Jessica Chastain in Mama

Guillermo del Toro Fought to Cast Jessica Chastain in ‘Mama’

Jessica Chastain stars in Mama

In my review of “Mama,” I noted that while more could have been mined from the story, Jessica Chastain’s character is a highlight of the film. It’s also about as far from her CIA operative in “Zero Dark Thirty” as is humanly possible.

In “Mama,” she dons a short black wig and a half-sleeve of tattoos to play a punk rocker-turned-reluctant mom to two feral girls left abandoned in the woods for five years — and are followed back to civilization by a haunting spirit with separation issues.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau co-stars as the girls’ uncle, who has his own struggles with the demonic “mama” ghost. The supernatural thriller originated as a 2008 short by director Andy Muschietti and was produced  by Guillermo del Toro.

Muschietti explains the origins of the story: “I came across this strange video of a leopard eating a baboon, and during the process of doing it, the baboon gives birth,” he said. “And the leopard jumps to it, and instead of attacking it, he starts taking care of it. It was one of those coincidences that was like, of course, that’s what ‘Mama’ is about. It’s about imprinting and twisted nurturing.”

Del Toro said he had to fight for Chastain to be his star. He first noticed her on the political thriller “The Debt.” This was before her big breakout at Cannes in 2011, and before her Oscar-nominated role in “Zero Dark Thirty.”

“She has two qualities that are very unique, and you don’t work on them. Either you have them or you don’t,” del Toro said. “One of them is that the audience cares what happens to you, and you don’t learn that.”

He added, “And she, second of all, is an actor that makes every emotion seem real, and these movies depend on that a lot. People ask, ‘What do you need to make a good horror film?’ Frankly, you need good characters at the center, and Jessica has that, times ten.”

Have you seen “Mama”? Did you like it? 

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