Jessica Chastain has become one of the most visible advocates for women in the film industry, speaking out for more inclusion and using her position to get her co-stars equal pay. And now she’s not waiting for people to bring her starring vehicles, she’s making her own starring vehicle and bringing a diverse group of talented women with her. The project is 355, which is scouting investors at the Cannes film market and had a splashy presentation yesterday to entice people to buy into the targeted $75+ million budget. (Technically that’s a big budget but compared to, say, superhero movies, it’s chump change.) Chastain turned out with her co-stars: Lupita Nyong’o, Fan Bingbing, Marion Cotillard, and Penelope Cruz.
Chastain, who is also producing, recruited the cast herself, and cooked up the idea with Simon Kinberg, the writer and now director with whom she’s previously worked on The Martian and X-Men: Dark Phoenix (the latter has been kicked to February 2019, so adjust your expectations accordingly). This is an original idea, so basically, Jessica Chastain made up an action-adventure film for herself. GOOD. Not everyone has the power to pull projects together like this, but those who can should. The only teensy-tiny note I have is that it would be nice to see some lesser known names included (consider the mainstream boost Awkwafina is about to get with Ocean’s 8), but undeniably the draw here, like Ocean’s 8, is an international, star-studded cast of women teaming up for a movie.
The pitch for 355 is that lady spies from around get together to do some spy sh-t, forming their own team “355”. The script is coming from Theresa Rebeck and Kinberg is set to direct. This will be his second feature directing, following Dark Phoenix, which is undergoing reshoots later this year, and again, it’s been sentenced to February 2019. February isn’t a death sentence anymore but I’m still suspicious. Chastain must really get along with Kinberg because this is a huge vote of confidence, especially as 355 will hopefully be franchise-able, and Kinberg would conceivably stick around for a while in some creative capacity. But though she is “just” a producer—film favors directors whether it’s fair or not—355 is unquestionably Jessica Chastain’s project. She’s the one who is making it happen and specifically angling for more high-profile, female-driven projects, and she isn’t content to give a good soundbite and then wait for the offers to roll in. Jessica Chastain has the power to get sh*t done, and she is getting sh*t done, and she is making sure at every stage to bring others along with her.