When it comes to gender and racial equality, Molly’s Game star Jessica Chastain isn’t messing around.
First of all, she’s a big support – financial and otherwise – of the Time’s Up campaign. Then just last week, it emerged that she’d helped secure her long-time friend Octavia Spencer a salary that was five times her asking pay, using something called a “favoured nations contract” that ties two deals together.
That story came from Spencer herself, who was telling a Sundance Film Festival panel about a yet-to-be-announced comedy starring herself, Chastain, and Jada Pinkett Smith.
“I love that woman,” Spencer told the panel. “Because she’s walking the walk and she’s actually talking the talk.”
Yet as PEDESTRIAN.TV found out when Chastain was in Sydney, the actress had no idea that her former (and future) co-star was going to spill the beans.
“I didn’t know she was going to share it,” she said, laughing and shaking her head.
Spencer messaged her immediately afterwards. “She was very sweet,” continued Chastain. “She goes, ‘I hope you don’t mind, but I shared our story’. And of course I don’t mind. It’s her story, you know? But I just want to make sure that the focus isn’t on what I did, because it was such an easy thing what I did, at the end of the day, and the focus also remains on why has she been underpaid for so long. And I think that’s a part of the story that we really need to examine.”
At the very tip of the scale, the highest paid actress for 2017, Emma Stone, banked $26 million, a full $3 million below the fourteenth highest paid actor, Ryan Gosling. And while the highest paid male actors list includes a handful of people of colour (e.g. The Rock, Jackie Chan), not one woman of colour appears in the list of highest paid female actors.
After the Octavia Spencer news broke, Chastain immediately turned the focus onto men, and what they can be doing to help pay inequality.
“[Spencer] had been underpaid for so long,” she tweeted. “When I discovered that, I realised that I could tie her deal to mine to bring up her quote. Men should start doing this with their female costars.”
She had been underpaid for so long. When I discovered that , I realized that I could tie her deal to mine to bring up her quote. Men should start doing this with their female costars.
— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) January 24, 2018
Does she see a future when men (who were more than happy to don a Time’s Up pin at the Golden Globes) will start doing this for their female co-stars?
“I don’t know of anyone who’s done it yet, but I’m sure people are going to be inspired to do it,” she said. “It was really easy for me to do that with Octavia, and I realised that when you decide to tie your salary to someone else’s and do a favoured nations deal, you understand, okay, there’s a great possibility I’m going to take a pay cut in doing this, but at the end of the day…. [She laughs]. It’s such an easy thing that we can all do, and I think it really changes a lot in the industry.”
Chastain is an actress at the top of her game. In 2011, she went from appearing in a handful of smaller productions to suddenly appearing in six films at once, earning herself a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her turn as social outcast Celia Foote in The Help.
Now, the 40-year-old actress is starring in Molly’s Game as real-life “Poker Princess” Molly Bloom, an Olympic-level skier who ran underground, high-stakes poker games for the famous, the powerful, and the obscenely wealthy.
She stars opposite Idris Elba, playing a fictional (and reluctant) defence lawyer who steps into help when Molly is arrested by the FBI, and an extremely well-cast Michael Cera as Player X. Who is Player X? He’s supposedly an amalgamation of the many famous actors who frequented Molly’s table – Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon among them – but as The Ringer‘s Miles Surrey deducts, it’s fairly easy to determine who this vindictive, twitchy, master poker player is intended to be: Tobey Maguire.
“He’s so sweet and apple-cheeked and such a nice guy that you never believe that he can be a destroyer of lives,” Sorkin says of Cera, describing Player X as someone who wants to win more money at poker than he earns making movies.
Sorkin consulted heavily with Bloom when writing his script (partially based off her 2014 book of the same name). In prepping for the role, Chastain also met often with Bloom, warning her that she might not like what she sees on the screen.
“She was so generous with me with her time, and so loving and wonderful to allow me to study her, but I had to make sure she understood that sometimes I’d be showing something that she may not want to see,” she told P.TV.
“You know, someone trusting you with their story is one thing, but you have to make sure that they understand that you’re going to show their faults. You’re going to show their mistakes. And it’s very important when I’m playing someone not to just play them as heroic. I really want to see the mistakes that they make, and what they overcome.
“I tried to study her as much as I could. Yes, it’s the story of one woman, but when you make a film, I also try to think of, well, it’s a story of all women. Definitely [the film] explores patriarchy, it explores a woman trying to find success in an industry dominated by men, and that’s how I tried to make her relatable.”
Molly’s Game is out February 1st – have a watch of the trailer below.Image: Supplied