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Jessica Chastain on ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife,’ her career and feminism

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By Kaye Foley

Jessica Chastain is back on the big screen with “The Zookeeper’s Wife.” Based on the bestselling book, the drama tells the true story of Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski, who saved over three hundred people from the Nazis by hiding them at the Warsaw Zoo during World War II. The movie comes out March 31.

The two-time Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner spoke with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric about the film, her character, how she picks her roles, and women in Hollywood.

“It’s an incredible story that has been untold until recently,” Chastain said. “It’s a story of this ordinary woman in Warsaw who sacrificed her safety, she sacrificed the safety of her entire family, her children, everything she loved, to save the lives of hundreds of people—hundreds of Jews—during World War II.”

To prepare for her role, Chastain met the Zabinskis’ daughter, Teresa, and visited the real Warsaw Zoo as well as Auschwitz — the largest Nazi concentration camp complex.

“I knew Antonina wouldn’t know necessarily what was happening in the camps, but I also knew that the story was bigger than just about one family,” Chastain said about visiting Auschwitz. “I wanted to be in that space. I wanted to feel the dirt beneath my feet and acknowledge the lives that were lost in that time.”

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In addition to the compelling female-centric story, Chastain also appreciated that “The Zookeeper’s Wife” had a number of women working in front of the camera and behind the scenes, including director Niki Caro.

“It’s incredible to be a part of a film that celebrates a woman in history,” Chastain said. “Because there have always been women that have been courageous and brave and ambitious and strong and great leaders. … I want to do whatever I can to celebrate those women in history and to inspire young girls.”

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Chastain continued, “Niki Caro, our director, was a leader in that. She created opportunities on set for other women. She hired the best people for the job, and they just happened to be women, which was phenomenal.”

“Sometimes you need an adversary to wake yourself up,” said Chastain, who attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21 with friends and family. She added that she’s noticed increased feminist pride among men and women since Donald Trump became president. “Now I’ve noticed … people realizing if one group is being discriminated against, all groups are. And I think that is from having an adversary.”

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