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Jessica Chastain is X-Men’s newcomer

Jessica Chastain on her role as a mysterious alien in X-Men: Dark Phoenix

The X-Men face one of their gravest and most personal challenges to date in X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

It is the 1990s, and even as the team attempt to embrace their newfound acceptance within society, their close bond is about to be shattered when Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) merges with a strange, extraterrestrial force, one that boosts her already strong abilities to previously unknown levels.

Years of repression are torn asunder as Jean begins to find herself and master her new powers and a mysterious alien with an agenda (Jessica Chastain) exerts an influence.

Directed by Simon Kinberg, Dark Phoenix, which opens here today, sees James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult reprising their roles as Professor Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr, Raven and Hank McCoy respectively.

Chastain, 42, is one of the most talented actors working in film. Appearing in films such as Zero Dark Thirty, The Martian, The Help, Interstellar, and The Zookeeper's Wife, she has won plaudits and awards for her performances, bringing nuance and power to every role she works on.

For Dark Phoenix, she is playing the mysterious, dangerous extraterrestrial who has designs on Jean Grey's power. Chastain talks of what lured her to the superhero world, reuniting with film-maker Kinberg, and how she saw her character.

This is your first full-on superhero film. What made you decide to sign up?

It was a connection with Simon (Kinberg) because we'd worked together on The Martian. I was interested in the story and I think this may be only the second superhero movie where the antagonist and protagonist are both females, which is so interesting. There are some great scenes between Sophie's Phoenix and my character.

Did they have you do any comics research?

Strictly script, because my character is a culmination of multiple characters in the X-Men universe and I couldn't just research her through the comics.

Would you say she's a complicated character to play?

She's mysterious, but for me, she didn't seem that complicated in that she's very straightforward.

She says something about good and evil just being labels. If you think about Jean Grey, who for the majority of her life has been trying to be a good girl, to behave a certain way, and do what she's been told, and now she feels so much shame about this darkness.

Honestly, we all have darkness. You can't have light without the darkness. So, it really, to me, is a film where she doesn't have to hide her imperfections or the things about her that might be messy, and that's what I played with this character.

The look we have seen of her so far, was that a lot to pull together?

It's no make-up. That's the colour of my eyebrows and eyelashes!

Tilda Swinton and I have very similar colouring, so I was inspired by her.

A lot of the time women, especially in film, will tint their eyelashes if they are blonde to make them appear darker. You're still not wearing make-up, but your eyes are darker. I told Simon that if I don't tint my eyelashes, my colouring is going to be like Tilda Swinton's and perhaps with a light wig, there could be something really open about that.

I wanted to create a character that you felt like you could fall into their eyes, and by not wearing make-up, it really kind of allows that.

You're the newcomer to the cast. Was it a warm welcome?

They're so nice! Sadly, I didn't have a lot of scenes with all of them. Most of mine were with Sophie, whom I adore, and then James and I have done three films together, so we're good friends. But yeah, they couldn't have been more welcoming and more generous and more kind.

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