The Golden Globes were handed out on Sunday night, putting the two Best Motion Picture trophy winners unofficially head to head for the Academy Award. The Leonardo DiCaprio survival flick The Revenant was awarded the Drama prize, while Ridley Scott's The Martian beat its competition for the Musical Or Comedy title. (The bizarre designation of the film as a comedy was a running joke during the ceremony, as The Martian deals with life, death, and human perseverance just as The Revenant does, albeit minus the bear, plus a few space shuttles.) Matt Damon received a Golden Globe for his performance as Mark Watney, an astronaut accidentally left behind on Mars by his NASA colleagues. And while Damon is unquestionably the lead of the piece, carrying much of the film in solo scenes, he's backed up by a prestigious ensemble, including Jessica Chastain as Commander Melissa Lewis. Unlike Damon's role, Chastain's isn't showy or explicitly emotional, but it is impressive all the same. Really, when the nominations are announced on Thursday, the Academy should consider nominating The Martian star for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
In the exclusive behind-the-scenes clip below, Chastain discusses how Lewis' professional demeanor drew her to the part. In her preparation for the film, the actress found a shared approach among many women in real life positions of power. "They present themselves not emotional and very authoritative," she says, "but still one of the team." That style of leadership is evident in Commander Lewis from the very first scene of The Martian; the audience sees her giving orders to her crew while also showing that she would never ask any of them to do something she's not also willing to do herself.
The actress sees her character as the most recent in a long line of strong Ridley Scott heroines, like the road tripping revolutionaries of Thelma & Louise and Ripley from the Alien series. The Martian flips one particularly sexist story convention on its head, Chastain is delighted to play it. "The woman can rescue the guy at the end," she says of Lewis and her mission to save Watney.
Awards bodies do tend to favor more ostentatious performances across the board, especially in female categories. Yet while impassioned speeches and tearful fights grab attention, they're not the only indicator of the talent. Chastain's work as this NASA Commander is layered. There's so much frustration and guilt that she can't show after Watney resurfaces, because her first duty is to support and be an example for the rest of her team. The Academy should award this performance with a nod, since it's true to how a former military officer (Scott imagines Lewis came from the Navy) would deal with a compromised mission. And it's the kind of female role that comes along all too infrequently, especially in a big-budget blockbuster.
Matt Damon may procide the jokes and the disco music, but Jessica Chastain is the quiet strength of The Martian. I hope the Academy will see her performance for how impeccable and deceptively simple it is and that they'll call her name during the Thursday morning nominations.
Images: 20th Century Fox (2)