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‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’: Jessica Chastain: ‘Friends in the industry have told me to stop talking, to be careful’ | Culture

Actress Jessica Chastain, who has just been nominated for an Oscar.
Actress Jessica Chastain, who has just been nominated for an Oscar.Charlie Grey

Jessica Chastain is celebrating a decade in cinema. “Can you believe it?” she asks from a hotel room in María Cristina Hotel in San Sebastián in Spain’s Basque Country. “Do I get a cake? Because this is a celebration…,” she says pointing to her green detox juice and the two identical glasses on the table (the second one has just been brought in without a word about what was wrong with the first). Among other things, Chastain has spent the decade trying to get a movie made about televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.

During the 1980s, Bakker and her husband Jim built a Christian-Evangelical empire – one that included a television channel and a theme park. When she was arrested for fraud and conspiracy, the media turned her into a national joke for her excessive naivety, enthusiasm and makeup. In The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Jessica Chastain retells her story – a role that has landed her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Chastain also produced the movie. But this is not the first film this year in which the 44-year-old has acted and produced, she also wore both hats on The 355, a movie about a group of international super spies, which also stars Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger and Fan Bingbing. This year, Chastain is taking center stage.

The world first discovered Chastain at the premiere of The Tree of Life (2011) at the Cannes Film Festival, when she walked the red carpet with Brad Pitt on one side and Sean Penn on the other, evoking classic Hollywood glamor. In reality, she gripped on to them because she was worried her legs would give way. “I didn’t feel anxiety about connecting to other artists and getting to work with people I really admire, I more felt anxiety about the media,” she explains. “This is the first time I’m realizing this as I’m talking. In the same way that the media devoured Tammy, there’s a sense of devouring women, treating them as commodities.”

People were so upset that my character didn’t have a love story in Zero Dark Thirty. Journalists and critics would ask me about things like that

In 2011, another five films were released that starred Chastain. In the space of one year, the actress – who gets embarrassed when people sing Happy Birthday to her in public – found herself presenting a film in Berlin, another in Toronto, two in Cannes and another two in Venice. Movies such as Take Shelter, The Help and The Debt showcased her versatility and she began to be lauded as the “best actress of her generation,” or as in the words of Al Pacino – who picked her for the docudrama Salomé – “the next Meryl Streep.” But Chastain felt that it was just a matter of time before she disappointed everyone. “I’m the unknown everyone’s already sick of,” she said at the time.

When she won a Golden Globe for her role in Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain said in her acceptance speech that she had worked very hard to get where she was. The magazine Variety later published an anonymous statement from a Hollywood public relations agency that warned that these kinds of statements do not tend to go down well. Meanwhile, everyone was talking about the new rising star, Jennifer Lawrence, who was admired by all. This is when the rumors began that the two actresses couldn’t stand one another. But instead of ignoring the rumors, Chastain dismissed them in a message on Facebook – a move that was not common back in 2013. Since then, she hasn’t stopped speaking out.

“People were so upset that my character didn’t have a love story in Zero Dark Thirty. Journalists and critics would ask me about things like that,” she says. “I constantly said ‘I am playing a woman who isn’t defined by the relationship in her life, she’s defined by her work.’ And it’s a very shocking thing for society to acknowledge because it’s a reality – but it’s not the media’s reality of what a woman is. So that’s when I started speaking up about it.” Without looking at the face of her publicist, she adds: “I absolutely have people in the industry who are dear friends, who I know care about me and love me, tell me to stop talking. It’s like ‘be careful’ of saying too much, because they wanted to make sure that I would have a long career.”

Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield in ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye.’
Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield in ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye.’

Chastain’s background is in theater. At 21 years of age, she won a scholarship to The Juilliard School, the most prestigious performing arts school in the United States, which allowed her to become the first member of her family to receive a university education. She learned how to play complex female characters, but when she arrived in Hollywood, she realized that the film industry had little to offer her. Not even after two consecutive Oscar nominations. So in 2016, she founded production company Freckle Films. “I wanted to use my career and my work as political filmmaking in terms of how we as a society view gender, race, class, sexual identity and sexual preference.”

But Hollywood has changed over the past decade, and Chastain is now one of the most visible faces of this new shift. In 2017, she called out filmmaker Bryan Singer on Twitter, sharing an article that highlighted the sexual assault allegations against the director of X-Men-Dark Phoenix. When asked about actor Johnny Depp’s preference for working with an earpiece so as not to have to learn his lines, she said she preferred to be “professional” and learn the script. And she has also become a vocal advocate for equal pay, helping actress Octavia Spencer, her co-star in The Help, negotiate a salary five times her initial pay for a film together.

Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain in 2006.
Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain in 2006.Stephen Shugerman (Getty Images)

“There was that moment in Cannes… I was not planning on saying that. It went viral.” Chastain is referring to a press conference at the end of the 2017 festival, which she had participated in as a jury member. During the conference, she confessed that she found the representation of female characters in the official selection “disturbing.” Chastain argued that if there were more female directors, there would be more diversity in the female characters in films of the official selection. “After I said that, I went, ‘Oh did I just hurt a festival that has been so generous with me?’ The reality was very sweet. Thierry Fremàux [the director of the Cannes Film Festival] a year later in press said that he was so grateful that we had talked about women in the festival and that they had made changes because of that.” She herself has seen those changes: “I don’t think about something before I say it, I just say it.” Although she confesses: “There are times when I go, ‘Oh gosh, now it’s going to become a huge thing’.”

Another challenge has been balancing the roles of actor and producer. She explains: “The producer wants to get the movie made, the actor wants more time.” This conflict can cause tension, especially when it comes to a character that requires as much preparation as Tammy Faye Bakker, someone who can easily fall into caricature. “I had to just completely embarrass myself in this part, which is not a fun thing to do,” she explains. “I thought for my whole life, they could go, ‘Oh God Jessica’s Tammy was crazy.’ That could be the joke that follows me for my whole career. And I had to be okay with that.”

But The Eyes of Tammy Faye does not descend into caricature because it treats the character with tenderness. That’s not to say it ignores her eccentricity, but instead of parodying her as the media did, the movie portrays her as a woman who triumphed in a man’s industry.

(l-r) Fan Bingbing, Marion Cotillard, Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz y Lupita Nyong'o at the Cannes Film Festival.
(l-r) Fan Bingbing, Marion Cotillard, Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz y Lupita Nyong’o at the Cannes Film Festival.George Pimentel (WireImage)

After the scandal of her divorce, Bakker became a hero of the gay community. She said that when everyone turned their back on her, it was the LGBTQ+ community who came to her aid. “And I will always love them for that.” A 2000 documentary about Bakker, titled The Eyes of Tammy Faye, was narrated by drag queen RuPaul, and serves as the basis for Chastain’s movie.

“Tammy was fabulously camp, but you also don’t want to do something that’s just that. She would have fun and make people laugh, but I always saw loneliness in everything she did. Even when she was being funny. To me, she was so innately lonely. And that’s why I think she desperately wanted to love people, people who felt different, on the outside, because she felt on the outside.”

As a producer, Chastain believes that the best strategy is to alternate “grown-up” movies such as The Eyes of Tammy Faye with more commercial fare such as The 355. The idea for the latter project came about at the 2017 Cannes festival. She explains how she felt “a certain… sadness” at the sight of so many film posters with male casts, which were seeking financing. She asked her agent: “Why are they all men?” Her agent replied: “I think you will have to find a way to do it yourself.” The end result is a movie produced via a kind of cooperative: the five female stars will be the owners of the movie and will split the profits. A number of Hollywood studios tried to buy it, but they turned them down. “They already had the chance to make this film,” she states.

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Here’s when your favorite show may return as writers strike is on the verge of ending | Culture

A tentative agreement between striking screenwriters and Hollywood studios offers some hope that the industry’s dual walkouts may soon be over. But when will your favorite shows return?

Well, it’s complicated. First, the agreement needs to pass two key votes, and certain paused productions such as Deadpool 3 and Yellowjackets will still have to wait on actors to reach a deal with studios.

When is ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ coming back?

Once the contract is approved, work will resume more quickly for some writers than others. Late-night talk shows were the first to be affected when the strike began, and they may be among the first to return to air now. NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on CBS could come back within days.

Saturday Night Live might be able to return for its 49th season, though some actors may not be able to appear. The actors strike limits promotional appearances that are the lifeblood of the late-night shows.

Shows that return while actors are still picketing could prove controversial, as happened with the planned resumptions of daytime shows including The Drew Barrymore Show and The Talk. Those plans were later abandoned.

One show that’s likely to make a speedy return? Real Time with Bill Maher. The host plotted a return without writers but ended up postponing once last week’s negotiations were set.

What about ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Superman’?

Writers rooms for scripted shows that shut down at the strike’s onset, including Netflix’s Stranger Things, Severance on Apple TV+ and Abbott Elementary on ABC are also likely to reactivate quickly. But with no performers to act out the scripts, long delays between page and screen will be inevitable.

Film writers will also get back to work on their slower timeline, though those working on scripts or late revisions for already scheduled movies — including “Deadpool 3″ and “Superman: Legacy” — will certainly be hustling to avoid further release-date delays.

When are Drew Barrymore and other daytime shows coming back?

Barrymore’s planned return to her daytime television show became a rallying point for picketers earlier this month, prompting her to cancel her plans. The Talk and The Jennifer Hudson Show, which also employ some screenwriters, also called off plans to return.

Barrymore and the other shows have not announced their plans for returning. However, the Writers Guild of America has made it clear: Guild members cannot start working again on projects until the tentative contract is ratified.

That vote has not yet been scheduled.

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Milan fashion celebrated diversity and inclusion with refrain: Make more space for color and curves | Culture

More curvy models than ever showed up on Milan runways this season, due mostly to a single show by Brazilian designer Karoline Vitto, while designers of color showcased their work at collateral events meant to promote their visibility — along with diversity — in the backrooms of Italian fashion.

Wherever diversity and inclusion were being celebrated during Milan Fashion Week, which ended Sunday, there was one underlying refrain: Make more space.

Curvy models get outing at Karoline Vitto

“We made history! It was incredible,’’ world-renown curvy model Ashley Graham gushed as she embraced London-based Vitto after Sunday’s show. Graham is often the only curvy model on major fashion runways, but for this show she led a cast of models ranging in size from UK 10 to UK 24 (US 6 to US 20).

By comparison, some Milan brands typically size up to 48 Italian (US size 12), while some, notably Dolce & Gabbana which sponsored Vitto, has extended some looks up to an Italian size 52 (US 16).

Graham wore an edgy black ripped corset and long sheer skirt, while other models wore form-hugging jersey dresses fitted with S-shaped metallic fixtures that sculpted their curves. She used the same technique for bathing suits.

“It feels normal,’’ Graham said, calling on more designers to get more curves on the runway. “If I feel normal on the runway with this many girls, that means that there is something that doesn’t feel normal when I am on the runway with everybody else.”

Diversifying small brand profiles

After working in fashion for decades, Deborah Latouche launched her own brand after converting to Islam and realizing how hard it was to find clothes that were “luxury, high-end and modest.”

Latouche brand, Sabirah, was highlighted along with US brand BruceGlen at the Milan Fashion Hub for new and emerging designers, sponsored by Blanc Magazine’s Teneshia Carr and the Italian National Fashion Chamber. The Hub offered space to meet buyers and other people interested in new brands.

“Something like this is really important because small brands such as myself can get really overlooked,’’ said Latouche, who has shown her brand in London, where she is based. “We put a lot of work in but we don’t necessarily get a lot of recognition.

Being invited to Milan “is an amazing platform that gives us the potential to elevate and that is really important,’’ she said.

Twins Bruce and Glen Proctor have been working on their brand for 17 years, and relished the time in Milan showing their creations to a new audience while they also connect with their true creative intentions.

“For a longtime we did black and white, based on what we thought the industry wanted,” Bruce Glen said. Now they are doing what comes naturally, “Colors, prints and fur.’’

Carr said presentations where people can touch the wares are a great way to connect people with a new product, without the huge expense of a runway show.

“The fashion system isn’t working for anyone but the 1 percent. I am all for trying to make new systems where everyone gets paid and people get clothes that make them feel better,’’ she said.

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Hollywood Studios Reach Tentative Agreement With Screenwriters To End The Strike

The picket line of writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles.

The picket line of writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles.

A happy ending in Hollywood. The studios and the writers’ union have reached a tentative agreement to end the screenwriters’ strike that has brought the world of film and television in the United States to a halt for nearly five months.

After four days of negotiations, Hollywood studios and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) managed to set down the bases of a new collective agreement. The deal announced Sunday unblocks one of the longest labor conflicts in the industry, with the strike now at 146 days.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional, with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership” the WGA stated in a press release. The leadership of the screenwriters’ organization must ratify the pact on Tuesday by a vote. The studios must now focus on resolving the conflict with the actors’ union, which is still on strike, so that productions can resume operations.

The studios and the WGA resumed negotiations on Wednesday after months of tension and a failed attempt to reach an agreement in mid-August. This time, there was a greater sense of urgency from both sides, who were concerned that further disagreement could have stretched the strike to 2024.

The main executives of the four studios attended the meetings with this in mind to show their willingness to negotiate. The parties set the goal of drafting the new contract before the Yom Kippur holidays, which began Sunday afternoon.

The negotiations were attended by Bob Iger, from Disney; David Zaslav from Warner Bros. Discovery; Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley. The studio heads were present for three days at the meetings, which were held at the offices of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Over the weekend, the studios were able to finalize the remaining details of the deal with the WGA. California Governor Gavin Newsom was also involved to ensure that both sides remained at the negotiating table. The strike has cost the state about $3 billion, according to a conservative estimate by California State University Northridge.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers rally during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. September 13, 2023.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers rally during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S.

In the press release to announce the tentative agreement, the WGA made it clear that the strike is not over yet: “No one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then.” The WGA’s 11,500 members must vote on the agreement.

This will happen after Tuesday, when the Negotiating Committee ratifies the deal once the final version of the text is ready. The deal is likely to be overwhelmingly approved by screenwriters, who have expressed their satisfaction for the resolution. Union members have also recognized the work of the Negotiating Committee, headed by Ellen Stutzaman.

While the strike continues until the deal is voted on, the WGA has brought an end to the picket lines at the gates of major studios in Los Angeles and New York, which have been in place since May 2.

If the strike had reached September 30, it would have become the longest in the history of the WGA, surpassing the 153 days of the 1988 strike. Actors, in the meantime, remain on strike, until they reach a deal with the studios.

According to the writers, the agreement was made possible after the studios agreed to reformulate the scope that artificial intelligence will have in the writing of content, and to set minimum rules for writers’ rooms.

During the strike, screenwriters complained that studios were abusing so-called mini rooms, a more compact version of a writers’ room. These mini rooms were used to develop more content for streaming platforms in less time and with fewer hands, which made the work more precarious. The new agreement establishes a minimum number of people who must write a television series.

One of the most insistent demands by the WGA was a review of the residual payment model. Residuals are compensation paid for the reuse of a credited writer’s work. The union argued that the previous scheme worked in the times of broadcast TV, but that adjustments needed to be made for the era of streaming. In the digital age, writers, producers and actors receive see hardly any compensation for shows that become hits on platforms.

The studios agreed to change the model to increase compensation depending on a show’s audience figures. This issue is also key to resolving the conflict with the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members, and has been on strike for 72 days.

After the failed negotiations in August, the pickets at the doors of the studios became larger in September. The writers flexed their muscles when Drew Barrymore announced she would return to filming her CBS talk show. This provoked the anger of the scriptwriters, who argued that the popular actress was violating the strike. Barrymore defended herself by stating that many members of the production were suffering financial hardship after months without work. But she came under a lot of pressure.

After a week, Barrymore tearfully apologized in a video posted on social media and announced that she would not resume filming. Other television productions followed, reporting that they would not return until the strike was resolved.

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