Visible Women

The cast of Jessica Chastain’s new woman-led spy film is unbelievably good

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Moya Crockett
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She was inspired to create 355 after being disappointed by the representation of women at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. 

This week, Jessica Chastain appeared at the Cannes Film Festival with the cast of her new film, a global spy thriller starring not one, not two, but five A-list women. Titled 355, the movie will star Chastain alongside Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard and Fan Bingbing as five secret agents from around the world who join forces on a shared mission.

The film has yet to enter production, and its stars attended Cannes to court buyers who might want to finance it. Their mission was a success: 355 promptly signed a major deal with French distributor SND, and is expected to find buyers in other countries imminently.

That people are lining up to invest in a film starring a group of such stellar, beloved actors is hardly surprising, especially when you consider how awe-inspiring they look in their cast photo: 

Addressing buyers at Cannes on Thursday, Chastain said she was inspired to recruit the cast for 355 after being disheartened by her experience as a juror at the festival in 2017.

“The one thing I really took away from this experience is how the world views women from the female characters that were represented,” she said at the close of last year’s festival. “It was quite disturbing to me, to be honest – with some exceptions.”

“I hope when we include female storytellers they will be more like the women I know in my day-to-day life. They are proactive, have their own point of view and don’t just react to men around them.”

Brilliantly, Chastain’s outspokenness at the end of Cannes 2017 prompted the festival organisers to make some major changes. In March, the festival’s director announced he was adding more women to the event’s staff and selection committees in an attempt to bring in more female-focused films. This year’s jury also features more women than men for the first time since 2014.

“We are equalising the proportion of women staffing the festival and within our selection committees, which is important: last year, Jessica Chastain, who was on the jury, made me understand the importance of the ‘female gaze’ during the selection process,” said Thierry Fremaux.

Deadline reports that Chastain came up with idea for 355 after being inspired by the story of Agent 355, an 18th century woman who became one of the first secret agents in the American Revolution.

The film will be produced by Chastain’s company Freckle Films, with a script by Cat Woman and Harriet the Spy screenwriter Theresa Rebeck. Simon Kinberg, who directed Chastain in next year’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix, has expressed an interest in directing.

This isn’t the first time Chastain has proved that she put her money where her mouth is when it comes to advocating for women in cinema. She has been an active and unapologetic presence in the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, and revealed last April that she refuses to star in films without a clause in her contract stipulating that she earns the same as her male co-stars.

She used the same strategy to ensure Octavia Spencer was paid the same as her on an upcoming film, a sign that she recognises the additional barriers faced by women of colour in Hollywood. “She’s walking the walk and she’s actually talking the talk,” said Spencer. “I love that woman.”

Stylist’s Visible Women campaign is dedicated to raising awareness of women who’ve made a difference, celebrating their success, and empowering future generations to follow their lead. See more from Visible Women here.

Main image: Getty Images