Last week I agreed through 42West’s Ashton Fontana to a Jessica Chastain phoner today at 2:30 Pacific to talk about A Most Violent Year. I’m a major fan of the film, of course. I’m also convinced that Chastain’s performance as Oscar Isaac‘s feisty wife is the leading Best Supporting Actress contender. In any event Fontana said 15 minutes, I asked for 20 and she said “we’ll try to delay the cutoff.” Two hours before the phoner they called to say JC was running late. At 3:15 pm a woman called and said, “Are you ready to speak with Jessica? And…uhm, you have ten minutes.” Ten minutes? “Let me ask her publicist,” she said, referring to BWR’s Nicole Perna. “Thanks all the same,” I said, “but I’m not asking. I’m telling you this doesn’t work. But it’s okay.”
Some publicists play this little game. Their client runs over the schedule so they invite journalists in the waiting line to drop out by cutting their interview down from 15 to 10. It’s a kind of insult, of course, and if you have any pride you say “thanks anyway” and bail. Perna might have just as easily told me I could have five minutes. The point is to discourage.
If I had spoken to Chastain (whom I last spoke to during a Zero Dark Thirty press day at the Beverly Wilshire) I would have spent a minute or so on flattery and high-fiving about AMVY winning the National Board Review Best Picture award. And then maybe a question or two about her favorite scene in the film (shooting the deer? the argument in the kitchen) and maybe a question about her modified Queens/Brooklyn accent.
Then I would have asked two questions about plot particulars. Who’s the guy who comes to their home (Oscar and Jessica’s) hat night and later drops a gun in the bushes? And who beats up Oscar’s young salesman during a sales call? Or rather upon whose orders?
I would then mention that while I admired Bradford Young‘s cinematography when I saw A Most Violent Year at the Dolby during AFI Fest and then the next night at the WME screening room, it doesn’t look so hot on the DVD screener that went out. It actually looks like it’s covered in pea soup. Young’s cinematography has to be perfectly lighted or it doesn’t work, apparently. His work on Selma, I feel, looks even murkier. I’ve now decided that Young is not one of my favorite directors of photography. Actually I might not have brought this up.
Chastain is 37, and she only really broke through three years ago with her performances in Take Shelter and The Tree of Life. Most lead-level actresses break through in their early to mid 20s, and now and then in their late 20s. I think it’s relatively rare for actresses to punch through in their early 30s, and it’s next to unheard of them to break into the big-time in their mid 30s. Born in March 1977, Chastain was 34 when it all began to happen.
I might have mentioned her blazing performance as Maya in Zero Dark Thirty and the horrific takedown that film suffered over the torture issue. I might have mentioned the much-reported contractual stipulation with the Interstellar producers that she can’t promote her performance in A Most Violent Year outside of certain perimeters, at least within an award-relate context. Nobody, of course, has been talking about her performance in Chris Nolan‘s film , which has been all but dismissed in an awards context, and everyone’s talking about her work in A Most Violent Year.
I would have told Chastain that I liked her performance in Mama, which Guillermo del Toro produced, and I would have asked her how she and Guillermo, whom I consider a relatively close friend, first got to know each other and what’s their history, etc. I would have asked her how things have gone during the filming of GDT’s Crimson Peak, in which she plays a starring role. And then I would have asked her about the filming of Ridley Scott‘s The Martian, which is currently shooting in Budapest and in which she costars.
I would have asked if she’s met The Babadook director Jennifer Kent, and suggested that it would be a great idea if she and Kent, both sharp, go-getter redheads, could pool forces one day.
Could I have covered all that in 15 minutes?