One of the most sought after and prolific movie stars in Hollywood, Jessica Chastain, 38, stars in the upcoming action sci-fi adventure, The Martian (based on the best-selling novel) alongside Matt Damon. Despite her petite frame, she is often cast in tough, take-charge roles in movies such as The Debt, Zero Dark Thirty, and now in The Martian she plays the Commander of the first space ship to land on Mars.
What do you think about the future of space travel?
I am optimistic that we are going to venture out beyond this planet. Human beings are explorers by nature. We climb up mountains and go into the ocean and so space is just the next step, I guess. I think colonising other planets is definitely in our future and because I am an optimistic person, I tend to believe in things rather than not to believe in things. I of course think that the idea that we are the only life in the universe is hard to believe. So yes, I would love it in my lifetime to learn about colonies that are popping up here and there and then perhaps finding organisms and life on other planets.
You’re in a lot of movies where you play traditionally male roles such as Zero Dark Thirty and now The Martian. Do you miss wearing the glamorous gowns that are usually associated with being an actress?
Well, I have another movie, Crimson Peak coming out and I am all gowned up in that movie. But I wouldn’t like to just wear gowns and be glamorous all the time. And this one, I’m an astronaut and we wanted her to look as realistic as possible. I met with an astronaut in NASA and we talked about how she would look. For me personally, I like to dress up.
In Interstellar you didn’t get to suit up and go into space – you must have been happy you got to join in the fun this time?
Yes. when I saw Interstellar and saw Anne (Hathaway) and Matthew (McConaughey) floating around, I thought, ‘Oh my God, that looks like that would be so much fun.’ I was thinking that it would be fun to play an astronaut and a week later I got a call from my agent who said that Ridley Scott has a film and you’d be playing an astronaut. And it’s like, ‘Wow, you really put stuff out there and it can come back.’ So it was like the answer to my wish of being an astronaut.
You’re obviously very creative and I know you’re interested in fashion, how would you go designing your own dress?
I am not talented enough to create my own dress, but I have a lot of friends in the fashion industry that I can call up and say, ‘Hey I have a premiere. Do you have anything that you would like to do?’ And they create something. They ask me for images of the past and I love old Hollywood, I love the gowns from the past and there are some dresses that I have picked out from Google images and sent out to people and I’ve said, ‘I would love if you could make something inspired by this idea.’ So I like to participate a lot in that, but I only do that with fashion designers that I know personally and that were open to it and ask for that. I would never call someone up and say, ‘I want you to make me a purple dress with rhinestones.’ So yeah, I like to participate a lot in that.
Does your boyfriend weigh in on your fashion choices? (Her boyfriend of 3 years is Gian Luca Passi di Preposulo, an executive for the Italian fashion brand Moncler).
I will say that when doing a fitting for something, like a big red carpet event, it is nice to date someone who will look and say, ‘I think it needs a little more this or that,’ or, ‘It needs to come in here or there.’ His experience in the fashion industry means that I am dating a guy who can actually view it from that side which is great.
Years before you became known, Al Pacino would talk about you declaring you to be ‘the best actress of your generation.’ (Pacino cast her in the lead of his play Salome in 2011). What is your relationship with him like these days? Do you stay in touch?
Yeah. I joke around and say that Al is like my acting godfather. But he really is. He started my career and what a thing, to be discovered by Al Pacino! I learned so much from him and he is my greatest acting teacher. So yeah, for me he’s like a family member. And he had his film Danny Collins out recently and I went to the premiere. Whenever we are in the same city we will meet for dinner. I was filming in London for four months and he came in and we had dinner and it’s wonderful to talk to him about what I am working on and what he is working on. I never thought that I could say it, but I have a personal family-esque relationship with Al Pacino. I never as a child thought that that was going to happen, but it’s one of my most treasured friendships that I have made in this industry.
What was it like working with Matt Damon in this movie?
Well I have done two movies with Matt Damon now and I probably shared less than ten minutes of screen time with him. (laughs) It’s really sad for me because I had loved his work from when I had become aware of him in Good Will Hunting. And then you look at The Informant and Behind the Candelabra, and everything he does, he is a movie star, but he is a real actor in that he transforms and he takes risks. He is someone who I have great admiration for.
There’s a Dutch project called Mars One and by 2027 they want to establish the first human colony on Mars. But as we all know, you can send people there but they can’t necessarily get back. Can you see yourself signing up for that?
Oh, no way! My life is too great right now. (laughs) I am obsessed with space travel. I love NASA and I love the exploration of it and I see them as great heroes with what they do and but it’s just not for me. I am a bystander for this one and I want to watch it on the sidelines. And also, I don’t want to say goodbye to my family. And what do you do with your dog? (laughs) You can’t bring your dog to Mars. So I think I would pass on that but I would want to learn as much as I could from that.
Are you optimistic about humanity?
I believe that humans are intuitively good people and sometimes I get confused, like what happened with Cecil the Lion recently and horrible things that human beings are doing, but I would like to think that love is the most important part, and we have love for our planet and love for nature.
You’re interested in art – what art do you collect? And is jewellery something you also have a passion for?
Yes, I love jewellery and I have been very lucky to be the ambassadress of Piaget, which is why of course I love Piaget. I love jewellery. I got to wear Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels once and I love the history and energy of stones. And in terms of art, I think I am someone who comes from a very instinctual place when I am acting in my life. I don’t want to get stuck too much in my head because that’s when I start to worry about things and I can easily switch to being stressed out. I come from an instinctual point of view and I am really inspired by other artists because that is what they do. They have a feeling and they express it.
What do you like to collect in your house?
I love pieces that have energy and history. I just got an apartment that Leonard Bernstein lived in when he wrote West Side Story. I like original wood and I bought a jukebox filled with music from the 1950s. It’s weird because part of me feels like I was born in the wrong time but then I have loved so much in the time that I am in. I have some connection to the past and I much prefer the clothing and jewellery and records, I prefer to listen to music on a record (laughs). I like the feeling of something that has history involved in it. So that’s what I surround myself with and I am filling my house right now with things I’ve collected and I really enjoy that.