Jessica Chastain on male domination: ‘some people have to work harder to succeed’

Jessica Chastain arrives at 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert'
The Hollywood Reporter has essays up from women in Hollywood, as part of their Women in Entertainment issue, about their experiences relating to gender. Feminism, wage equality and more equitable representation for women in media has been a big topic this year and was the most positive thing to come out of the Sony hack. Jessica Chastain has an impressive essay up and it’s very telling about the state of Hollywood. She’s worked on a lot of sets, mostly predominantly men, and she doesn’t talk smack or say that we need to take over, just that things need to be more balanced.

Chastain has consistently been on point about feminism, pay equity and minority representation in her industry. When a story came out that she made $18 million less than Matt Damon, for The Martian, she corrected the record and admitted that she made even less than that, about a quarter of what was reported. She’s also said that we need more diversity in film, she called the lack of diversity is a “disease,” and she pointed out that women are unnecessarily sexualized in action movies. Chastain is so articulate and willing to talk about this issue, despite the fact that her outspokenness can affect her income and the roles she’s offered (considering who runs Hollywood). She’s a rarity and I admire her so much.

Anyway here’s some of what she wrote for The Hollywood Reporter, and please read her essay in full for more. She writes in such a powerful yet matter-of-fact way.

On working with more women now
I’m in Prague filming a movie called The Zookeeper’s Wife with director Niki Caro. I can’t tell you — it’s amazing. I’ve never been on a set with so many women. We’re not even 50 percent of the crew — we’re probably something like 20 percent women and 80 percent men — but it’s way more than I’ve ever worked with on a film before…

On her regular experience in film
Usually on a movie it would be me and maybe two or three other women, even though there are 100 people there. It’s crazy. I loved making the movie Lawless — it was a very masculine story about three brothers — but when Mia Wasikowska showed up on the set, I ran into her trailer and yelled, “It’s a girl!” I was so happy.

On the need for balance in film
Some people might say a woman can’t direct this because of that, or a man can’t direct that because of this. I don’t like to do that. Look at Kathryn Bigelow: She can do incredible action films. Or Anthony Minghella, who directed the most beautiful, sensitive romances. For me, sex really isn’t the qualifier in the way someone directs — but I just know that when you have a set with predominantly one gender, whether it be all men or all women, it’s not going to be a healthy place. I imagine it’s the same thing in the workforce or other environments: When you have both genders represented, then you have a healthier point of view. The energy is great, you all are working together as a community, and everyone is participating in the exchange of ideas. You don’t feel a hierarchy; you don’t have anyone feeling like they are being left out or bullied or humiliated. Sometimes being the only girl on a set, you can feel like a sexual object.

On helping other women in film
I want to make sure I’m contributing to cre­ating diversity in the industry. I want to work with anyone who is talented, but I know that some people have to work harder to succeed in this business than others. I did Texas Killing Fields with Ami Canaan Mann, Zero Dark Thirty with Kathryn Bigelow, Miss Julie with Liv Ullmann and now Zookeeper’s Wife with Niki. And I’m doing another film with a female director that’s not been announced yet. I read this incredible article Chris Rock did [in the Dec. 12, 2014, edition of The Hollywood Reporter] where he talked about race in Hollywood, and he said that if there is an African-American who needs help, he’s going to be way more into helping them because he understands they don’t have the opportunity that other people do.

On how a white male dominated culture gets propagated in Hollywood
It’s like Viola Davis said in her Emmy speech: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. It’s the same situation with female directors versus male directors — they are not given the same opportunity. There was an incredible essay I read in Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter by Ellen Pao, the former interim CEO of Reddit. She talks about sexism in the technology world and that it’s so bad you don’t even realize it’s happening. People want to hire their friends and people they get along with, and if there is a company that has a lot of men, and the men are always hanging out together, those are the men who are going to be promoted. It was an incredible essay, and I think it applies to all industries.

If you look at the studio system and the American film industry, people want to work with their friends. If men are predominantly the ones working, they are the ones being given the opportunities more than women.

[From The Hollywood Reporter, headers added]

Chastian’s essay is incredible. It should be required reading for just about everyone who works in Hollywood. (I’m looking at you, Matt Damon.) She has so much personal experience to draw on, she explains it well, and she references other essays and speeches from people in her industry. She also discusses what it’s like to try and make her voice heard on set. I’ve worked in the tech industry and this part rang so true to me. “I’ve been on sets a couple of times where I’ve noticed that if I have an idea about a scene, I have to go through the male actors to be heard. It’s really annoying. The male actor will have a better relationship with the male director, so I have to get the actor on my side.” However she’s also careful to say that she’s worked with sensitive and supportive men.

Please honk if you love Jessica Chastain, because she’s not controversial enough to get many comments. I think that’s because she’s just such an awesome person there’s nothing to debate. (Or maybe some people find that boring. I find it exhilarating. She’s amazing.)

Jessica Chastain seen arriving at the Stephen Colbert show in NYC

Jessica Chastain At The AOL Build

Jessica Chastain seen arriving at the Stephen Colbert show in NYC

These photos are from 10-16-15 outside The Late Show. Credit:, FameFlynet and Pacific Coast News

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39 Responses to “Jessica Chastain on male domination: ‘some people have to work harder to succeed’”

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  1. Flahoola says:

    I think she’s beautiful inside and out!

  2. Sixer says:

    She’s so constructive about it. That’s what I like.

    • Loulou says:

      I like that too. I love that she seems very fair and reasonable about the issue. Also I like her referencing the articles that influenced her directly.

    • ichsi says:

      Me too. She explains it so well and patiently, I really hope it reaches some ears that need to hear it. Honk honk, I love her.

  3. Hawkeye says:

    Good for Jessica, and I hope that we hear from her male peers that they support her. Come on men, pipe up. Women didn’t create this system; they didn’t do this to themselves.

  4. Pri says:

    I loved her in The Help, she was a scene stealer. Would’ve loved to see a spin-off, of Minnie and Celia.

    • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

      Lol, that is literally the only film I LOVE her in–I watch the film for her and Octavia’s scenes.

    • Lilacflowers says:

      Minnie and Celia were my favorite part of that film. I would love to see a film focusing on characters portrayed by Jessica and Octavia.

  5. ell says:

    i find her amazing as well, and i’m very happy she’s talking about it.

  6. Helen says:

    She is amazing, indeed. Honk! I love her: a talented actress and a very smart, educated woman.

  7. Brittney B. says:

    Honk!! This conversation is SO important, especially with so many men putting their fingers in their ears and pretending Hollywood is a meritocracy. If you really believe that, you also believe white men are more talented and intelligent and creative than anyone else… it’s the only logical conclusion.

    She’s so smart and hard-working that it’s depressing to consider her relegated to mere sex object on a set. It’s not surprising, but when she says it like that… it’s just so depressing. I’ve felt the same way in an office, so I can’t imagine working in an industry that actually profits off the sexualization.

  8. senna says:

    Jessica has always struck me as talented, beautiful, very private, and devoted to her work, but because she’s so guarded there isn’t much gossip fodder. I’m delighted that she is so candid about her experience as a woman in Hollywood and is pushing for change rather than saying unthinking shit like, “Being a woman hasn’t held me back!” or “You just need to work hard if you really want it!” Let’s hope she sets the bar for a higher level of discussion about women actors. I love her many references to her peers and to other women in positions of power; she’s done her homework.

  9. Marty says:

    I really appreciate her not only drawing from her own experiences but also being inclusive by citing other minority groups struggles as well. She’s a real gem.

  10. minime says:

    Honk! She’s not only a good actress but also an insightful person…great interview and someone who has something more to say than the usual misconceptions on feminism!

  11. ennuiarethechampions says:

    Honk honk! She’s delightful.

    On a shallow note, I love that dress.

  12. Cynthia says:

    i just want to mention, did you see how she name checked so many women. Knows all the articles, people related to this subject. This is a woman that know her stuff, she understands the issue and can articulate it clearly.

  13. Cynthia says:

    Can I just say, this part just about sums it up.
    “People want to hire their friends and people they get along with, and if there is a company that has a lot of men, and the men are always hanging out together, those are the men who are going to be promoted. It was an incredible essay, and I think it applies to all industries.”

  14. Tiffany says:

    What truly pisses me off that her image/career took a hit for speaking about lack of diversity. She also backs up her words with going to bat to have Oscar Isaac as her co lead in A Most Violent Year.

    I think the lack of comments is because she is not saying idiotic things every interview. From a gossip stand point she would be considered, ‘boring’.

    HONK!!! HONK!!!!

  15. fiona says:

    Really hope she stays in the limelight for years to come. We need more women like her in the industry. I think she’s gorgeous and from the interviews I’ve read, she seems like a lovely person.

  16. Sid says:

    I agree what she’s saying with but i find her incredibly calculated and pretentious.

    • vauvert says:

      Really? What exactly makes you say that? She sounds very insightful, compassionate, inclusive and well educated on the topic – rarely seen in HW. I think she is fantastic. She also alone ledges the ladies, but also the supportive men, and if she were calculating in any way she would serve the pap the others do “oh, I haven’t noticed any discrimination, I just work hard and get hired…”

  17. SusanneToo says:

    Honk, honk, honk. I love JC. She’s smart, beautiful, talented. I worked in education for 40 years and can attest that in my school system of almost 100 schools all the H.S. Principals were male(higher pay) while most female principals were relegated to elementary schools. A lot of good ol’ boy promotions going on.

  18. lucy2 says:

    Can we just put her in charge of Hollywood for a while? I think she is so right on with everything she is saying, and she’s walking the walk too.

    I wonder if she got some back end profits from the Martian. Based on the numbers, I bet she got paid about $1.5 million. Matt’s role was certainly much, much bigger, but the movie did so well, I hope the cast all benefited from that a little.

  19. Skyblue says:


  20. Farhi says:

    Jessica is too perfect. I am afraid to believe in her in fear of being disappointed later.
    But I agree with everything she said.
    An impressive woman.

  21. Lucy says:

    HONK. This is a woman who deserves the attention.

  22. Melody says:


  23. mandy says:

    I Love her- she is smart and beautiful and intelligent and a great actress.

  24. Diana B says:

    HONK!!! Moar Jessica.

  25. serena says:


  26. Hejhej says:


    She’s smart, talented and beautiful. Love her.

  27. KatyD says:

    Another BIG HONk for Jessica. She’s been talking about this issue for a LONG, LONG time (I follow her on Twitter), and she’s also received some really nasty comments, too. Also, in an industry where your career thrives on popularity and connections, it’s totally brave of her to speak her mind. Here’s hoping she doesn’t get the negativity and backlash women often get for speaking up. I’m a big fan and will definitely support her work. I love the fact that she’s worked with so many female directors and continues to name-check them and promote them!!! Love her!

  28. 14times says:

    I, too, loved to read this and would be happy to hear more about her. 🙂

  29. danielle says:

    Love her!! She is talented, smart, beautiful and seems a lovely person.

  30. Blairski says:

    Thanks for sharing! I thought this point was especially important:
    “Many times a movie gets tested before it sees the light of day, and I’ve starred in movies that test much better with women than they do with men. But the problem with that is the majority of critics are men, so those movies that test really high for women are then having men critique them. And it means we need more female critics — we need to level the playing field here.”

    To me, it’s like how in medicine men were considered the standard to test for treatments, and that ignored the fact that women may have different responses to medications. What worked or men was supposed to work for all. I think that’s changing in medicine, and it needs to change in our culture too.

  31. WaffleHour says:

    There should be more people like Jessica Chastain in this world and more articles about them. I’m inspired as hell every time I read about her.

  32. Pinetree13 says:

    Honk more coverage!