It's not just in the past year that Jessica Chastain has used her voice to advocate for women. In an upcoming documentary about Al Pacino's 2006 rendition of the Oscar Wilde play Salomé, the then-unknown actress can be seen starting much of the conversation about women in Hollywood that can be seen today. The documentary, Wilde Salomé, is part of a double feature that includes the film as well as a feature version of the production. Chastain played opposite Pacino as the character Salomé, a role that ended up requiring Chastain to consider her stance on nudity due to a dance scene.
"I have no issues with nudity, especially in a lot of European cinema that I adore, but I find that in American cinema, the idea of nudity has always bothered me," Chastain told Vulture. "I realized why: For me, I’m uncomfortable with nudity when it feels like it’s not the person’s decision to be naked, when it’s something that has been put upon them. In a way, I see that as like a victimization. It trains an audience that exploiting someone in their body should be normal for nudity, when I think the opposite. When people are completely in control of their decisions, that is a really exciting thing. I love the human form — male nudity, female nudity, I’m all about it. I had to get to that place where, for me, it was my decision."
So in the documentary, Chastain can be seen talking frankly about what she is and isn't comfortable with as an actress.
"You’re not there to be moved around by a director, you’re there to contribute," she said. "Even in a film, with every part I play, it’s not me separate from the director — my character is created from my conversations with the director. We’re discovering it together, and I learned that from Al."
In this particular instance, doing research on the play and its cultural context made her realize her "power" as a woman in that role.
"Learning all of that stuff actually made me feel it was important for the character that there was nudity," she said.
So the next time Chastain speaks up for women, remember she's been doing it from the start.
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