'A Most Violent Year' World Premiere Kicks Off AFI Fest

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J.C. Chandor and stars Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac attended the gala at the Dolby Theatre on Thursday

Writer-director J.C. Chandor's crime-drama A Most Violent Year kicked off the American Film Institute's AFI Fest with its glitzy world premiere Thursday night in Hollywood. In front of the crowd at the Dolby Theatre, Chandor reminisced about the last time he was in that space — for the 2012 Oscars.

"The last time I was in this room, I was sitting right there and lost to Woody Allen," referring to the Academy Awards where he lost the original screenplay award for Margin Call to Allen's Midnight in Paris. Chandor took a deep breath. "Let's hope it goes a little better tonight."

Chandor returns to awards season this year with A Most Violent Year, which centers on an immigrant man who tries to protect his business and family amid the violence in New York in 1981. Before the screening kicked off, the All Is Lost and Margin Call director noted that the AFI Fest was his very first Los Angeles premiere.

Stars Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, David Oyelowo and Alessandro Nivola joined Chandor at the event, which featured an afterparty at the Roosevelt Hotel.

A Most Violent Year was a reunion of sorts for Chastain and Isaac, who were classmates at Juilliard but had never worked together on a film. It turns out that the reason they got to take on the role of husband and wife in Chandor's film was at Chastain's suggestion. The actress was attached to the film first and said she sent an email to Chandor about how much she believes in Isaac. Within 10 minutes, she received a response that Isaac was being cast.

"We met in college and never got to act together," said Chastain, who wore a blue Roksanda dress to the event. "Before we started shooting, we would meet at my house and go through the script line by line. It was incredible to work with him because we didn't have to get to know each other's process. We had a common language."

As for Isaac, he said he was attracted to the role because it avoided cliches and stereotypes that are often seen in films, a hardworking and complicated businessman who doesn't resort to violence — something we rarely see on the big screen.

"You don't usually see a character of Latin descent portrayed that way. He's not going to be the gangster. He's not going use violence. He's going to succeed by taking the smart road," he said. "All the characters in the film want him to do the easy thing, which is the thing that we expect, but he doesn't."

A24 is releasing A Most Violent Year, which will hit theaters on Dec. 31.

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