Actress Jessica Chastain Is Having a Big Year

Whenreached theaters on Sept. 2, it represented the third film Jessica Chastain currently has in theaters -- with two more opening before the end of the year. Talk about hitting the ground running.
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When The Debt reached theaters on Sept. 2, it represented the third film Jessica Chastain currently has in theaters -- with two more opening before the end of the year and still another playing at the Venice Film Festival in September.

Talk about hitting the ground running.

In the past four years, Chastain has starred in seven films, most of which have come out in the past six months. She's been working almost nonstop since graduating from Juilliard in 2003. But she suddenly finds herself cast as Hollywood's latest "It" girl, thanks to roles in The Tree of Life, The Help, The Debt and the upcoming releases, Coriolanus, Take Shelter, Texas Killing Fields and Al Pacino's Wilde Salome.

When you're playing tag, however, no one wants to be "it" -- and Chastain is doing her best to be "not it" right now.

"If you're the 'it' girl, that means that soon, you'll be out of fashion," she says in a telephone interview. "I want to be the girl who lasts. I'm the person who just wants to work with amazing people."

Or to play them: In The Debt, she portrays an Israeli agent who is the flashback version of the present-day character played by Helen Mirren. In the film, she's part of a squad of agents -- including Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington -- on a mission to capture a Nazi war criminal who is still alive in East Berlin in the mid-1960s. As such, she had to learn to handle herself physically, so that she could look convincing in the film's fight scenes.

"I'm not really a fighter," Chastain says with a laugh. "I'd never thrown a punch in my life. But before we started filming, I worked with a wonderful teacher from the Israeli army who taught me Krav Maga three times a week. Since I'm small, I had to learn to use my body weight to my advantage. I had to be squirrelly; I also had to learn to use pressure points so the other person's body would go where I led them.

"During the fight scenes, I used that research to ground me. And I have a dance background -- I wanted to be a ballerina when I was younger -- so I had that connection to my body. A lot of the fight scenes are like a dance; you count the rhythm. If you're off by a beat, someone gets hit in the face."

Like Jesper Christensen, who played the agents' quarry: "There was a moment where my hand grazed his chin accidentally. In that take, we both looked so fierce -- but afterward, I gave this big gasp and covered my mouth with my hands. Fortunately, it was no big accident."

This interview continues on my website.

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