Jessica Chastain talks emotionally draining 'Miss Julie'
Colin Farrell and Jessica Chastain in a scene from 'Miss Julie' (Egor Kirpichev / Pacific Northwest Pictures)
TORONTO -- It was the last day of rehearsal before cameras rolled on the film "Miss Julie" and Jessica Chastain couldn't go on.
Getting into the mindset of the melancholic title character was taking its toll on the two-time Oscar nominee. Director Liv Ullmann decided not to make her go through rehearsal for a particularly agonizing scene involving a pet bird.
"I came into rehearsal and I was feeling really depressed and down," Chastain recalled in a telephone interview. "Liv saw that, and the incredible thing about working with a director as sensitive as she is, is then she goes: 'You know what? Let's stop.'
"That, I was very grateful for."
Ullmann, known as one of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's actress muses, adapted the story from the 1888 August Strindberg play.
Chastain, 37, plays the daughter of an Anglo-Irish aristocrat who instigates an emotionally draining battle of power and intimacy with a valet named John (Colin Farrell) at their estate while her father is away. Complicating matters is his relationship with a servant (Samantha Morton).
The Sacramento, Calif., native said "Miss Julie" is one of her favourite plays and she studied it at the Juilliard School in New York City.
She liked Ullmann's decision to put "almost a feminist take" on the story.
"So many times I had seen the play where John manipulates the situation and orders this woman. He kind of controls her, abuses her and then at the end orders her to ... do this terrible thing," said Chastain.
"In Liv's interpretation, she wanted Julie to want that from the very beginning. She wanted Julie to have something in her that she had always craved ... even if she wasn't able to really articulate it."
The result is yet another critically heralded performance from Chastain, who got Oscar nominations for her supporting role in 2011's "The Help" and for her leading role in 2013's "Zero Dark Thirty."
In 2012, Time magazine called her one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World."
And yet she's still accessible to fans, engaging directly with them on Twitter.
"I came into this industry because I love movies, I love writers, I love directors, stories, actors, and I feel like the people that I'm interacting with are also film lovers. So it feels like being a part of a film appreciation group," Chastain said with a laugh.
This week, Twitter even brought Chastain into contact with one of her favourite 1980s pop stars -- fellow redhead Tiffany.
"That was crazy," she said. "She tweeted me that she was a fan of my work, which is insane, especially since I think that's the first record I ever had.
"I used to lip sync her songs in the mirror. I was like, 'A redhead singer!' I was all about it."
Of course, Twitter can also bring hateful comments, and Chastain said she's received some regarding her recent Critics' Choice Awards speech, in which she asked the audience to "stand together against homophobic, sexist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and racist agendas."
"I've banned all those people," she said, laughing. "On Twitter, anyone sending me a death threat, you know, I'm not going to talk to you. There were far more positive reactions than the negative ones. I think it just shocked me that there were even some people speaking against diversity.
"I don't understand that, and I don't understand people also tweeting really racist things. But whenever someone did I was like, 'OK, I don't need to talk to you,' and I just banned them."
"Miss Julie" hits theatres on Friday.