Jessica Chastain takes Capitol Hill
In political-thriller ‘Miss Sloane,’ the Oscar nominee plays a hardened D.C. lobbyist
In just five short years, Jessica Chastain has gone from being a little-known stage actress to a two-time Oscar nominee with roles in a handful of hits including “The Help,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Interstellar” and “The Martian.”
Chastain has worked in many different genres, from sci-fi to fantasy to romantic comedies, but she always strives to play complex women who are at a crossroads in their lives.
Case in point: “Miss Sloane,” a political thriller opening next week which gives Chastain the juicy role of a lobbyist who’s attempting to push a backgroundcheck-on-guns bill through the U.S. Senate. Sam Waterston, Jake Lacey, Mark Strong, John Lithgow and Gugu Mbatha-Raw co-star.
For Chastain, playing Sloane was all about making sure she got the many layers of this complicated character on the screen.
“I like characters where [I] have to show some restraint, where there’s opposite things going on,” says the actress, 39.
“It’s a strange thing for me to talk about a performance that way because I don’t know actually when I’m putting something together what people are going to see. I create a lot of secrets for the characters that I play that I don’t talk to anyone about, even directors.
“I just create this whole backstory that I hope when people are watching a character, they see these things just kind of bubble up, and they don’t understand exactly what it all means. That’s how I approach everything.”
Along with Daniel Day Lewis, Chastain is known as one of the most relentless researchers in the acting business. Before beginning “Miss Sloane,” the actress met with not one lobbyist but eleven of them, and grilled each woman about how she does her job.
Chastain says that Elizabeth Sloane’s look, right down to her ever-present black nail polish, was a reflection of the women she met in Washington
“A lot of [the style choices] were informed by the women I met in D.C
and how they present themselves in that world,” notes the actress who adds that only ten percent of all lobbyists are women.
“Seven of the 11 women I met were wearing black nail polish, which, in the past, I would associate with rock ‘n’ roll and Goth and all of that. But [the nail polish] really forced me to look at how they were presenting themselves in the world, and the strength that comes from that.”
As she was preparing to shoot the movie, Chastain also paid attention to the presidential campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and noted the different ways the candidates were covered by the media.
“There’s a huge problem in the media [because] there was this talk about how much [Clinton] smiled or how her hair looked or her pantsuits, or that she was over-prepared for the first debate.
“I’ve never heard any man being spoken of in that way . ... I think the media can do a better job.”
While some performers might have been tempted to accentuate Elizabeth’s more masculine attributes, Chastain chose to play the lobbyist as a woman whose vulnerabilities were right below the surface.
“I actually didn’t see Elizabeth so much as masculine but [rather] as just an honest portrayal of a woman,” says Chastain.
“Hollywood films do not [often] show women as ambitious and over-prepared and driven and perfectionists but also incredibly flawed. We see men play those characters but we don’t get to see women play those characters.
“I think that is what is great about [Sloane]: she challenges the status quo of what we think a woman should be, and [the movie] shows what a woman can be and is, in many cases.
“I like that because I like messy characters and I like women who [aren’t] perfect.”
Alison Pill stars in “Miss Sloane.”