PARIS — Anyone looking to learn more about gun legislation politics should talk to Jessica Chastain. For one of her latest roles, as the lead in the John Madden-directed “Miss Sloane,” the Oscar-nominated actress and founder of all-female production company Freckle Films plays political strategist Elizabeth Sloane up against America’s powerful gun lobbyists. The film, due for release this fall or later in 2017, is one of several meaty projects under way for the versatile actress.
Chastain also stars in Niki Caro’s upcoming “The Zookeeper’s Wife” as well as Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut “Molly’s Game.” Next up, she is about to start filming Xavier Dolan’s first English language film, “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,” followed by the Susanna White-helmed 19th-century drama “Woman Walks Ahead,” in which she plays adviser to Sioux chieftain Sitting Bull.
In Paris for the launch of Piaget’s latest fine jewelry collection, Sunny Side of Life, an upbeat Chastain, fresh from a four-month break from filming, sat down with WWD to talk vegan diets, diamonds and politics.
WWD: You were spotted in a vegan restaurant in Paris.
Jessica Chastain: Yes, I Instagrammed a picture. It’s called — please excuse me, I’m going to butcher this because I’m terrible at French — Le Potager de Charlotte and it’s run by two brothers.
WWD: Paris can’t be very vegan-friendly…
J.C.: It’s getting easier. I can remember coming here when I was backpacking through Europe and people being so shocked when I said I was vegan. Now they’re starting to understand it and all these delicious restaurants are popping up.
WWD: And your mother’s a vegan chef?
J.C.: Yes, I’ve been vegan for 10 years and before that I was a pescetarian for 15 years.
WWD: So will you be coming out with a vegan cookbook?
J.C.: [Laughs.] I’ve been asked to, I don’t know, maybe I will in the future.
WWD: Is it easy for you to go incognito in Paris?
J.C.: You know, I go incognito in most places. Maybe it would be more difficult in Los Angeles but in New York I take the subway every day. If people recognize you, they’ll kind of stare at you a little bit and smile, but you’re not the most important part of their day.
WWD: Are you going to any couture shows?
J.C.: I’m going to the Chanel show. To me, it’s fun. I love going to art openings and going to a fashion show feels kind of similar somehow.
WWD: How involved are you in picking your looks — and rocks — for big events? For the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival you had first dibs on Piaget’s new fine jewelry collection, Sunny Side of Life.
J.C.: I’m very involved in what I put together, even with costumes when I play a character, for everything, even the color of my nails. It’s very important to me, and that piece for Cannes, it’s one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever worn. The Cannes Film Festival, that’s where my career was born exactly five years ago, “The Tree of Life” won the Palme d’Or, and there I was back there wearing this Piaget palm necklace.
WWD: With your complexion and beautiful red hair, what are your favorite stones?
J.C.: I’m into everything. I love emeralds, I love rubies, I love yellow diamonds. I wore a yellow dress to the ceremony in Cannes. A lot of people are afraid of yellow but, apart from maybe orange, I don’t think there’s any color I don’t like to wear. I like variety and maybe that’s why I do so many different kinds of films.
WWD: You certainly do. You’re working on the film “Molly’s Game.”
J.C.: Molly Bloom was an Olympic hopeful and she had a terrible accident skiing and then went to Los Angeles and she created the most exclusive high stakes poker game in the world, she was like 27 at the time. Aaron Sorkin wrote the script and he’s going to direct it — it’s the first time he’s directing a film — and I’m going to play Molly.
WWD: Are you a gambler by nature?
J.C.: No, which is fine because Molly isn’t a gambler. She is actually really good at reading people and reading gamblers and getting people into a room to spend money.
WWD: You’ve also just wrapped filming John Madden’s “Miss Sloane” centered on gun legislation. Are you involved in the gun control debate in your daily life and what is your view on what it is going to take to change the situation?
J.C.: I think everybody in the United States is involved in it because it’s such an issue. There are more mass shootings in the United States than there are days of the year. I was really excited to do that film because, yes it’s about gun legislation and a woman lobbying for more regulations and illuminating the gun show loophole. But it’s more about American politics, the question of what does it take to get a bill passed? And she’s a lobbyist and you see everything that she accomplishes, or tries to accomplish, getting a bill passed. And you also see, in many instances, how our system is broken, especially with campaign financing and what senators and congressmen have to do to keep their seats. Sometimes it’s not about representing the people, it’s about keeping their spot in office, which is fund-raising.
WWD: What do you think about actors expressing their political views? Ewan McGregor just tweeted about Boris Johnson and Brexit, for instance.
J.C.: You know, everyone is open to their opinion. I’ve never said who I’m voting for and I don’t think that I ever will. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to campaign for people because I’m an American citizen; I have every right to campaign, and I’m going to attend campaign dinners. But I’m not going to use my platform as an actress to tell people who they should and shouldn’t vote for.