TIFF 2021 award recipient Jessica Chastain remembers the 'anxiety' of being labelled the 'It Girl,' feels like a Canadian

·4 min read
US actress Jessica Chastain smiles at a fan following a press conference at Roy Thompson Hall for the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario, September 11, 2021. (Photo by Geoff Robins / AFP) (Photo by GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images)

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has proven to be an important event for Hollywood star Jessica Chastain, who worked in Canada so much that feels like a Canadian.

"I was here for the first time 10 years ago, actually it was the first year I really had movies come out in the movie theatre, so it was the beginning of my career, I came to this festival with Take Shelter," Chastain said at a press conference on Saturday. "So it's been an incredibly beautiful festival to revisit over the years and I've made six movies in Toronto, two in Montreal, so I kind of feel like I'm Canadian, if you guys will have me."

"It's wonderful to look back at it now because at the time, I felt a lot of anxiety because I was getting so much attention so soon... I've had the opportunity to grow my career into all aspects of this industry and not just being, at the time I was like the 'It Girl,' which every time someone said that I was like, 'Oh no,' because you have such a short life. That's like your death sentence as an actress."

This year, Chastain joins a group of talented actors and filmmakers who are recipients of the TIFF Tribute Awards at the 2021 film festival. The awards are as follows:

  • Jessica Chastain — TIFF Tribute Actor Award supported by the Tory Family

  • Benedict Cumberbatch — TIFF Tribute Actor Award

  • Denis Villeneuve — TIFF Ebert Director Award

  • Alanis Obomsawin — Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media supported by Participant Media

  • Ari Wegner — TIFF Variety Artisan Award

  • Danis Goulet — TIFF Emerging Talent Award presented by L’Oréal Paris and supported by MGM

  • Dionne Warwick — TIFF Special Tribute Award

"I have been coming to Canada and Toronto for many, many, many years in another capacity and I must say, it's exceptionally exciting, thrilling to be a part of something that you kind of dream of," Dionne Warwick said, who brought her documentary Dionne Warwick: Don't Make Me Over to this year's TIFF said.

"To know that I'm being honoured, by my film being shown, and I hope you all enjoy it. I know you will."

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 11: (L-R) Benedict Cumberbatch, Denis Villeneuve, Dionne Warwick, Danis Goulet, Alanis Obomsawin and Jessica Chastain attend the 2021 TIFF Tribute Awards Press Conference at Roy Thomson Hall on September 11, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 11: (L-R) Benedict Cumberbatch, Denis Villeneuve, Dionne Warwick, Danis Goulet, Alanis Obomsawin and Jessica Chastain attend the 2021 TIFF Tribute Awards Press Conference at Roy Thomson Hall on September 11, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

If your theatre smells like 'piss,' it's hard to bring people back

One of the most highly anticipated films of this year is Dune, starring Timothée Chalamet, directed by Quebec filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, who has been a strong advocate for bringing theatre releases of films back, as soon as it is safely possible to do so.

"I'm deeply, profoundly, totally convinced about the future, that the future of cinema is on the big screen because it's part of the language, because I, frankly, I think we need it, as human beings, to have a communal experience," he said at Saturday's press conference. "We have a responsibility to make sure that we bring the best cinema and the best theatrical experience to the screen." 

"We'll need to improve the systems and I think that, frankly, if your theatre is using a 1979 sound system and it [smells like] piss, it will be difficult to bring people in the theatre. The future of cinema is Dolby, it's Atmos, it has to embrace scope."

Echoing Villeneuve's comments, for Danis Goulet, who is at TIFF with her feature film debut, Night Raiders, the festival has stressed the importance of theatrical movie experiences.

"To be back in the cinema with people last night was such a gift," Goulet said. "I'm from a very small town on a lake in northern Saskatchewan, surrounded by three reserves, that had a theatre when I was growing up, and this town had no business having a theatre."

"I remember sitting in my circle in kindergarten class and my teacher said, 'who saw the movie last night,' and it was the premiere of E.T. I don't know if I would have experienced that magic any other way and now those theatres are disappearing, and it was such an incredible experience to have as a kid in northern Saskatchewan."

The TIFF Tribute Awards will air Saturday, September 18 at 7pm ET/8pm AT on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app and will be streamed to a global audience by Variety, the exclusive trade media partner of the event.

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