Jessica Chastain is teaming up with an international cast of A-list talent on an all-female spy thriller titled 355. Chastain came up with the idea and pitched it to writer/director Simon Kinberg while they were shooting the upcoming X-Men film, X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Kinberg has since then agreed to direct the movie and will help Chastain pitch the film to buyers at this month's Cannes Film Festival.
Chastain has been actively championing gender equality in Hollywood for some time now, and not just with her film roles either. The Oscar-nominee successfully pushed for equal pay for her The Help costar Octavia Spencer on their upcoming road trip movie project and has collaborated with female directors on several occasions now (including, next month's historical drama Woman Walks Ahead). While Kinberg will be calling the shots on 355, the movie is being written by Theresa Rebeck (Smash) and features a cast of women from around the world, Chastain included.
Deadline is reporting that the 355 cast also includes Oscar-winners Lupita Nyong'o, Penélope Cruz, and Martion Cotillard, along with Bingbing Fan (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and Chastain. The plot will revolve around a group of female agents from organizations around the world who have to work together, in order to stop a clandestine criminal group from acquiring a weapon that could create chaos on a global scale. Kinberg further confirmed to Deadline that the hope is 355 will be successful enough to launch a franchise.
Chastain says the title for 355 comes from a conversation that she had with the CIA consultant on Kathryn Bigelow's true story based thriller, Zero Dark Thirty. As they explained to her, "Agent 355" was the code name for a famous female spy back in the American Revolutionary War (one whose true identity is still unknown) and has since become the general slang for female spies. Chastain told Deadline that the plan is for 355 to be relatively grounded in its portrayal of secret government operatives, similar to Bigelow's film:
“It’s a film and not a documentary, but our goal is to make this action spy thriller as authentic as we can, with as much trade craft as we can. So when people in these organizations, in the CIA or MI6 around the world see the film, my goal is they will say, ‘Wow, this is pretty authentic. They got it.’ That was the thing I loved the most in making Zero Dark Thirty.”
The spy genre has typically be dominated by male action stars, but 355 is part of a wave of films aiming to bring some balance to the genre. Charlize Theron played an extremely deadly spy in last year's hit Atomic Blonde and is hoping to reprise the role in a sequel. Elsewhere, director Ridley Scott is circling Fox's Queen and Country - a film based on the comic books about a female British secret intelligence agent - and Marvel Studios is actively courting directors for its Black Widow movie. There's also the Charlie's Angels reboot that Nyong'o was rumored for last year; presumably, she's no longer eyeing the project.
Male-driven spy movies haven't necessarily been lacking in good female characters in recent years, but their roles have typically been supporting in nature. 355 will change that by featuring a diverse collection of women front and center, on an adventure that has the makings of good pulpy fun, based on everything that has been revealed so far. While everyone waits to see if that proposed all-female MCU superhero movie ever gets off the ground, 355 could offer a similar breath of fresh air in the meantime.
We will bring you more details on 355 as they become available.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Feb 14, 2019