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Jessica Chastain is happy people have stopped sticking her with the Hollywood “It Girl” label.
“Every time someone said that, I thought, oh no, because you have such a short life. That’s your death sentence as an actress,” Chastain told a press conference at the Toronto Film Festival on Saturday. She was recalling arriving at TIFF as an unknown actress in 2011 with three movies: Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, The Help and the sci-fi flick Take Shelter.
“It’s wonderful to look back at it now because at the time I felt so much anxiety. I was getting so much attention, so soon. Immediately, my life changed. There was no slow gradual entry for me,” Chastain told a presser on the TIFF Tribute Awards, where she will receive the TIFF Tribute Actor award on Sept. 18.
She welcomed returning to Toronto — a city in which she has acted in six movies shot locally — to premiere The Eyes of Tammy Faye, which she produced and developed over a decade, and stars in. Chastain also talked about adding the title role of TV evangelist Tammy Faye Bakker to the list of strong, yet misunderstood female characters she has played on screen over the years.
“She was never tried or convicted for any crime. Her husband [Jim Bakker] was, but she wasn’t. And in society throughout history, women for some reason have been guilty of their husband’s crimes and so she was labeled with that,” she told the TIFF panel.
Also appearing on stage alongside Chastain was Denis Villeneuve, who is at TIFF to present the North American premiere of Dune ahead of receiving the TIFF Ebert Director Award on Sept. 18. Villeneuve gave a shout-out to movie exhibitors who are currently struggling to fill their reopened theaters due to the delta variant COVID-19 surge.
“I’m deeply, profoundly, totally convinced that the future of cinema is on the big screen,” he told the TIFF presser. But Villeneuve warned movie theater operators that they had to offer the latest bells and whistles to convince film lovers to get off their living room couches and go out to the local multiplex.
“Frankly, if your theater is using a 1979 sound system and it smells like piss, it will be difficult to bring people to the theater. The future of cinema is Dolby Atmos, it has to embrace scope,” Villeneuve argued.
And Benedict Cumberbatch, who will also receive a TIFF Tribute Actor Award, recalled during the presser preparing to play the role of Montana rancher Phil Burbank in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, which will screen in Toronto by way of Venice and Telluride.
That included attending a dude ranch in Montana to be among horses and campfires, and working with the acting coach Kim Gillingham to analyze his dreams and tap into his subconscious mind when the cameras rolled.
“It was very obscure, but it gave a depth and I felt secure when Jane left the camera on me to discover things. I felt empowered to be given that floor on which to dance on,” Cumberbatch told the presser.
The Toronto Film Festival is running through to Sept. 18.
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