Frankly, many of us saw this coming. As soon as A24 Films confirmed that J.C. Chandor's “A Most Violent Year” would be released just in time for Oscar consideration, the questions began. Was Jessica Chastain's performance a leading or supporting proposition? Moreover, how would that relate to her work in Christopher Nolan's “Interstellar,” which Paramount Pictures was clearly positioning (accurately) for Best Supporting Actress consideration? Once the film began to screen, word got out that her turn in “Year” was clearly supporting and at some point a choice was going to have to be made. A24 probably hoped things would work out for everyone and Chastain would be considered a lead for Chandor's film, but based on the news The New York Times broke tonight, it might not have mattered.
According to the paper of record, Chastain has been contractually blocked from promoting “A Most Violent Year” in almost any official capacity through early December. The only things she's currently being allowed to do is attend the film's world premiere, which opens the AFI Film Fest Thursday night in Hollywood, and a tastemaker screening at CAA next week. That came as a surprise to Chandor, A24 and Participant Media (who financed the film). They believed she'd be allowed to participate in the guild screenings and awards circuit events that are expected for a film in the Oscar race. The paper specifically mentions director Christopher Nolan as being one of the people on the “Interstellar” side insisting that Chastain be held to her contract (in fact, they purposely mention him in this capacity twice). Chastain will be filming in Europe the rest of December and won't be available until mid-January, in theory, after the Golden Globes.
Actors with competing films in the same categories is nothing new and, in fact, Chastain experienced this in 2011 when she was up for Best Supporting Actress for both “The Help” and “The Tree of Life.” Chastain eventually earned her first Oscar nomination for the former, but DreamWorks and Fox Searchlight worked together. Whatever the guilds and Academy were going to get behind, they would get behind. Considering that precedent, it's not surprising the “Most Violent Year” camp is somewhat shocked that the “Interstellar” side has been so adamant about sticking to Chastain's contract.
Chastain, however, remains classy as ever. The Times asked her about the conflict during a press event for “Interstellar” in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday and while she noted she “never comments about her contract or salary” she did credit Nolan for getting her out of an appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman” to attend the premiere of “A Most Violent Year.” She added, “We all put our heads together and do what we can.”
HitFix reached out to Paramount regarding this story and have not received an official comment as of publication.
Of course, all this will be moot if Chastain's turn in “Year” really isn't a player at all. Paramount still believes she has a shot at a supporting actress nod for “Interstellar,” but the jury is still out on whether the guilds and Academy voters will embrace Nolan's latest epic. Obviously, this break is conveniently timed as most of Los Angeles' critics, pundits and major media will see “Year” at one of two screenings over the next 48 hours. Once that happens, and if Chastain receives significant kudos for her performance in Chandor's film? Things will get very, very interesting.
As for “Interstellar,” the film earned some much needed raves from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times just in time for opening day. HitFix spoke to Chastain about the film last week and she went into detail on what it's like collaborating with Nolan.
“Working with Christopher, you are there to work,” she says gleefully and with a smile on her face. “There is no complaining. You are in extreme situations and you just go through it. Anne was in ice water up to her shoulders; she went through it. Matthew is on the glacier not being able to look down cause he's in the space suit. I'm getting dust chucked in my face every day and that's your job. You're doing it.”
For more on Chastain's thoughts on “Interstellar,” check out the video embedded at the top of this post.
“Interstellar” is now playing on 35mm, 70mm and 70mm IMAX and will be nationwide Friday. “A Most Violent Year” opens in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 31.