‘Nervous’ Jessica Chastain says she was ‘advised against’ attending Venice Film Festival amid actors’ strike

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Jessica Chastain made a bold statement during her recent appearance at the Venice Film Festival amid the ongoing actors’ and writers’ strikes.

On Friday (8 September), the Zero Dark Thirty star was in attendance at the annual film event to promote her new drama Memory.

Chastain appeared at the film’s press conference alongside co-star Peter Sarsgaard, where she sported a shirt reading: “SAG-AFTRA on Strike” t-shirt in support of Hollywood’s current industry-wide shutdown.

Speaking at the press conference, Chastain gave an impassioned speech explaining her attendance at the festival. Many stars have skipped the event this year due to the strike.

“I was very nervous about coming,” Chastain said (via Variety), revealing that “there were actually some people on my team who advised me against it”.

Chastain, 46, noted that actors are “often made to keep quiet in order to protect future working opportunities, and we are often told and reminded how grateful we should be”.

“That is the environment that I think has allowed work to be abused, to go unchecked for many decades. And is also the environment that has saddled members of our union with unfair contracts,” she said.

“I am here because SAG-AFTRA has been explicitly clear that the way to support the strike is to post on social media, walk the picket line and to work and support interim agreement projects,” Chastain added. “It’s what our national board, negotiating committee and our elected leadership has asked us to do.

Jessica Chastain (Getty Images)
Jessica Chastain (Getty Images)

“The independent producers, like the ones here, are letting the AMPTP [Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] know that actors deserve fair compensation, that AI protection should be implemented, and there should be sharing of streaming revenues.”

She concluded: “I hope my being here today encourages other independent producers, and encourages actors, to show up [at festivals] and support our union members. Hopefully we will see an end to the strike soon and hopefully AMPTP will go back to the table.”

The Scenes from a Marriage star’s appearance at the 80th Annual Venice Film Festival comes amid the joint effort of the actors’ and screenwriters’ unions in the fight for a fairer deal. Among both guilds’ chief demands are increased wages, higher streaming residuals and improved working conditions.

As part of SAG-AFTRA’s strike policies, in addition to stopping all on-camera and behind-the-scenes work, actors are prohibited from promoting work created under their union contract.

In August, the actors’ union, which represents more than 150,000 television and movie performers, granted interim agreements to a select number of TV and film projects, deemed “truly independent”, to continue production.

Directed by Michael Franco, Memory tells the story of Sylvia (Chastain), a “social worker who leads a simple and structured life,” according to the film’s logline. “This is blown open when Saul (Sarsgaard) follows her home from their high school reunion. Their surprise encounter will profoundly impact both of them as they open the door to the past.”

Of Chastain’s casting, Franco told Variety: “Jessica is possibly the best actress in the states right now. It’s not an exaggeration to say she’s the best actress in the world.”