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No one who’s been paying any attention can claim that Jessica Chastain isn’t working her ass off. Since her breakthrough role in The Help in 2011, we’ve seen her in an impressive variety of films that sincerely deserve the attention they’ve received. She played the confused and concerned wife in Take Shelter, a caring mother in The Tree of Life, a tough CIA analyst in Zero Dark Thirty, and a stressed mission commander in The Martian, but there's one role she longs to play.
You’d think that any role Chastain wanted would be guaranteed for her at this point, but, as it turns out, there’s one part she’s dying to play that’s eluded her so far. In an interview with W Magazine for a recent cover story, the actress revealed this tidbit, saying:
One of my goals is to play a villain in a Bond film. People ask me if I want to be a Bond girl, and I say, ‘No, I want to be the villain.’ I’m waiting for that call!
Well, this is interesting. I can only imagine that actresses with a strong desire to be a Bond girl, whether it be the helpful having-sex-with-Bond variety, or the evil having-sex-with-Bond-and-then-dying-horribly type of Bond girl, are probably a dime a dozen. But, we rarely hear actresses voice a strong urge to play a super tough, smart, and very likely creepy Bond villain. If this doesn’t make you sit up and take notice of Jessica Chastain, nothing will.
The actress is not one to shrink from difficult material. In fact, she seems to thrive in taking on demanding characters who find themselves in the most demanding situations. Her quietly scheming wife in A Most Violent Year actually left you to fear what she might do, and how her actions would do to her husband and his company as he tried so hard to stay on the right side of the law in a mobbed-up industry.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about how women are underrepresented behind the camera in Hollywood, and how poorly female characters are used on screen in movies and on television, so I suppose it should come as no surprise that a film franchise that’s about to release its 24th installment hasn’t had a female lead antagonist yet. Sure, Grace Jones was intimidatingly effective as May Day in A View to a Kill in 1985, but she was mostly just dangerous eye candy.
If the good folks that preside over the James Bond films want to bring a female villain into the fold (and they should), they’ll absolutely need to do it right. You need someone capable of being imposingly intelligent and dangerous and moody in the correct I-can-kill-you-anytime-I-want-but-I’d-rather-toy-with-you kind of way. If an actress like Jessica Chastain, who’s been nominated for two Oscars and played two scientists on screen, isn’t right for the first Bond villainess, I can’t think of who is.