family, and in her industry and in the government. This was an issue 50 years ago, and now, because it’s in the newspapers, everyone’s interested. It’s always interested me, what women do to navigate patriarchy. To me Aaron’s always been a filmmaker with a sense of justice and idealism. When I got this script, it was something I was waiting for my whole life, to be able to sink my teeth into a female character like this.

How did you prepare?

I wanted to be filmable perfect for Aaron Sorkin. I worked with Molly, she’s very different than I am and very much a sensual being. I don’t see myself in that way at all. I spent a lot of time talking with her, and observing how she presents herself in the world. I talked to players who played in her game, and went to a New York game and observed what that room is like. There were women going around and massaging men and getting apple pie or chicken noodle soup if the guys were hungry.

By sensual, do you mean in the luscious ’50s film star kind of way?

We live in society that values women for their sexual desirability. In the beginning of the film, many men tell Molly she needs to change what she looks like. She’s told her dress is ugly and to buy new shoes. Molly had to put this mask on, of this uber sexual being. For the guys to listen to her, to acknowledge her, to see her, she in a way had to objectify herself. And what I appreciated was I never felt objectified in the story. It was the first time I every worked with a [female cinematographer, Charlotte Bruus Christensen]. Aaron said from the very beginning he didn’t want the film to have a male gaze, because it’s Molly’s story. It was the first time on set, wearing these kinds of clothes, where I felt in control of my own body.

You’ve been outspoken about the sexual harassment scandals, and you’ve also experienced some blowback. Can you talk about that?

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