3:24pm PT by Scott Feinberg
Fox Searchlight Debuts New Jessica Chastain Campaign Featurette (Exclusive Video)
The actress Jessica Chastain has had as prolific a year as anyone in Hollywood. The demure 30-year-old red-head, who has been working professionally for the last few years but heretofore was virtually unknown, broke through in a major way by giving critically-hailed supporting performances no fewer than five films that came out within just months of each other.
She played a soulful 1950s housewife in Fox Searchlight's The Tree of Life (5/27); a big-boobed blonde bimbo with a heart of gold in the 1960s south in Disney's The Help (8/10); a no-nonsense Israeli Mossad agent in Focus Features' The Debt (8/22); a working-class wife and mother whose husband begins to go off the rails in Sony Pictures Classics' Take Shelter (9/30); and the heartbroken spouse of the title character in The Weinstein Company's Coriolanus (12/2).
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Because of the sheer number of 2011 films in which Chastain has done fine work, many in the industry feel that she is more than deserving of an Oscar nomination -- but also fear that she will be denied one. Why? Because when an actor is very good in even just two films, he or she runs the risk of splitting their base of support between the options and therefore winding up with too few votes to earn a nomination for either. When an actor is very good in five -- each of which is being pushed by a different studio -- it's hard to imagine that not happening.
For a long time my assumption has been that a plurality of Chastain's votes will come for her work in The Help, which was the most widely seen of her films and the one in which she makes the greatest physical transformation, which voters always love. But my sources at several of the studios that are promoting her for other movies feel that her chances of securing a nod for that film, in particular, are hurt by the fact that her costar Octavia Spencer is a lock for a best supporting actress Oscar nod, as there usually is not enough room for more than one person from the same film in a single category. (Although, in the specific category in which Chastain and Spencer are competing, best supporting category, there has been in each of the past three years: see Doubt, Up in the Air, and The Fighter.)
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So, hypothetically, if The Help does not offer Chastain her best shot at a nod, which of her other four films does? I believe -- and Fox Searchlight is working hard to make everyone else believe -- that the answer is The Tree of Life. It's a film that has left audiences of the public and industry deeply divided -- it lacks a traditional narrative structure, so many find it meandering; but those who love it seem to really love it, especially Chastain's almost entirely silent performance as an ethereal, idealized mother whose children bring her great happiness and sorrow, as well as a lot of its below-the-line work, particularly Emmanuel Lubezki's gorgeous cinematography.
In recent weeks, the film has started to re-enter the awards discussion in a big way, winning best feature at the Gotham Awards (in a tie with Beginners); being voted best actor for Brad Pitt (also for Moneyball), best supporting actress for Chastain (also for The Help and Take Shelter), and best cinematography for Lubezki by the New York Film Critics Circle; and earning a spot on the National Board of Review's list of the year's top 10 films.
Consequently, Searchlight will be re-releasing the film this Friday at Laemmle's Music Hall in Beverly Hills (where it will have an exclusive week-long engagement) and will be circulating the featurette about Chastain that we are exclusively premiering at the top of this post (which intercuts Lubezki's beautiful footage of her in the film with testimonials about her from others -- including a great endorsement by Pitt -- as well as snippets of an interview with the actress herself), with the hope that they can be the studio that manages to beat the odds and get Chastain a well-deserved ticket to February's Academy Awards.