Jessica Chastain covers the November 2014 issue of Interview magazine, joining her other covers on Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar. The fun part of this magazine, though, is that the interview was conducted by Mindy Kaling.
The interview from Interview.com.
MINDY KALING: Hey! Last night I had a real Jessica Chastain marathon. If someone came to my house, they would have thought I was a stalker because I did a little retrospective of your life like you were dead.
JESSICA CHASTAIN: [laughs] Oh my God. I remember meeting you three or four years ago, and I kind of gushed all over you because I think you’re so incredible and so smart …
KALING: And funny and beautiful? [laughs]
KALING: Jessica, please, this is supposed to be about you, not you telling me how I’m a well-rounded renaissance woman. [Chastain laughs] That party where I met you was the doucheiest party I’ve ever been to. It was a party for a men’s magazine—one of those “40 bangable girls under the age of 15” things—and you and I were the only two girls that didn’t look like Knicks dancers.
CHASTAIN: That was one of the first parties I was invited to. I finally got invited to a party.
KALING: I feel like there are people you meet when you live in Hollywood—like, I admire Helen Mirren, but I don’t wish that I went to high school with her, you know? I admire you, and I think, “Fuck, I wish I had been in English class with her for four years.”
CHASTAIN: We could have studied together. But listen, I’m willing to put in the time now. I am making a commitment right now to hanging out.
KALING: Chris Messina, my co-star and good friend, and also your good friend, was in a play with you in Williamstown [Massachusetts]. And the idea of doing a play with you and then, after the play, being like, “Let’s go get a grilled cheese …” I was always jealous that he got to do that with you in Williamstown, which is, like, the most summer-campy, fun environment, so I’m totally into it. Except, if you commit to this hanging out and then you’re like, “Oh, Christopher Nolan needs me on a junket in Peru,” I would die. Okay, now I’m going to stop talking about my wants and needs in our relationship and ask you some questions. You have a brightness about you that makes me feel like you would be amazing and funny in a comedy. Do you have any aspirations to do a comedy movie?
CHASTAIN: It’s a strange thing. When I was in college [at Juilliard], I was cast in a lot of comedies. I played Smeraldina in The King Stag and had crazy hair and a unibrow. [Kaling laughs] I loved it. I loved the comedic aspects of Celia Foote in The Help. With any kind of acting, you’re basically living the emotion that you’re going to work in every day, so sometimes I’m like, “I am so tired of crying, how great would it be to experience joy and laughter every day?” I am actively looking for a comedic role in something. Maybe I need someone like you to write me something. Or I could be on The Mindy Project.
KALING: If you played Chris’s ex-girlfriend, who I’m obsessed with and so angry about, who’s always popping in in an infuriating way, that would be—
CHASTAIN: Amazing. I would love it.
KALING: That would be a joy for everyone here. I’m obsessed with this outtake from The Master , where Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix are both smoking—it’s online. It’s this beautiful P.T. Anderson shot and basically the cancer lobby’s worst nightmare because they look so cool smoking. Hoffman goes, “The cigarette’s so minty,” or something, and they both break in the middle of it and can’t get through the scene. P.T. Anderson is yelling in the background, “Hey, we really should get this.” But they keep trying and keep breaking. I never thought, in a movie as serious as The Master, that there can be these moments of levity. So I wanted to ask, since you’ve been in amazing movies that are also pretty heavy, was there any scene that you were in where you could not stop breaking?
CHASTAIN: It happens a lot. I actually had difficulty keeping a straight face on The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, especially because James McAvoy is super, super funny, and he improvs a lot. There’s a lot of me breaking, but doing it in character that actually made it into the film. There’s a scene where we’re kissing in the car and he’s putting my bra on me. He says something like, “I think I’ve been programmed to not be able to do this.” And he starts going off about how he only knows how to take off a bra. I looked at him, like, “You’re so stupid,” and started laughing. That’s in the film. James has so much lightness and love around him that, even when we were working on the difficult, sad scenes, between takes we had a feeling of celebrating life. But then, I’ve never had [that happen] with Chris Nolan, thank God, because I would be so petrified. Breaking is all about having a secret. Or if someone keeps stumbling on a word, every time that they are about to say it, they kind of have this intensity in their eyes. [laughs]
KALING: It’s like a reminder of a private joke. Messina and I have it constantly. And you have to start doing that thing where you’re like, “I’m just going to look at the bridge of his nose, because I can’t …” Did it happen in The Debt ?
CHASTAIN: Sam [Worthington] and I rehearsed a lot together, and we worked on our fight scenes together. And there’s one scene where Sam and I were coming into the café to do a rendezvous—I’ve just had this difficult scene with this Nazi doctor. We look at Marton Csokas—who’s so talented and gorgeous, but takes things seriously sometimes—wearing a turtleneck, smoking a cigarette, and reading a newspaper, and everything about him says, “I’m a spy.” It was so intense that Sam and I walked in and started laughing. It’s a bit ridiculous. We’re spies in the middle of East Berlin, and we could not get through the scene. Every time Marton went to speak, Sam and I started smiling and laughing.
KALING: It’s excruciating. Especially in a comedy, or at least in our show, where the material is light—that’s our thing. But this poor crew. [laughs] The boom operator is standing there holding a microphone for 25 minutes.
CHASTAIN: Hank Azaria was in that movie with Jennifer Aniston, Ben Stiller, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Along Came Polly . He is a scuba diver in a Speedo and he says to Ben Stiller, in this silly accent, “Look at me in my eyeballs.” He was improvising, “Look at me in my eyeballs.” [Kaling laughs] And Ben Stiller could not keep it together. Now every time I’m on a set, I’m always saying, “Look at me in my eyeballs.” It’s the stupidest thing.
KALING: It’s funny that you mention Along Came Polly, and another sign why we should be friends for life. When Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away, I, like everyone else in America who loved him, was going through my favorite clips of him. There’s a scene in Polly with him and Ben Stiller in a packed elevator. And he goes to Ben Stiller, so loudly, “Aw, man, I’m so friggin’ horny.” [Chastain laughs] It’s one of the funniest moments because he has that intensity. Okay, wait, the cast of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is probably my favorite cast in any recent movie. It’s almost show-off-y in terms of how good it is. You and Isabelle Huppert, James [McAvoy], Bill Hader. It’s so inventive and fun. I know you and Ned [Benson] worked on this movie for a long time. Were you like, “Oh, I’m excited to work with this actor. Let’s use him”?
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