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Cannes 2022: How Jessica Chastain Played Donald Trump’s Sister


There’s nothing like an enormous cameo within the second half of a movie to make a wilted festival audience sit back up of their seats. On Friday on the Cannes Film Festival, I watched “EO,” an art film a few Polish donkey that one way or the other, in its final act, makes room for a psychosexual cameo from a cutlery-tossing Isabelle Huppert. (In terms of cinematic jolts, Huppert provided a most welcome espresso shot.)

Still, the cameo that turned essentially the most heads on the Croisette got here throughout the premiere on Thursday night of “Armageddon Time,” the brand new film from James Gray (“The Immigrant,” “Ad Astra”) a few troublemaking 11-year-old from Queens named Paul whose parents (Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong) resolve to send him to personal school. On his first day on the strict institution, Paul runs smack-dab into the Trump family: Donald’s father, Fred Trump (John Diehl), is there to introduce the scholars to Donald’s sister Maryanne, an assistant U.S. attorney who will likely be speaking at their assembly.

A murmur went through the Cannes crowd when the film revealed who’d be playing Maryanne: Yes, that was our newly crowned best actress Oscar winner Jessica Chastain, who donned stiff hair, big gold earrings and a purple pussy-bow shirt for her monologue lecturing the kids of the private school on the evils of handouts and the merits of labor.

“Guess I did make an appearance in Cannes this yr,” tweeted Chastain, an everyday on the Croisette whose appearance within the film had not yet been announced.

On the “Armageddon Time” after-party, I asked Gray how the cameo got here about. Much of the film is predicated on the director’s own childhood, including the drop-in from Maryanne Trump, which made such a memorable impression on Gray and his brother that, as adults, each men were capable of piece together nearly the entire speech from memory.

“I wanted any individual famous and great and memorable to play her,” Gray said. “It’s only one scene, but I wanted the person to feel vital, not simply to the youngsters but to the audience. I wanted someone who could say, ‘I’m the voice of authority, I’m telling you that I worked hard,’” he added, despite the fact that she was “born on third base.”

When “Armageddon Time” was first announced, Cate Blanchett was attached to play Maryanne Trump, though Covid-related delays prompted a reshuffling of the lineup, which at one point included Oscar Isaac and Robert De Niro. Still, the small role of Maryanne Trump proved most difficult to forged.

“How did it turn into Jessica? I used to be attempting to give you an incredible actor who could fill that space for one scene, and there aren’t that many, you understand?” Gray said. But while Chastain was on the Venice Film Festival last yr — where her red-carpet nuzzling with Oscar Isaac for “Scenes From a Marriage” caused a minor online sensation — Gray pitched her the cameo, and he or she said she’d like to do it.

Filming wrapped at the top of last yr, and the demanding postproduction got here all the way down to the wire as Gray traveled to France for the premiere. “I flew the DCP here two days ago, and there are still visual effects that I even have to finish,” he said, referring to the Digital Cinema Package utilized in screenings. Within the hours before the premiere, “I had a combination of terror and satisfaction that I had actually finished the thing in time.”

After the film was unveiled, in the midst of its standing ovation, Gray burst into tears. He’s been to Cannes several times before along with his movies. What felt different this time around?

“Perhaps it’s a product of getting older,” said Gray, 53. “You begin to understand things that you simply used to take as a right. It’s a church of cinema here, so once you get that response, you embrace it.”

Well, inside limits. Though Gray said he felt “unbelievable relief” after the premiere, the following day’s press duties compelled him to call it an evening.

“I’m upset that I even have to work early,” he said. “So I can’t party!”

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