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Chastain felt too ‘nerdy’ to play ‘blond bombshell’ in ‘The Help’

August 4, 2011 |  4:36 pm

In "The Help," the big-screen adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's bestselling novel that hits theaters next week, Jessica Chastain plays pretty far against type.

The 30-year old actress -- up to now best known for her role opposite Brad Pitt in "The Tree of Life" -- is already garnering a reputation in Hollywood for her range. In the coming months, she'll appear in about half a dozen films where she plays everything from a Mossad agent to a woman whose husband is having apocalyptic visions.

But her role in "The Help" is quite unlike any Chastain has taken on before: She plays Celia Foote, a ditzy blond with cleavage constantly spilling out of her blouse who can't cook to save her life and speaks with an over-the-top Southern twang. But Stockett's book, which centers around a young white woman (Emma Stone) and her quest to tell the story of African American maids in 1960s Mississippi, is beloved by millions of fans -- something that Chastain says makes her anxious as the film is slated to debut Wednesday.

"I'm super worried, because I'm not the obvious choice to play Celia Foote," Chastain admitted Tuesday at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where she was attending a charity luncheon held by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. "I'm not a blond bombshell. I'm, like, the nerdy redheaded girl. So there's a lot of pressure."

To get into the mind-set of the lighthearted blond, Chastain said she read "The Help" numerous times and even studied the voice inflection of Marilyn Monroe, whom she imagined to be similar to her character in the film.

Still, she's anxious about the fan reception to her performance.

"When I was making the movie, I would tell people -- you know, they'd say, 'Who are you playing?' And I'd say 'Celia Foote.' And they look at me, like, 'Whaat?' " she said, laughing. "I'm nervous about it. And next week I'll find out. I'm bringing my grandma and her three best friends to the premiere. She's gonna be honest with me. If I pass the grandma test, I'll be OK."


Sisters in spirit

'The Help' cast talks

Thumbs up or down for 'The Help' movie trailer?

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Jessica Chastain, left, stars with Octavia Spencer in "The Help." Credit: Dale Robinette/DreamWorks

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