Thursday’s Golden Globes nominations for best performance by a lead actress in a motion picture drama nearly mirrored Wednesday’s announcement for the Screen Actors Guild lead actress nominees with Jessica Chastain facing off against Marion Cotillard, Helen Mirren and Naomi Watts in both contests.
Those actresses are joined in the Golden Globe balloting by Rachel Weisz, honored for her role as a moneyed housewife who falls for an ex-fighter pilot before plunging into suicidal despair.
Weisz was asleep in a Los Angeles hotel room Thursday morning and was caught so by unaware by the phone call informing her of her nomination, the actress initially assumed it was a mistaken wake-up call.
“I had no sense this was going to happen,” Weisz said. “It’s a tiny British indie film that came out in March and hasn’t been part of any [awards season] discussions.”
She said playing the character was “fascinating,” in that it allowed her to tap into an extreme of the human condition: “She’s in a state of want and lust and love. I felt kind of charged up by her. She humiliates herself, loses her dignity and falls apart all on the strength of love.”
Chastain portrays a relentless CIA analyst on the hunt for Osama bin Laden in director Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty.” Speaking by phone Thursday morning, Chastain described the ordeal of portraying her character a “painful experience.”
Shooting for four months in Jordan and India, the actress took her role home with her at the end of the day, hanging photographs of suspected terrorists in her hotel room in an effort to keep herself “confronted by the image of danger.”
“I wanted to know what it was like to be constantly surrounded by negative energy,” Chastain said. “When I watched the film, it was difficult for me. I see my face and I see all that stress that I felt.”
French actress Cotillard stars in romantic drama “Rust and Bone” as a killer whale trainer, tragically injured in a workplace accident, who becomes romantically enmeshed with a down-on-his-luck boxer. Mirren, who plays Alfred Hitchcock’s wife and creative muse Alma Reville in the biopic “Hitchcock,” has already won three Golden Globes, most recently in 2006 as lead actress in a motion picture drama for portraying Queen Elizabeth in “The Queen.”
And Watts, who has been gaining late-inning award season momentum and had never been nominated for a Golden Globe before, stars as a tsunami survivor in Juan Antonio Bayona’s disaster film “The Impossible.”
Watts spent six weeks immersed in water tanks enacting the ordeal of a real-life woman who was separated from her husband and two of three sons when a tidal wave smashed into their Indian Ocean vacation resort, and she considers the role the most demanding she has ever played.
“Every day was an exhausting day,” Watts said from New York Thursday. “It got to the point where I thought, ‘I can’t take it anymore. I reached my limit.’ Then you remember the story you’re telling. I’m an actor. I know I’m safe. The degree of discomfort and uncertainty they must have felt was just so much worse.”
Quvenzhane Wallis, the tiny actress responsible for one of the biggest performances of the year, in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” was a surprise shutout, as were other early award-season front-runners Emmanuelle Riva, co-star of director Michael Haneke’s “Amour,” and Keira Knightley, who portrays the title character in director Joe Wright’s adaptation of “Anna Karenina.”