They called Molly Bloom the “poker princess” of Los Angeles. By the time of her arrest by the FBI, Bloom had overseen an underground poker empire that redefined high stakes and attracted some of Hollywood’s biggest names, and had documented her ascendance in a tell-all book, Molly’s Game, that exposed the chicanery that occurs when hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash are changing hands in basement poker rooms.
Enter Aaron Sorkin, who made his feature directorial debut at TIFF this week with Molly’s Game, starring Jessica Chastain as the eponymous grand dame of poker. His film, which also stars Idris Elba, takes Bloom’s story past the one related in her book, to try and make sense of the trajectory of a woman who started out as an Olympic hopeful skier and became one of the most notorious names in modern Hollywood.
“She was not the woman the tabloids made her out to be,” Sorkin told me when he and Chastain stopped by Deadline’s Toronto studio this week. “There was much, much more to her than that.”
Chastain leads two films at TIFF this year, and though Molly Bloom is far removed from Catherine Weldon, the subject of Woman Walks Ahead, both roles seem tailor-made for the actress. Meeting with Sorkin for Molly’s Game, she said, she went in with Bloom’s trademarked determination. “Basically, it was like, ‘Why are we meeting? Why aren’t I just playing this role?’ I was like, ‘You should just cast me, what is going on here?'”
“If I had any doubts at all,” said Sorkin, “and I didn’t, it was that meeting that pushed me over, where she came to it with this great sense of humor.”
But Chastain saw the distance she’d have to travel. “[Molly] has this sensuality about her [whereas] I just feel awkward always. Even the clothes I was wearing in the film, it was definitely a choice, but it was something so far away from anything that I would ever imagine myself to play. I had pictures of, like, Kardashians in my trailer. I really wanted to show this story of this woman in society—in this man-cave—and how women get power in this society.”
Watch more from Chastain and Sorkin in the video above.
Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii Love, Watford Group, Philosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Jokinen.