Jessica Chastain'Ismael's Ghosts' premiere and opening ceremony, 70th Cannes Film Festival, France - 17 May 2017

Will Smith is already up to mischief just days into his role on the jury of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, according to fellow jury member Jessica Chastain. In an exclusive interview with WWD at the Martinez hotel on Thursday, at the festival kickoff, the actress joked that Smith is plotting to create a jury scandal.

“He was saying we need one, because every year there’s a controversy. So we’re thinking maybe we’ll create one,” laughed the actress adding that, in reality, “it’s such a good chemistry, I don’t think anyone’s difficult. So far everyone’s been so lovely.”

It’s been a meteoric ascent for Chastain, who first attended the festival as a relative unknown in 2011, for Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” which won the Palme d’Or. But she’s holding on for the ride. “Holding hands with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn was my introduction to the world as an actress — changed my life 100 percent,” she said.

Jessica Chastain'Tree of Life' film premiere at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, Cannes, France - 16 May 2011

Jessica Chastain at the 64th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, in 2011.  Matt Baron/BEI/BEI/Shutterstock

“In 2011, I remember right before coming here they asked me if I’d do a photo shoot for a Cannes issue with Elizabeth Olsen. My movies hadn’t yet come out, and it was this new actresses thing. And this year, they invited me to be a member of the jury and to do a Cannes photo shoot with Isabelle Huppert, who for the longest time has been my favorite actress.”

An ebullient Chastain said the prospect of 12 days of festival intensity — an emotional roller coaster of a schedule split between sitting in darkness to watch three in-competition films a day and emerging into the bright Cannes sunlight to face the cameras, not forgetting the party circuit — doesn’t faze her. But she’s adamant about prioritizing the task at hand over industry hobnobbing. “Many times, I’ve watched three films a day at home, so I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal for me. I love watching movies, especially when I’ve got the screeners, because I’m an Academy member and vote for the Oscars so there are a lot of movies to watch,” she said.

“Today is the first day of watching the films and I’m taking the responsibility very seriously. I was going to go to a dinner tonight and then I found out at what time it was going to start and said, ‘No, too late,’” the actress added. “I want to make sure that for every film I go into I have as much energy as I can, and I am really ready and there to honor each of the films in competition.”

Jessica Chastain'Okja' premiere, 70th Cannes Film Festival, France - 19 May 2017 WEARING GIVENCHY SAME OUTFIT AS CATWALK MODEL KENDALL JENNER *4885101o

Jessica Chastain at the premier of ‘Okja.’  David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

She’s still being treated to her fair share of movie star pampering, with the world’s brands at her feet, and first dibs on Piaget’s collection as the house’s ambassador. (For the festival’s opening night she wore a bold ruby and diamond necklace from the house’s Sunlight Journey high jewelry collection.)

“I’m always asking for rubies though I don’t get to keep them, sadly,” said Chastain, who, when getting ready for the red carpet, likes to channel icons like “Jackie Kennedy, Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor and these incredibly glamorous moments that they had on the red carpet.”

In terms of her latest projects, she talked about her role as the lead in “Woman Walks Ahead,” based on the relationship between Sitting Bull and 19th-century artist and activist Caroline Weldon. “After her husband died, she went off to South Dakota to paint Sitting Bull as there was no portrait of him in any of the galleries. They developed a strong, deep friendship and worked together to be heard. I mean, this is a time when the country was being formed and these are two people who didn’t have a voice. Women had no voice in the U.S., they had no vote, and indigenous people had no voice,” Chastain said.

“And the film was made by a female director, Susanna White,” added the actress, lauding the fact that this year’s jury, headed by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, represents an even male/female split. “For me, when you have diversity in cinema, that’s the only way to have a healthy society, you can’t just have one point of view telling you what is worthwhile,” Chastain said. “Things are changing but not on their own. It’s happening because we are making it happen.”

The Cannes Film Festival, she said, is where “all the best movies collide.”

“Every time, I’m just swept away by the nostalgia for filmmaking that I feel here, even looking up at the ‘La Dolce Vita’ pictures behind you. When you’re here at the festival, you’re reminded of the history of cinema,” she said. “It’s also a great introduction to where cinema is going in the future because the Cannes Film Festival is where I first saw one of Xavier Dolan’s films, ‘Mommy’ [2014]. It was the first time I was introduced to his work as an artist, and now I’m working with him.”


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