Jessica Chastain would be worried about overexposure if only anyone knew what she looked like. “To be honest I don’t get recognized, which is great,” says Chastain, whose latest film, The Debt, finds her morphing into a raven-haired Mossad operative in 1960s East Berlin.
“I think sometimes a trapping of fame is that they don’t want you to disappear into the role. They want you to be how they think you are.”
While she’s spent the last four years making movies, very little has made it to theatres — until now, since Chastain has seven films being released in 2011 alone. That’s a lot of roles to disappear into, and if anything, Chastain insists, having them all hit at once is a great defense against typecasting. “I don’t want to play the same thing twice,” she says.
“Hollywood does try to think, ‘Oh she can do that, so let’s have her do it again.’ And I’m really fortunate that it goes from Tree of Life to The Help to Take Shelter, where I’m hoping that they just won’t know what to do with me.”
And if those three don’t confuse casting directors enough, she’s also got her spy games in The Debt, some Shakespeare in Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus, screen time with Al Pacino in Wilde Salome and more gunplay in Texas Killing Fields.
Plus, she’s already completed the Wettest County in the World, and before the year is done she’ll be shooting the horror movie Mama. Jumping from role to role clearly isn’t a problem for Chastain. It’s adjusting to the fame she’ll likely be living with in 2012 that’s daunting.
“Right now, it’s all great. I’m getting to do the work and I’m getting to have a normal life,” she says. “I am still shy. That red carpet at Cannes was out of this world and terrifying and exciting at the same time.”
Making The Debt meant learning some new skill sets. “I’d never done an action film,” she says. “I went to Juilliard, I was trained in Shakespeare and the classics, and so the idea of me running and jumping into a moving van and shooting guns was so foreign to me."
Luckily, there was help on set in the form of co-star Sam Worthington. “Sam was wonderful because it wasn’t foreign to him, and he really was my coach during this film — my action coach, where he would show me the best ways to hold a gun,” she says.
“Even with the running scenes, he was teasing me. He nicknamed me Tommy Cruise because he says that my action run was as good as Tom Cruise’s.”
In fact, the pair hit it off so well that they’ve become repeat co-stars. “After working with him on that, we joked that we had a three-picture deal,” she says.