I chase experiences, not pay cheques: Chastain
Jessica Chastain describes stress of portraying a real-life person in Molly's Game
Whenever Jessica Chastain portrays a real-life person in a movie, the pressure is even greater for the US actress.
She did so in last year's The Zookeeper's Wife, in which she plays Antonina Zabinski, who helped rescue Jews from the Germans in World War II, and Woman Walks Ahead, where she portrays artist Caroline (also known as Catherine) Weldon, who travelled to North Dakota to paint Native American leader Sitting Bull in the 1880s.
The 40-year-old said at the Hotel Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica, California: "There is a legacy you are being a part of. You are in some way using their footsteps to tell a story, and I want to make sure to be respectful of that.
"It is important for me to show a real human being."
The stakes were a little higher for the crime biopic Molly's Game, where she plays Hollywood's "poker princess" Molly Bloom, who is very much alive and around the same age as Chastain.
A former ski champion, Bloom hosted high-stakes exclusive poker nights a few years ago that boasted regulars like sports stars, business tycoons and celebrities Ben Affleck, Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio.
But when she started taking a cut of the pot instead of sticking to tips, the Russian mob got involved and she was arrested in the middle of the night when Federal Bureau of Investigation agents broke into her apartment and pointed guns at her.
Opening here tomorrow and helmed by US writer-director Aaron Sorkin, Molly's Game is based on the 2014 memoir Bloom wrote after her ordeal.
Idris Elba plays her defence attorney Charlie Jaffey and Kevin Costner plays her father Larry Bloom.
How did you prepare for the role?
When I Googled Molly Bloom, I was seeing these images that felt very Kardashian, very Los Angeles and Instagram-y.
I spent a lot of time getting spray tans and false lashes and nails and all this stuff that I don't normally do in my life to create the look of the character.
It was also important for me to talk to people who knew her. I met with some players who played in her games and they took me to a New York game.
Molly's ex-boyfriend was there and all of her players, and so I got to talk to everyone who had known her about what that experience was like.
What was Bloom like?
I found her to be a little quiet and withdrawn and not someone who was wanting to be the centre of attention. That confused me because the way she presented herself and her clothing was different from her personality.
She felt guarded, vulnerable and hurt, and aware of the public's perception of her. I felt a bit embarrassed I had judged her.
I realised what the media often does with women. We are quick to blame things on or vilify women. For her job, she had to put forth this persona, so she started to go down that rabbit hole of what she felt she had to become to get the men to accept her into this boys' club.
I had a lot of empathy for her.
How did Bloom like the movie and your portrayal of her?
The first time she saw the movie, it was at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Her dad was sitting behind me, so that was nerve-wracking. I could hear him crying during one scene. I was so nervous about whether or not Molly was liking the movie, I kept looking at her. And she did.
The audience clapped for Molly at some point. She said she was moved because it was the first time she felt like people were rooting for her.
She has been vilified a lot. I think the film has been a healing experience.
I am happy to report that she is going back to law school.
Bloom was attracted by the money. What is your relationship to money?
I definitely did not come from money. I was raised by a single mum. She had me at 17, and she tells the story now and it breaks my heart. She would shoplift food for us at the grocery store. Me and my brother and sister, we grew up without.
I think because of that, I never had a fear of being without money because for me, it was a normal thing. I didn't need a lot to be happy.
I thought, as long as I am living in a way where I can support myself and be acting, then that is my dream come true. So it is ironic that I am successful in this industry because that was never a goal of mine.
In the beginning of my career, I think I made US$10,000 (S$13,300) on the (2011) film Wilde Salome, one of my very first movies. I worked on that for a year-and-a-half. I have never chased pay cheques. I have been chasing the experiences.
You have been one of the most outspoken proponents of the #MeToo campaign against sexual assault.
I am trying to amplify the voices of the people who have come forward so they know that there is a safe community for them. So they realise they do not have to be afraid, that I've got your back, I believe you, and I am here to help you heal.
I think the more we can amplify, the more we will ensure it won't happen in the future.
(US director) Ava DuVernay also reminded me how important it is to acknowledge men in a time like this, because there is a very small percentage who did terrible things (but) had a wide reach. The majority of men I have worked with have been the most incredible mentors.