Vanity Fair Pulled Jessica Chastain Criticism While She Chased Best Actress Oscar

EXCLUSIVE: We all know that tensions rise during those final weeks leading up to the Academy Awards as media outlets decide who’s worthy and who’s not. So this begs the question: with so much money and prestige at stake, is it possible for even major and reputable media outlets to voice any negativel opinions while Oscar campaigning is underway? Especially if they want Academy Award contenders to take out ads and sit for interviews and come to parties? Increasingly, no.

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark ThirtyIt’s well known that The Hollywood Reporter and Variety cravenly promise Oscar hopefuls flattering coverage. But Vanity Fair? Granted, its year-round showbiz coverage has all the heft of a marshmallow. But its Deputy Editor Bruce Handy this Oscar season wrote for the magazine’s website one brief but hardly brutal column  dissecting Jessica Chastain‘s body of work. This wasn’t some freelancer: this was the magazine’s #2 who dared to express mild criticism about the Best Actress Oscar nominee for Zero Dark Thirty. “I’m surprised it’s being hailed as one of the year’s great performances, and that it has earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress,” Handy opined. “It’s not the sort of flashy thing, like playing a transgendered murder victim or quadriplegic boxer, that the Academy normally rewards.” He included much praise but also said Chastain was an “empty vessel”‘ and “recessive presence” who doesn’t “quite hold your eye”.

The piece posted on the VF website January 25th at a pivotal point in Oscar campaigning: just before final paper ballots went out and online voting began. Within a day, the analysis was gone. Not just gone from the VF website but really really really erased from the Internet at large. (Replaced by this sassy VF error message flaunting top editor Graydon Carter.) Publicists for Sony Pictures and Chastain’s BNC flackery told me it was “not true” that VF deleted the article. But, to its credit, Vanity Fair owned up to it. Explained VF spokeswoman Beth Kseniak: “We took it down because it ran counter to what a number of people at the magazine believed.”

Ran counter to what? Its 19th annual Vanity Fair Hollywood issue whose centerpiece was a 44-page Bruce Weber portfolio completed over 8 days photographing 125 people including 75+ actors? Or this year’s crop of invitations to the VF Hollywood party? (Actual attendees, who haven’t been diissed by the magazine in decades, included Ben AffleckDaniel Day-LewisChristoph WaltzJennifer LawrenceAnne HathawayAng Lee, Chris Terrio, Quentin Tarantino, Amy Adams, Jennifer Aniston, Elizabeth Banks, Jason Bateman, Kate Beckinsale, Len Wiseman, Halle Berry, Orlando Bloom, Kate Bosworth, Russell Brand, Adrien Brody, Sandra Bullock, Gerard Butler, Sacha Baron Cohen, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chris Evans, Jane Fonda, Jamie Foxx, Richard Gere, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jon Hamm, Armie Hammer, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Hugh Jackman, Tommy Lee Jones, Taylor Lautner, Michael Pena, Chris Pine, Natalie Portman, Daniel Radcliffe, Jeremy Renner, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Amanda Seyfried, Hilary Swank, Channing Tatum, Marisa Tomei, Chris Tucker, Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber, Reese Witherspoon, Judd Apatow, Steve Martin, Melissa McCarthy, JJ Abrams, Jerry Bruckheimer, Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter, Cameron Crowe, Tom Hooper, Ron Howard, Penny Marshall, Brett Ratner, David O. Russell, Bryan Singer, Steven Spielberg, Aaron Sorkin, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz, Barbara Broccoli, Brian Grazer, Kathleen Kennedy, Graham King, Jane Rosenthal, Megan Ellison, Jim Berkus, Ari Emanuel, Kevin Huvane, Bryan Lourd, Richard Lovett, Patrick Whitesell, Michael Barker, Tom Bernard, Rob Friedman, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Donna Langley, John Lasseter, Jeff Robinov, Sir Howard Stringer, Harvey Weinstein?)

Here’s the article which Vanity Fair worked so hard to erase. Judge for yourself:

The Jessica Chastain Conundrum: Greatest Actress of Her Generation or Found Art?

By Bruce Handy

Movie acting is a strange, alchemic art. This weekend, for instance, you can go to your local multiplex and see Jessica Chastain play a credibly fierce C.I.A. officer in Zero Dark Thirty. Then you can go next door and see Mama, in which Chastain plays the least fierce, least credible punk rocker in the history of film. Maggie Smith could have done it with more edge and nerve. (Actually, that’s not a bad idea: a movie about an aging all-girl punk band starring Smith, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and let’s say Rebel Wilson as the dead original drummer’s drummer granddaughter. Billy Nighy can be the manager. It could be a sort of non-sequel sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and you’re welcome, Harvey Weinstein.)

But back to Chastain. Why is she so excellent in the one movie and so not excellent in the other? To the extent we can bat around theories—and ignore the collaborative nature of movie-making—we can begin to solve the even deeper mystery that is Chastain herself, who, as if she were Hollywood kudzu, has starred in half of all films released over the past two years. If that weren’t accomplishment enough, last weekend she had the No. 1 and 2 films at the box office. She has also received an Oscar nomination for the second year in a row and is currently on Broadway starring in The Heiress. And yet, as a public figure and performer, she is as elusive as she is ubiquitous, one of the most curious stars ever anointed by Hollywood. As she herself put it to Evgenia Peretz in a Vanity Fair profile, “I’m the unknown everyone’s already sick of.”

She’s obviously beautiful, but there’s something about Chastain’s features that doesn’t quite hold your eye. To me, Cate Blanchett is from the same mold; maybe they’re both too perfectly beautiful, almost burnished. When you get past the dazzle, a lot of movie stars are actually kind of funny looking, like Julia Roberts with her big upper lip or Emma Stone with her huge, Bratz-doll eyes or Channing Tatum with his blockhead; the classic examples are the Dumbo ears on either side of Clark Gable. Other stars are better-looking versions of people we might know in real life—Reese Witherspoon or Ryan Reynolds, say. But one way or another, their faces have visual “hooks” analogous to the musical hooks in pop songs; we’re drawn back to them again and again. Actors and actresses who lack that quality, who are too blandly beautiful, we dismiss as “soap-opera-y.” Actors and actresses who are even more beautiful than that, who approach a classical ideal, as Chastain and Blanchett do, we call “timeless” or “ethereal,” but that can be limiting. Put another way, whom else but Cate Blanchett would you cast as an elf queen?

Looks aside (a phrase rarely spoken in the film world), on-screen Chastain seems disinclined to convey a sense of who she really is—she can often be a recessive presence. (As she also told Peretz—perversely for an actress—“I don’t want people to look at me.”) All acting is a combustion of craft and personality, but the personality quotient tends to run high for movie stars. Once you’ve seen Jennifer Lawrence in a couple things, you get a sense of her as mischievous, smart-mouthed, scrappy—perhaps a false impression, but there’s an underlying beat in her performances that, aside from her talent, goes a long way toward making her a star. You know what you’re going to get with her the way you do with Katherine Hepburn, so it’s easier to welcome them as your make-believe friends, at least for two hours.

Plenty of actors are said to “disappear” into their roles; Meryl Streep and Sean Penn come to mind, but even they throw off a consistent charisma no matter the thickness of their accent or putty on their nose. Chastain is more like an empty vessel, and I think she’s at her best when she either has very little or very much to do. Terrence Malick used her as if she were found art in Tree of Life, where she had almost no lines but filled space wonderfully as an idealized mother figure, more symbol than character. The truth is, she doesn’t really have that much to do in Zero Dark Thirty, either, where a lot of the performance takes place in reaction shots, and she’s mostly required to just look fierce and determined. She’s very good at that—and I doubt it’s easy—but I’m surprised it’s being hailed as one of the year’s great performances, and that it has earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress. It’s not the sort of flashy thing, like playing a transgendered murder victim or quadriplegic boxer, that the Academy normally rewards.

On the other end of the Chastain spectrum was her role in The Help as a sexy, white-trash housewife. The part, like every other one in that ridiculous film, was a caricature, but Chastain brought depth and nuance and vulnerability to the caricature, if that’s not all a contradiction in terms, which made her the best thing in the movie and won her a well-deserved supporting-actress nomination last year. (She lost to her co-star Octavia Spencer, for her update on the time-honored Sassy Black Maid part.)

The problem for Chastain in Mama, a modern-day Gothic-style ghost story that opened last week, is that her role is not particularly well written or interesting; there’s not much there there, though it’s a busy part all the same, larded with stair-climbing and closet-door-opening and screaming. Another actress—Lawrence, say, or Kristen Stewart, either of whom would have also been more cast to type as a punk—could have filled out the part with their personalities. Chastain just looked lost, as if she couldn’t find any traction in the dialogue or action. (Unlike on Zero Dark Thirty, where she got to model those boss aviator shades, she wasn’t helped on Mama by a weird shag haircut or an uninspired wardrobe that, as my colleague Juli Weiner says, looked like the costume designer Google-imaged “punk” and then went home.) She was better in Lawless, last fall’s dopey moonshine drama, but still seemed adrift. Perhaps the lesson is she’s a performer who needs either too much scaffolding from a script or almost none at all.

(Mea culpa: in a similar post a couple of weeks ago where I sought to explain the appeal of Ryan Gosling, as my wife pointed out, I neglected to mention his most salient attribute as an actor—that he’s “fucking hot.”)

  1. “(Mea culpa: in a similar post a couple of weeks ago where I sought to explain the appeal of Ryan Gosling, as my wife pointed out, I neglected to mention his most salient attribute as an actor—that he’s “fucking hot.”)”

    This also, interestingly, applies to Jessica Chastain.

        1. I think Chastain is prettier by far than Lawrence, but Lawrence has bucket loads more charisma.Its not one and the same.

      1. Absolutely! Weinstein bought that award more flagrantly than usual. She did not deserve it at all!

    1. Jessica Chastain is mesmerizing. When she expresses pain her eyes go dark, they pull inward and you are drawn inside, into her turmoil. Mr. Handy’s breakdown of Ms. Chastain and her looks, her past – is well – I don’t think he would have written about how Sean Penn looks or Bradley Cooper, who has a beautiful face but, does it have a quirk, a pout, to satisfy Mr. Handy? Does his hair set Timothy Olyphant apart from other actors in Mr. Handy’s eyes? Who knows?

  2. Could not disagree with this assessment more. Jessica Chastain is SO beautiful; SO mesmerizing, and I was disappointed that she lost out to Jennifer Lawrence, given that Lawrence (who is immensely talented) is young and does not present with the body of work that Chastain did. I enjoy looking at Jessica Chastain. She’s stunning and perfect and why shouldn’t I enjoy looking at her? And she is one hell of an actress. And did you actually accuse Kristen Stewart of having a personality? I mean, really. The Twilight movies are AWFUL, poorly acted pieces of crap. If you’re going to accuse the material of causing a vapid performance, at least be honest and acknowledge that Kristen Stewart SUCKED in the last two Twilight movies. And I like her, too, but…really.

    1. agreed-to say Chastain doesn’t “quite hold your eye” is simply insane-but typical of the madness that has overtaken the media in the zer0 years. I is becoming quite obvious that most of these journo/”writers” have no skill and have there positions based on being pc and odiously bland…

      1. To accuse an actor of lacking ‘mesmerism’ (which is what the author meant) is a legitimate criticism of performance. Phoenix had it in ‘The Master’, Daniel Day Lewis had it in ‘Lincoln’, unknown actresses Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan had it in ‘Beyond the Hills’. It’s not unreasonable that an actor is criticized for lacking this important aspect, especially if a film is built around his or her performance.

    2. I will never be a fan of that franchise but Kristen Stewart was the best thing about the Twilight films. Her gorgeous face distracted from the ridiculous storyline and dialogue. BUT, i have to be fair and say that i am not Twilight’s demographic. It is an amazingly successful piece of work and people rag on it to stupid levels. If it is THAT bad why do millions upon millions go to see it? How do you say you like Kristen when you say she has no personality and sucks as an actress? Make sense!

      1. @ Louise, she IS gorgeous. I liked her in the first Twilight movie. I thought she was good. The second..meh. The last two..AWFUL. And she is always sneering.

  3. Jessica Chastain is a wonderful actress, and totally deserving of her Oscar nomination for Zero Dark Thirty. I personally was rooting for her to win, even tho I loved JLaw as well. Bruce Handy is entitled to his bizarre opinions of her, but he should just come out and say she sucks, instead of dancing around it with backhanded compliments ethereal beauty. Vanity Fair should have left it up on the site. Jessica Chastain doesn’t need VF to kiss her ass, and I’m sure she would have still shown up to their little party.

  4. A terribly written VF piece, as evidenced by the line ” Another actress—Lawrence, say, or Kristen Stewart, either of whom would have also been more cast to type as a punk—could have filled out the part with their personalities.” Since WHEN does Kristen Stewart have a personality?!? This guy has no clue what he’s talking about, glad they took it down.

    1. I thought the same, could be easy to take it to pieces, but wouldn’t even merit the time. It begs the question if anyone in an editorial capacity had read it before it was published.

    2. For somebody with ‘no’ personality she sure gets people interested in her. The author was correct, she is punk!

      1. “Punk” my butt. She’s as punk (and talented) as Avril Lavigne, and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what the word means.

    3. I think you missed the point of that statement. Kristen Stewart’s personality may be mopey and sort of dull, but she brings that same feeling to all of her performances. When you’re watching Kristen Stewart play a part, you are always aware that you’re watching Kristen Stewart playing a part, which I find is the same for Jennifer Lawrence, although she is (a) much better at integrating her personality into her performances, and (b) has a much more appealing personality to begin with. Jessica Chastain does not do the same.

  5. I dunno. I thought Chastain was better in MAMA than she was in ZERO DARK THIRTY. And she is staggeringly gorgeous in both. She’s one of the very, very few actresses whose presence in a movie will actually make me more likely to see it.

    1. zanford: Agreed. I am a huge Chastain fan. I doubt K-Stew has a clue about what it’s like to attend Julliard and then struggle the way Chastain did for years – I understand his point that some actors who aren’t “perfectly perfect” (he cited Julia Roberts and Clark Gable’s ears — whatever) may be liked among regular people for their perceived physical flaws. Ridiculous. Chastain is perfect, and supremely talented, and, like Natalie Portman or Idris Elba or Ryan Gosling, I’m more prone to see movies with perfect people to look at. Why not?

      1. I have to object about the thought of Chastain “struggling for years,” as if she’s 72, and just getting a break. JC did refer to this when she won her GG, and it seemed really entitled. She is indeed talented and beautiful, but so are lots of actresses out there who never make it. It’s the roll of the dice, right? I do hope she’ll win an Oscar one day, and yes, amass a bigger body of work than her, what, 4 or so big films have seen, but I”m not pulling out my hanky for her, either. Let’s get real here.

        1. She got her break in movies roughly ten years after graduating, so if she says she struggled for years, that’s not a misrepresentation, it’s a fact. She didn’t say she struggled for decades.

          1. If Chastain is 35 now, then her STARRING ROLE in “Jolene” (Netflix it) came when she was 27-28. That’s not struggling for years. Please.

            I’m a big fan of hers but I roll my eyes at this piece of her mythology.

          2. That was a tiny independent movie, hardly a breakout role. She was still a struggling actress after that.

  6. Sorry you all (three) above and the insecure Hollywood….. the VF article on Ms. Chastain was smart & brilliant and certainly not disrespectful of Ms. Chastain’s talent…. guess you didn’t understand it! Please Bruce Handy, keep them coming!

    1. It’s a difficult thing to do in film criticism – to dissect a persona and a performance. In in era of worthless film criticism in popular magazines, props to Bruce Handy for even trying.

  7. Been there, done that. She’s not Oscar-worthy. Not at all. The greatest single act of disbelief required of anyone watching Zero Dark was believing this lightweight talent managed to land such an important role. You could almost see the shadows of the cue cards, so badly delivered was her dialog. Painfully reminded me of a table read for Off-Off-Off. No presence. No command. Someday, the gods will come down and tell us that some people are given great fortune simply because Ralph Bellamy bet Don Ameche a dollar on it. Or something like that.

    1. Oscar winner, I feel the same way you feel about Jennifer Lawrence’s acting performances. Now, that is an overrated actress with an ” empty vessel” and has serious problems delivering her lines. In Silver Linings Playbook, Lawrence was struggling to act with the appropriate facial expressions ( this is all because she is not a trained actress ) . Acting 101, is having the ability to convincingly act with different facial expressions. Now, Chastain went to Julliard, and she knows how to act with her face and her body.

      1. Juilliard means nothing these days…there is a girl on Vanderpump rules a Bravo reality show who is a MESS..sex addict, a heroin and crack addiction or something- THESE WERE HER WORDS…she blabbed about going to Juilliard..i was embarrassed for them, they are accepting anyone these days!!

        1. Well, I think that the “these days” of yours is more different than her four years at that school in the past and know this, if she hadn’t gone through that 4-year training, she wouldn’t have been like what she is now. And of course, some schools these day are like what you say

  8. Well, I have to agree that Chastain’s role in Zero Dark Thirty was an unusual one to result in a nomination– as Chastain herself said, it was all about holding in and holding back. She has one moment in the film where she breaks forth with emotion, but the nature of the character was to be withheld and non-emotional, and for the rest of the film she is just that. And that’s not the kind of showy role that wins awards. While Chastain may have done it much better than other actors could have or would have, with a role of that nature, it’s not something that can be identified or appreciated by most audiences. And the Academy awards usually goes to something that shows range or depth far beyond what we’ve previously seen from an actor.

    That all said, I think the rest of the criticisms of Chastain amount to some strange kind of anti-fetishizing. I haven’t seen Mama (or Lawless) so I can’t speak to the criticisms leveled against her acting in that role. However, the talent she’s displayed in Jolene, The Help, and The Debt prove that she’s enormously talented. And these strange claims about her “ethereal and untouchable beauty” just seem to speak more to the psychological eccentricities of the writer. In the interviews I’ve seen with Chastain, she’s very approachable and accessible. I also think there’s nothing wrong with an actor being more of an empty vessel; that can be a skill that aids an actor in transforming into many different sorts of parts. Nor do I think that an actor who comes more from a place of neutrality necessarily has any less charisma– I think Chastain has loads of charisma to spare.

    Finally, as for the comparisons to Jennifer Lawrence, while I like Lawrence, I’m a bit worried that we’ve already seen everything that she can do, and that the vibrant personality she’s shown us in person is not something she can easily step away from. I think that may color many of her future roles, and that she may not be capable of the same kind of range as Chastain. For the SAG awards, I voted for Lawrence. Because on the basis of those two roles (Lawrence in Silver Linings and Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty), I thought Lawrence’s role had a lot more going on. But that’s simply the nature of the role. Again, the role Chastain had in Zero Dark Thirty simply didn’t avail her of the kind of opportunities to show off and reach great depths or stretch into a wider range, and to try to force that on the role would have done injustice to it. But while I voted for Lawrence over Chastain, I think Chastain should have received the Supporting Actress for The Help, and I also think that Chastain is the better actor and think we’ve got many more exciting sides to see from her for years to come.

    1. @ Brian: “Again, the role Chastain had in Zero Dark Thirty simply didn’t avail her of the kind of opportunities to show off and reach great depths or stretch into a wider range, and to try to force that on the role would have done injustice to it.”

      THAT’S THE POINT. That ability to show the audience that she is holding back…THAT is what makes her a good actor. I don’t understand why it is that Oscar-winning roles have to show a wide range of emotions. Or a makeover that makes a beautiful woman look like a “monster.” Or a prosthetic nose…or, or, or…

      Chastain took a role that wasn’t flashy, and she kicked ass.

      1. The “holding back” thing is misleading to non-actors. If you just hold back, you will be flat with no life in your performance. When she says it was about “holding back”, you have to first understand that you have to “go there” and then hold back. The holding back is the easy part. The hard part is first tricking your brain into thinking, “We’re going there. lets’s go there, and then we’ll let it all out. Come on, let’s go there!” Then, at the last minute, you say, “Oh sorry. We’re going to keep the lid on this.” The difficulty comes in the fact that, once your brain knows the ultimate goal is to hold back–it will shut down and refuse to go there at all. It takes a lot of mental and emotional work to get past that blockade only to stop it at the last second and let it simmer just at the surface without letting it spill over. That is compelling to watch. More interesting than someone going ballistic. That is uninteresting because the actor does all the feeling for you.

        You can hardly expect an editor from any magazine to understand any of this.

        1. well SAID, Vincent Hanna! How many Emmys did Dennis Franz win for doing the same thing on NYPD Blue? Oh, yeah…um, about..FOUR.

      2. @lee “THAT’S THE POINT. That ability to show the audience that she is holding back…THAT is what makes her a good actor. I don’t understand why it is that Oscar-winning roles have to show a wide range of emotions. Or a makeover that makes a beautiful woman look like a “monster.” Or a prosthetic nose…or, or, or…”

        YES ! It’s the Oscar for Best Acting not Most Acting ! It’s sometimes WAY harder to retain emotions than express them – like Lawrence did. Chastain’s performance was brilliant because even though she had to be “un-emotional” (which is very uncommon in movies), we could feel, as an audience, the vulnerability of her character and yet her still unwavering determination. Unfortunatly, obvious performances are easier to praise.

        1. @ Emma, thank you for understanding what the craft is really about, unlike the VF writer and, sadly, Academy voters.

    2. “Finally, as for the comparisons to Jennifer Lawrence, while I like Lawrence, I’m a bit worried that we’ve already seen everything that she can do, and that the vibrant personality she’s shown us in person is not something she can easily step away from. I think that may color many of her future roles, and that she may not be capable of the same kind of range as Chastain”.

      This is a bit ridiculous a statement. Lawrence was a great chameleon actress before we knew her and no reason to think she won’t continue to be one. She did Winter’s Bone, Like Crazy, and The Beaver, Poker House, and Burning PLain- Those roles are NOTHING like her real life more “bubbly” persona. The great thing about Lawrence is that i NEVER see the girl i see on talk shows- you see the character. And they are different. Ree is not Katniss who isn’t Tiffany. They are vastly different. A positive to Lawrence is her face, because its not too pretty- it lets her play a greater assortment of characters realistically. Lawrence gives her characters arcs, she fleshes them out with a sensitivity, a heart, and a charisma that Chastain doesn’t always do.

    3. “Finally, as for the comparisons to Jennifer Lawrence, while I like Lawrence, I’m a bit worried that we’ve already seen everything that she can do, and that the vibrant personality she’s shown us in person is not something she can easily step away from. I think that may color many of her future roles, and that she may not be capable of the same kind of range as Chastain”

      Thats a ridiculous criticism. Lawrence was considered and is still considered a very serious dramatic actress, and her most distinguished trait is her chameleon acting ability. Ree is not Katniss who isn’t Tiffany. And why would her talk show persona color her acting roles? She never played herself before, why would she now? Before we knew of her, she did serious dramatic roles only, and mostly still does- as Katniss or Marianna or in the Poker House or even Tiffany ( who is vastly different from her other roles). Its testament to her that she can do some comedy, but she is a dramatic actress. Not at all similar to her “bubbly” or “awkard” or “dorky” off screen persona. I mean, Lawrence is real life falls down stairs but as Katniss manages to convince you she is a bad-ass action heroine and throws a mean bow and arrow. She said she generally looks for characters generally that are as far away from who she is in real life as possible.

  9. Ugh, the criticism begins with a dissection of her looks? First signal not to take this seriously, aside from the fact she totally deserved that Oscar nomination. Just because a role is ‘recessive’ doesn’t mean it’s easy to play or unworthy of an Oscar nomination.

  10. Self-congratulatory sniffing by a man in a position of some power over whether an indisputably talented actress is actually deserving of accolades or can really be reduced down to being no more than “an empty vessel” isn’t salient analysis, it’s male privilege cloaked in rhetorical calisthenics.

    1. THis was rude and sexist and the writer has no idea of what a good actor is nor can he write about them. Chastain and Gosling are two of the most versatile and talented of a generation. This guy isn’t qualified to have this job. Graydon Carter take notice.

  11. I have to agree with the VF article but I can see no reason it needed to be erased based on it’s content (though I am bemused about the Kristen Stewart reference for Mama………….she’s got nothing going personality wise either) but when it comes to Chastain I’m afraid having seen a few of her oerformances that I am not buying into her hype.

    Yes, she’s beautiful but I found nothing of special interest in her acting performances so far. Her explosion from seemingly nowhere to everywhere in barely three years is curious to observe but still I am unconvinced she is anywhere close to being as annointed as some people make her out to be.

    This article however isn’t overtly nasty or brutal. It’s one person’s entirely reasonable opinion. Unless it was for behind the scenes politics I don’t see the fuss or why it had to be removed.

    Unless one is only allowed to say nice things about Chastain?

  12. Look, it’s all about money and access and ad dollars and politics and people’s big-money livelihoods, which include the Oscar broadcast and future ad revenues and media access for VF. The piece was up, it was decided it was ill-advised, then it was down. Big deal. It’s not like some kind of bad drug or Madoff ponzi scheme, or corporate cover-up that impacts normal people’ lives. Chastain’s talents are a matter of opinion. File this under the same kind of non-story as Obama not knowing the difference between a Jedi Mind Trick and a Vulcan Mind Meld. If this was still the days of print, this item would end up in the garbage in favor of more ad inches. Love you, but sorry, Nikki.

  13. All of you are missing the point. VF censored Handy’s article to keep the damn publicists happy. Graydon Carter is a coward and a hypocrite. All he cares about is his big Oscar party and his social standing. He’s an impudent elite snob a limousine liberal of the worst kind.

    1. Exactly. I was reading the comments waiting to see if someone actually hit on what the issue truly is about. All the other comments are tangential to the point.

    2. exactly! thank you. the point is that if you have deep enough pockets and wield enough power you can protect your movie – and even the actors in it – from all criticism – even this mild kind. it is VERY undemocratic.

  14. What a copout! I’m not just saying that because I agree about the overhype of the role but because this is same magazine that ran a full blown article about an alleged Oscar leak that didn’t even end up happening! So for them to all of sudden get principles about someone’s opinion about a performances seems fishy. Must be a publicist behind it.

  15. vanity fair never met white actors it didn’t worship. pathetic.

    she is a good actress but great? give me a break.

    1. It seems like they feel like they are pissed they bought into the hype.. Maybe they are lamenting that she slipped through their fingers without being properly vetted?? They put her on several covers and articles..seems like there is more backstory here.

      Hollywood is not for those with a weak stomach..gotta know sh*t before stepping in it.

    2. THAT’S THE REAL POINT. All of this teeth gnashing and wailing over a mediocre white actress. Hollywood and VF spend millions trying to anoint the latest average or below average white actor as the Next Big Thing while trampling over the bodies of fantastic minority actors. That’s the reason their box office is dropping. Their audience of 15 – 30 yr olds are watching videos from people all around the world of all races and creeds for their entertainment. American culture is African American culture and they have NEVER been thanked, acknowledged or even been given renumeration for it. Think I’m lying? Who is the hottest actress right now besides JL? Kerry Washington. She’s on the hottest show on TV and in the hottest movie which also won an Oscar. She’ll never even be ON the cover let alone have a negative article written about her inside it. That’s what Deadline should be writing about. And all of those actors white and black who went to the VF Oscar party should be asked “Why did you go to a party of a magazine with a racist cover process?” Especially Oprah who goes every year.

      1. Yup. Many magazines and websites gush over guys like Channing Tatum, Zac Efron, Ryan Reynolds and a dozen or so other fit white guys who’s talents don’t go beyond their chiseled jawlines and blue eyes. The women they go gaga over aren’t much different.

        I don’t think Chastain as good as Angela Basset, but she certainly has more opportunities to showcase her abilities, because Hollywood loves YOUNG, WHITE, THIN, women. Amanda Seyfried, Kristen Stewart, Megan Fox, Juno Temple, etc. The list is almost endless.

        Minorities don’t have much of a chance to land the big roles that may lead to OSCAR glory. Latinos are relegated to playing gangsters, Asians are either nerds or ninjas, African Americans are either thugs or tokens, Middle Easterners are either terrorists or tyrants, Native Americans….don’t even get cast.

        Vanity Fair needn’t fret. There’ll be other modest white actors and actresses for them to put on a pedestal as they always have and always will. For any cry for diversity is answered with ignorant rebuttals such as “oh, so you want AFFIRMATIVE ACTION for films? Why don’t they just EARN the role like the white actors do?” People who think this way fail to realize you can’t compete for the prize if you’re not even invited to the game.

        1. Hey, Deadline Fan, hands off Reynolds. Go and watch Buried. But I tend to agree with the rest of the comment.

      2. I’m not from the USA and I just want to say that African American culture is valued in the country I’m from. We still honour the African American artists who come over here because if we love an artist, no matter what their colour we tend to love them for life. Paul Robeson is revered here.

        I really wish magazines like Vanity Fair would just say ‘F*** it let’s shake things up and a create change, by putting non-white actors on the cover. Sometimes you just have to force a change.

        I stopped reading VF years ago, it’s just this actors is marvellous and working on set with them was a dream. I know most actors aren’t nice people. Anyway it seems to me that the actors of today have a very short shelf life in the USA so Jessica Chastain will disappear in favour of someone else soon.

  16. Not only was Bruce Handy’s opinion piece/column not off-base, Graydon Carter and VF’s management lack any credibility, one of the reasons that after 17 years I am finally letting my subscription lapse.

    Hollywood publicists and marketing executives wield enormous power without any real reason. What’s the worry? That suddenly people will boycott the VF party? Yeah, not likely to happen. That studios will stop cooperating editorially? That COULD happen, for about four days, until the first publicist realized that they need VF more than VF needs them. No one has the guts to stand up to the blowhards at the studios, but the minute they do, the minute they take a strong stance, the studios will back off. They have to.

    Regardless, Bruce Handy is entitled to his opinion and Jessica Chastain did an adequate job in a movie that was insanely overrated. “Zero Dark Thirty” was a bloated, though not uninteresting, political thriller that took itself way too seriously. Jessica Chastain did about the best anyone could without having a character to play. Why WAS she nominated for an Oscar? Because the powers that be decided she should be. Her nomination prevented some really fantastic performances from being nominated.

    Too bad VF couldn’t have shown a little chutzpah.

    1. Passive agressive is right, but I suspect this was just one of those stir-the-pot, let’s get some page views/controversy type pieces.

  17. What? Vanity Fair deleted criticism of an actress in a Sony film before the Oscar vote and to get her to attend their party? Then Sony and the actress’ publicist denied it all? I’m shocked, shocked I say, shocked. Oh Hollywood never change you liars.

  18. I think the whole point of the article is that Jessica Chastain does not have movie star gravitas. She’s talented but forgettable. My only complain about the article is the indirect diss to THE Cate Blanchett! She’s Cate freaking Blanchett, perfectly beautiful, explosively talented and always memorable!

  19. too bad nobody checked out the stage work, it supports handy’s “empty vessel” notion…mannered, unconnected, schematic and with everyone on stage in a “one take, no cut aways” environment, a particular drain on the good will and energies of anyone who had to play opposite.

  20. So, first he dissects her looks and then he has a problem with her NOT having a few trademark mannerisms that she brings to EVERY role instead of just what she does, which is you know, being DIFFERENT in DIFFERENT parts ? Yeah, now THIS is a guy we should all listen to when it comes to acting…

    The most frustrating/disturbing/annoying part of this article, that he not only refuses to see the great, great talent and devotion a seriously low-key role like Maya requires, but also seems to have a problem with classically trained (Juilliard), 35 year old Jessica Chastain receiving her first Best Actress nomination for it, but apparently doesn’t have a problem with Jennifer Lawrence getting her second at 22 AND (at the time) emerging as the frontrunner in LEAD for what was essentially a SUPPORTING wife turn designed for Awards-attention with all those calculated, over-the-top crazyscreamingcrying ‘Oscar-scenes’. I LOVE Lawrence, I think she did a great job, I don’t blame her for the material that I didn’t find impressive at all OR the (IMO) category fraud that is once again, subjective, but come on, is this guy SERIOUSLY questioning the ubertalented Jessica Chastain and brings up Jennifer Lawrence as a great example ? He said : “Once you’ve seen Jennifer Lawrence in a couple things, you get a sense of her as mischievous, smart-mouthed, scrappy—perhaps a false impression, but there’s an underlying beat in her performances that, aside from her talent, goes a long way toward making her a star.” Dude, has it ever crossed your mind that MAYBE, just maybe, Jessica Chastain wants to remain a great actress MORE than becoming a huge ‘star’?

    Well, how should I put this : I MIGHT go to a movie because Chastain/Lawrence is in it, but I will leave the movie theater utterly disappointed if I saw Chastain/Lawrence on the screen instead of their characters. If I wanted to see people playing themselves, I would just switch to reality television…

    1. Jennifer Lawrence is the lead actress. It’s Christopher waltz who is a lead in a supporting category

  21. There was nothing wrong at all with that article and it’s really cowardly that VF pulled it just because Chastain’s publicists told them to. Her people must have been in panic mode when Jessica went from favorite to long shot during voting time. They even pulled out the secret boyfriend at the end there to try and get people interested in her again..

    1. As with Jessica Chastain’s looks, her personal life should not come up in a discussion of the performance. What raises my ire is that the article seems preoccupied with Chastain’s looks and her performance not giving away her personality off screen to Handy’s liking. Handy’s criticism seems based in sexism. Maybe the article was pulled as it appears to say women should be critiqued based on how hot he finds them than their performance. Maybe even young considering, besides Jennifer Lawrence, he discusses the talent of Kristen Stewart. I am shocked anyone would say there “is nothing wrong at all with that article.”

  22. I kinda liked the British Dames-at-sea pitch. But forget the youngster. How ’bout Glenda Jackson for the fourth?

  23. They didn’t pull it quickly enough as I remember reading this piece among many others during Oscar season. I didn’t agree with much or it (mainly the strange distraction excerpts about her beauty being in question), but I do understand the confusion with Jessica being singled out for an acting nomination in what worked as clearly more of an ensemble piece.

    By my estimation Zero Dark Thirty was a masterful procedural dissecting the hunt for UBL over a 10 year span. We followed the journey with some semblance of a lead – Maya’s first day on the task and her final relief when it was over – but the film and dedicated pursuit of UBL was the work of several actors and characters. Namely ignored was Jason Clarke’s character Dan who introduced the torture that was so rampantly discussed and debated. Jessica Chastain was likely the best face to place on the awards bracket to toss ZD30 some acclaim since the Academy was no longer going to award Karhryn Bigelow the chance to get the props she deserved for this film.

    ZD30 is Bigelow’s shining achievement and even Chastain herself knew this, but her director was passed over and she wasn’t. It happens. I thought she juggled award season beautifully. She attended the parties, didn’t shy away from discussing the controversy, spoke about her craft and journey to this role, and praised her director. I doubt she shies away from criticism so VF removing this (while scathing and confusing at times) still somewhat insightful piece doesn’t make sense. Don’t pander. It’s unbecoming.

    I won’t compare Jessica to Kristen Stewart or her “rival” Jennifer Lawrence. I doubt they’re even in contention for the same roles given their age range.

    Jessica has shown incredible range in a vast array of films in 2011, and in fact the much debated role in Mama. She’s the only reason I saw that horror flick and I’m glad I did. She pulled off yet another transformation and held her own with the two bright child stars. After watching children act beside her in Tree of Life, Take Shelter, and now Mama I think Chastain works effortlessly with these young ones perhaps pulling something out of them that’s untapped.

    I am sure we will see plenty more of Jessica, and now that’s she more recognized we may go in looking for her role, but a year ago you wouldn’t even know that was the same woman. That’s the right kind of disappearance act.

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