Jessica Chastain on the Importance of the Leading Actresses in 'The 355' Getting Paid the Same (Exclusive)

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Jessica Chastain is speaking out about the importance of making sure the leading actresses on her latest film were paid the same.

ET's Nischelle Turner spoke to Chastain ahead of the release of her new action film, The 355, where she ensured that her female co-stars -- Penélope CruzLupita Nyong’oFan Bingbing and Diane Kruger -- were all compensated both equally and fairly, something she's done on previous projects.

"I think when there's a lot of secrets, that's when things happen that aren't healthy or beneficial for us, so I think the more we can talk about things and the more that, actually, we can be in charge, that really shapes a lot of what we create and also what we put out into the world," Chastain said about being a staunch advocate for equal pay.

"Media was so important to me in shaping me, the things I saw," she continued. "I remember seeing Sigourney Weaver in Alien, and it really kind of opened my mind of what a woman is capable of doing and being. So, I wanna participate in stuff like that."

As part of Chastain's pay initiative, all the film's leading actresses are all owners of the project, and all worked together to make the movie without the traditional studio system.

"The actresses are all owners of the film," Chastain explained. "We raised the money independently. We made it without a studio, without a studio system and we made it for a fraction of what a film like this would normally cost, so it was really exciting to bring this into the world in that way."

Chastain has made it her mission to not only be an active participant in fair projects, but also create an environment in which an actress doesn't have to choose between being a career woman and a mom.

"I also wanna participate in projects where everyone feels empowered and valued and important to the process, and so that goes to pay, that goes to the fact that I love bringing families on set," Chastain shared. "We had a trailer that was for children, and so how wonderful that, yes we can be successful and wonderful at our work, but we can also not have to shut down part of our life in order to do so."

"And I think for the longest time it's been like, you're either a career woman or you're home. It's like, there's no such thing," she added. "Men have been able to do both for years. Let's just make it possible for everyone."

The 355 sees four rival agents -- American CIA agent Mason "Mace" Brown (Chastain), German operative Marie (Kruger), MI6 computer specialist Khadijah (Nyong'o) and Colombian psychologist Graciela (Cruz) -- join forces to track down a mercenary, recover a top-secret weapon and stop World War 3. Fan is the mysterious fifth player, Chinese intelligence officer Lin Mi Sheng.

While the action-packed film is just now arriving in theaters, it's been in the works for years, with Chastain telling ET that she first got the idea for the movie in 2017.

"I had the idea in 2017 to call the actresses," the Scenes From a Marriage actress revealed. "We all raised the money in 2018 and we were shooting in 2019, and then of course COVID hit, so we were in post during the pandemic. And to now finally present it to an audience just feels really exciting."

And just like she goes into every project pushing for equal pay, Chastain also works to make sure the stories she tells represent the society we live in.

"I think it's something I go into every project with. It's just part of how I walk through the world," she noted of the diverse, female-led movie. "I don't see it in a way of, like, patting myself on the back or like, 'Oh, I'm gonna do this.' I just think of it in terms of, I like breaking any kind of rules that haven't worked for so long. And if an industry is run a certain way for such a long time, that hasn't been a healthy industry. I'm really excited in the rebellious act of changing it and I'm shaping it into what is representative of our society and what should be the stories we should see, which is the stories of many, not the stories of few."

You can see The 355 when it hits theaters Jan. 7.

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