No surprise here: Jessica Chastain will premiere (at least) one of her three upcoming projects, Woman Walks Ahead, at TIFF this September. A Jessica Chastain movie is always an all-caps event for me and so is her new ELLE Canada cover, timed perfectly to coincide with the launch of her Ralph Lauren Woman fragrance campaign.
It’s a simple, straightforward 80s-style cover with a big star who's promoting a bunch of projects in the works (Aaron Sorkin’s poker maven tell-all biopic Molly’s Game is among them) and her own brand. Not super memorable from a fashion point of view, yet Jessica looks very relaxed and at ease in the George Michael-esque spread. I wish they would have “gone for it” more style-wise, but it does cement her as a great advocate for women in film. The content is king here. (Or queen?)
At this point – if you consider Jessica’s impact on 2017, you think of a few things: how she stood up for women and women’s stories near the end of her Cannes jury duty in a very viral clip (thanks Ava DuVernay), her double eye roll re: allegations of how Johnny Depp is fed his lines, and that she tied the knot this summer. Oh, and you might remember The Zookeeper’s Wife too. It’s a good watch, kind of on par with Woman in Gold. And Shira Haas is fantastic in it.
So, in this new interview, Jessica discussed all of that, and explains herself even though she doesn’t have to. It’s her first post-wedding chat with the press, so the talking points include the paparazzi attention surrounding her wedding, and what she said at Cannes. The reporter, Sarah Laing, sets up that Jessica is NICE, early and prepared. She’s nice to her (new) assistant, she’s on and sweet when she doesn’t have to be, and wants to do what she can to please the room, while also standing up for herself in saying she does not want to be photographed in a beret. Same. Oh, and Jessica was entertaining during their phone interview, but still made sure to give Sarah a fresh spin on the recent events in her life. Here’s how Sarah describes the Jessica Chastain vibe:
“That behaviour—at once a mix of consideration for others and a healthy protection of her own needs—exemplifies Chastain’s MO. She is flexible but not a pushover.”
And here’s what Jessica said, regarding why she made a public statement about the wedding photographers, which she dubs the worst paparazzi attention “[she’s] ever experienced”:
“I wanted people to understand what they were viewing [when they looked at those shots]. Just like with hacked nude photographs of actresses, if you’re looking at it, you’re participating in it. I understand what I signed up for as an actress, and I know paparazzi comes with that, but I wanted everyone who was sending me beautiful comments to understand why I might not look super-happy in those pictures they were seeing. At some point, I will share a personal photo because it was one of the best days of our lives and I want people to know that it was about love, not invasion.”
(For what it’s worth, her husband Gianluca Passi de Preposulo did like Octavia Spencer’s wedding tribute to Jessica and him on Instagram, but that’s really not the point.)
And still, throughout the interview, Jessica never appears to complain about her life or bemoan the attention (as many do); instead she stands firm on her wedding being a private event. Similarly, she stands by what she said at Cannes and insists the other jury members (and her fellow women on the panel) said things that were as just worthy of going viral. At no point, to me, does she come off as a martyr, or defensive of what she feels is important to her or the industry. Instead, she makes what she says even more relatable, as if she was coming to terms with her own assertiveness, and the power of her platform.
“When the press conference happened, I wasn’t planning on saying all that stuff, which is why I was a bit shaky. It was one of the first questions, and the [journalist] said he wanted to ask the women ‘A lot of female directors were acknowledged this year, so do you think the industry is in better shape?’ Which basically asks ‘Since so many women won prizes, is the problem fixed?’ All us girls laughed, and I went first, but everyone hit a different part of the industry that needs to be looked at in terms of how we view female characters.”
(Why did you feel shaky?)
“I’ve always been someone who speaks her mind, but the thing is I love Cannes so much. I talked to the festival director beforehand about what I was witnessing in those films and how it made me feel about how the world sees women. He actually said, ‘You should say something.’ It was never about me going against Cannes or stabbing someone in the back.... But my experience with the press is that sometimes things can be taken out of context, so in a situation like that, where I’m in front of all these journalists, speaking what I believe in my heart, I feel very vulnerable. In many cases, the media like to find something negative or turn it into a fight, especially when it pits women against each other, and I was aware of that while I was speaking. Like, ‘Here I go speaking my truth, but someone is going to misinterpret these words.’”
Except, for as vulnerable as she was, or as shaky as she thought she was, people (and the stars) rallied behind her for what she said about representation, and women’s voices. And for somebody who works as much and as hard as Jessica, she has Hollywood in her corner. On her post of ELLE Canada’s cover, Alison Pill, Riley Keough, Reese Witherspoon, Olivia Munn, Gal Gadot, Ana de Armas, Josh Brolin and Shira Haas are among the stars who have “liked it” and who are standing behind Jessica, regardless of whether she still feels “shaky” or not. Sometimes, saying what you feel and standing up for yourself is more important than how you feel your performance was in the moment. And Jessica’s words are speaking for her.
On that note, her Ralph Lauren campaign speaks to that too:
"I am the designer of my own dreams. I am a woman... above all."
I like how the campaign appears to align with her public persona as a champion for women and hard work. And what better time to release it than on the eve of (one of her three) upcoming projects being announced at TIFF?
If, like Lainey said in today’s intro, her Xavier Dolan collaboration does indeed come to TIFF and open the festival (which OMG I would die and will do whatever I can to get on that red carpet), it could be the starriest carpet of all.