Rising Star Jessica Chastain: Our Chat About The Debt, Marilyn Monroe, and Shakespeare


At the premiere of the thriller The Debt the other night, Jessica Chastain told me about the incredibly varied roles she’s been getting to dive into.

“I don’t want to play the same character twice,” she said. “There’s something about the feeling of ‘I don’t think I can do this.’ If you have that moment of doubt, you have to rise up and meet it. I learn from my failures more than my successes.”

But she hasn’t had any yet!

The Help is a hit, with Chastain scoring as a good-hearted Marilyn Monroe type.

The actress told me that was intentional.

As she related: “Everyone has a stereotyped idea of Marilyn. You shake the shoulders and do that voice. I thought, ‘There’s got to be a more interesting choice.’

“I read the biography of Marilyn and I became interested in Norma Jean and how she was running from the upbringing she had. My character Celia is childless and she was sexually abused. Her favorite actress is Marilyn. She feels a kinship with Marilyn and the idea of the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who bleached her hair blond and started a new life.”

Chastain also co-stars in the upcoming Shakespeare adaptation Coriolanus (another biggie).

“It was a wonderful opportunity to be in a room with Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave,” she told me, “and watch them with Shakespeare’s language. It was a master class.”

And though Jessica’s character in that one also happens to be blond and compassionate, this time she’s from the right side of the tracks.

As for The Debt, she marveled, “I never spoke in German before.” And she got to say a couple of words in Spanish, too.

Amazing. America is certainly learning how to say “Jessica Chastain.”