Muschietti’s Muse: Jessica Chastain in ‘Mama’

Mama Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain would make a great final woman in IT: Chapter Two.

The internet’s dream casting looks like it may come true, as Jessica Chastain is currently in talks to star in Andy Muschietti’s IT: Chapter Two as an adult Beverly Marsh. The fans may have helped make this happen, but Muschietti and Chastain go way back to his first feature, the Guillermo del Toro-produced Mama. Not only did that moving box office hit introduce the world to Muschietti’s emotionally driven approach to horror, but it also established a burgeoning director-actor relationship.

In Mama, Chastain plays Annabel, a young woman who becomes guardian to her boyfriend’s haunted nieces. Looking back, it’s a natural set up for Muschietti’s work on IT. The film opens with “once upon a time…” scribbled in a child’s hand. This storybook feeling bubbles beneath the surface of the familial drama but this urban legend tone becomes more fully realized in Muschietti’s IT. Similarly, both films see Muschietti working with children, and it’s a gift of his. He encourages exceptional performances from the two girls in Mama, Megan Charpentier as the older sister, Victoria, and Isabelle Nélisse as Lily, but it’s still Chastain who dominates.

Strikingly, Muschietti robs the actress of her iconic red hair in favor of a jet-black cropped cut and then adorns her rock look with twisting tattoos. Her sculpted pale face and dark hair connect her visually with Mama, the film’s frightening maternal spirit. There are other deviations to Chastain’s virtuous star image, too. Annabel’s immaturity is a far cry from the highly competent women she has become famous for playing. A similar twist on her clean-cut persona would work for Beverly. In King’s novel, Beverly goes on to have a successful career as a fashion designer, but she’s still haunted by her past, in the form of an abusive husband.

Annabel struggles with the girls early on but, when Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s boyfriend is hospitalized, they begin to develop a connection. That’s when her strength shows itself, as she starts to experience feelings and instincts she never knew she had. In Mama, Chastain projects both weakness and strength and Muschietti will be looking for that in his King sequel.

Most importantly, we can hope that Chastain’s star power results in a beefed-up role for the lone woman in IT‘s ensemble cast. Sophia Lillis’ star-making performance as young Beverly in last year’s film still found her playing the damsel in distress in the film’s third act. Chastain doesn’t do damsel in distress, as Zero Dark Thirty, A Most Violent Year and Crimson Peak will attest. Annabel’s backstory is minimal in Mama, but Chastain still manages to deliver emotionally. Through her relationship with those kids, Annabel grows in ways that most horror characters don’t. When given a whole film’s worth of history, her performance in IT: Chapter Two could be something special. One thing’s for sure. Chastain is no copy-and-paste final girl. She’s a final woman.

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UK-based freelance entertainment journalist for the likes of Bloody Disgusting, Vague Visages and The Digital Fix.