Weinsteins Fire Up Best Actress Push for 'Rigby's' Jessica Chastain

The Weinstein Co., seeing an opening in a thin best actress category, is refocusing on its September release starring the two-time Oscar nominee
James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in 'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby'  

It looks like the best actress Oscar category might have to make room for two widely revered redheads. Still Alice's Julianne Moore has been the clear frontrunner since her film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September. Now she may be joined by the year's most prolific actress, Jessica Chastain, as well.

What's that, you say? Chastain's being pushed for only her two supporting performances, in Christopher Nolan's Interstellar and J.C. Chandor's A Most Violent Year (the latter of which was singled out for a National Board of Review honor earlier this week), not her leading turns in Liv Ullmann's Miss Julie or Ned Benson's The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby?

That, it turns out, is no longer the case. 

The Hollywood Reporter has learned that The Weinstein Co., which acquired Rigby after its North American premiere at Toronto in 2013, has made an internal decision to aggressively get behind Chastain for a best actress nom (Oscar and Golden Globe) for her work in the film, an indie about the dissolution of a marriage that was a years-in-the-making passion project for old friends Benson, Chastain (who's also a producer on the film) and Chastain's best friend/fellow actress Jess Weixler.

Read more Toronto: 'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby' Wows at Fest But Still Needs a Distributor (Analysis)

This late-breaking development comes after the famously awards-savvy distributor recognized that with a coordinated campaign — even one fired up rather late in the game — a best actress nom for Chastain is realistically attainable this season, because the category is shockingly thin. (TWC's other actress hopeful, Big Eyes' Amy Adams, looks more likely to contend for a Golden Globe, in the Golden Globe musical or comedy category, than for an Oscar.)

Moreover, the 37-year-old, who has landed noms in two out of the last three Oscar seasons — for The Help (2011) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012) — brings plenty to the table herself.

For one thing, those who wish to celebrate her banner year could rally behind her in this category knowing that she does not face the possibility of canceling herself out in it, as she does in the supporting race. Miss Julie distributor Wrekin Hill Entertainment simply does not have the means necessary to get the film seen widely and into the discussion — plus many have issues with other aspects of the film.

Read more Chicago Film Fest: Liv Ullmann on an Iconic Half-Century Career, Fest Opener 'Miss Julie'

The same cannot really be said for The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, a unique project that was rather well-received (and, for what it's worth, might well land a spot on my personal year-end top 10 list). It screened in Toronto as two separate parts, subtitled Him and Her, each showing a different perspective on the same story. The novelty was that the two films could be — and in Toronto were — screened in either order, thereby offering markedly different experiences to moviegoers willing to settle in for a double feature.

After acquiring the film, TWC urged Benson to create a third version of the film by consolidating the two parts into one and subtitling the new cut Them, which the company felt would increase the film's commercial appeal. He concurred and gamely did so — though TWC did still release the separate Him and Her versions in select theaters. The combined two-hour-and-two-minute version, which played a very limited eight-week run that began Sept. 12, did not make much of a splash, grossing just $587,774 domestically.

Watch more Cannes Video: Jessica Chastain on the Making of 'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them'

So which version of the film will Chastain get her Oscar push for? TWC confirms to THR that Her and Him — in that order — have been classified as a single film, meaning that voters will enter the film through the perspective of the woman (something offered by few other top contenders this year, apart from Wild) and leave it through the perspective of the man (played by James McAvoy).

As part of the renewed push, TWC is re-releasing the film — or, more specifically, just the 90-minute Her portion, which features Chastain's best moments — for one week, starting Friday (today), at Laemmle's Royal Theatre at 11523 Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles. The advertisement embedded within this post will also appear in select publications to make people aware of this fact.

In light of these developments, perhaps this article should have been titled "The Reappearance of Eleanor Rigby."

Watch more Jessica Chastain Discusses Her Busy Year in 2014

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg

Dec. 5, 6:14 a.m. An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the order in which The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her and Him were put together into the film for Oscar consideration. THR regrets the error.

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