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When Jessica Chastain arrived at the 36th Toronto Film Festival in 2011, it marked the ending of what she herself considered “the Chastain curse.” Having begun her career with 2004 appearances on TV shows like E.R. and Veronica Mars, the California-born actress, then just 34, had racked up 11 film roles over the preceding years, only to see their releases all delayed for various reasons.
That logjam began to break in May of 2011 at the Cannes Film Festival, where she was hailed as a rising new star for her luminous performance as Brad Pitt’s wife in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. And just weeks before the Toronto fest kicked off, she popped up on screen in both the Southern drama The Help and the spy thriller The Debt, in which she had supporting roles.
In Toronto, she busily made the rounds, proving herself a new red carpet fashion siren, appearing in a Louis Vuitton black jumpsuit for the premiere of Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter, the apocalyptic fable in which she starred opposite Michael Shannon, and then changing into a Victor & Rolf saffron yellow gown for Ralph Fiennes’ adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, in which she played the title character’s wife.
At a press conference, Chastain confessed, “This has been such a very strange year for me. It was a bit of a joke in my life … the Chastain curse where I made 11 films in 4 1/2 years and for some reason they would be stalled or companies would be sold and it was a bit of a comedy. And then to have just the flip side of it where they all now come out within six months of each other, it’s really feast or famine in this business, and this whole press aspect of the business has been baptism by fire for me.”
Chatting with Vanity Fair’s Krista Smith, she added, “For Take Shelter, when I met Jeff, first time I met him I said, ‘I really like you and I’d love to do your movie, but I feel because you’re a nice guy, got to let you know, if I’m in your film, it may not come out for four years.’ [But] he took the risk.”
Chastain, who has long-since learned to take all the attention in stride, will be front-and-center again at this year’s festival, which is offering up the world premiere of Searchlight Pictures’ The Eyes of Tammy Faye, in which she stars as the bedazzled televangelist Tammy Faye Baker under the guidance of director Michael Showalter. Chastain herself acquired the rights to Baker’s life in 2012 and is one of the film’s producers. And this time, there won’t be any waiting for its release, since the film is scheduled to quickly hit theaters on Sept. 24.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter’s Sept. 11 daily issue at the Toronto International Film Festival.
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