VENICE – Jessica Chastain has been friends with Oscar Isaac since their Julliard days but says it was “a blessing and a curse” to play his wife in a remake of Ingmar Bergman’s classic “Scenes From a Marriage,” which premiered Saturday at the Venice Film Festival.
It was a blessing because they didn’t need to get to know one another and could be brutally honest with one another. But it was also a curse because they couldn’t take a break from their togetherness and got to the point “where we were reading each others minds!”
“So I was like ‘Get out of my head!’” Chastain told reporters ahead of the premiere. “I felt on this job that there was no quiet time.”
The project was an intense one, reimagining in a contemporary American context the unravelling of a marriage depicted in Bergman’s 1973 Swedish television miniseries that starred Bergman’s longtime partner, Liv Ullmann. In this five-episode HBO series directed by Hagai Levi, the gender roles are essentially flipped and the circumstances brought up-to-date.
Isaac, who has two other movies showing at Venice, agreed that their close friendship posed “its own challenges” when filming such an inherently fraught projectm since “you care about the person so much."
The two, who starred together in the 2014 “A Most Violent Year,”’ used an intimacy coordinator and lots of talking to map out the bedroom scenes to make sure both were comfortable.
Isaac, who noted that their children are together in the same play group, said he and Chastain also watched films together try to figure out how to represent the sexual side of their relationship to make it seem truthful without going overboard.
“There are so many times you don’t buy it, and then it can get too gratuitous and you don’t really buy that either,” Isaac said.
Chastain said she appreciated talking through the characters and mapping out their relationship ahead of time.
“I would still get embarrassed, so bourbon helped a lot,” Chastain said, giggling. “But the level of trust was high.”