Jessica Chastain criticized the inadequate representation of women in film as a jurist for the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Chastain gave her remarks during a press conference following the festival’s final ceremony.
“This is the first time I’ve watched 20 films in 10 days, and I love movies, and the one thing I really took away from this experience is how the world views women from the female characters that I saw represented,” Chastain said. “It was quite disturbing to me, to be honest. There are some exceptions, I will say. But for the most part I was surprised by the representation of female characters on screen in these films, and I do hope that when we include more female storytellers we will have more of the women that I recognize in my day-to-day life. Ones who are proactive, have their own agency, don’t just react to the men around them, they have their own point of view.”
While Cannes’ 70th installment notably ended with Sofia Coppola becoming the first woman since 1961 to win Best Director for her new movie The Beguiled, the majority of filmmakers competing for top prizes were men. Of the 19 filmmakers up for Cannes’ coveted Palme d’Or, only three were women, including Coppola, Japan’s Naomi Kawase and Scotland’s Lynne Ramsay. Ramsay was the only other woman to win a top non-acting award, earning Best Screenplay for her film, You Were Never Really Here; she shared the prize with Greek filmmakers Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou for their movie, The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
Chastain’s critique at Cannes drew praise from women around Hollywood, including Ava DuVernay and America Ferrera. The actress spoke about Hollywood’s struggle with gender equality, telling Variety that she is no longer taking jobs where she makes less than a male co-star.
“What I do now, when I’m taking on a film, I always ask about the fairness of the pay,” Chastain said. “I ask what they’re offering me in comparison to the guy. I don’t care about how much I get paid; I’m in an industry where we’re overcompensated for the work we do. But I don’t want to be on a set where I’m doing the same work as someone else and they’re getting five times what I’m getting.”