MEET MISS SLOANE
Jessica Chastain explains why her pill-popping lobbyist is the hero we need right now
JESSICA CHASTAIN’S LATEST character, Elizabeth Sloane, is hyper-competitive. “If Sloane was a man we’d be like, ‘I know this guy,’” says Chastain. “He’s gonna get things done, he’s the rebel, he’s the renegade. But we don’t see a woman in this kind of role. Someone asked me yesterday, is that because women aren’t like this? I just think that for some reason our industry and our media hasn’t shown women that way.” The protagonist of John Madden’s Miss
Sloane is a Washington DC lobbyist for right-wing trade initiatives who armours herself with high fashion, higher heels and layered, Machiavellian plans. Her look is based on one of the “formidable” real lobbyists Chastain met (“She was so done it put me off-guard,” she recalls of one), but Sloane’s drug-abusing, escort-using control freakery is all her own work. She’s offered a job by Mark Strong’s idealist to fight for gun control legislation and accepts, though it’s not clear she’s a true believer.
For Chastain, it is a story whose time has come: “At first, I thought it would be interesting because of the gun violence in the United States.” But the recent US Presidential election made the character even more relevant. “After the first debate the big criticism against Hillary Clinton was that she was over-prepared, which I’ve never heard anyone say about a man. I think we as a society have difficulty with female ambition and women who don’t apologise for knowing what they’re talking about. People know I’m passionate about interesting roles for women, [yet] I still sometimes get scripts from actors and directors I’d love to work with, and I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? She’s the set dressing!’”
The often ruthless Sloane — who is anything but set dressing — gradually finds her methods challenged, in particular by Gugu Mbatha-raw’s
impassioned campaigner, Esme. “What Gugu’s doing is the heart of the film,” says Chastain. “Before her, people were just collateral damage [to Elizabeth]. She’ll sacrifice herself, she’ll sacrifice everyone around her. But Esme is the first time she’s forced to confront other people’s feelings and how she’s responsible for that.”
Despite Sloane’s occasionally brutal methods, Chastain sees her as a positive, if unlikely, role model. “What we realise is she will sacrifice herself because she’s gotta accomplish what she set out to, and I think that’s a really good role model for men and women right now: Sloane at the end of the movie; not necessarily at the beginning!” Dogged, driven and adaptable, Miss Sloane could just be the first in a new breed of political heroes.
MISS SLOANE is in cinemas from 10 february
Jessica Chastain as the hard-as-nails but ultimately inspirational Elizabeth Sloane.