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A text to Jessica Chastain led her to 'Zero Dark Thirty' [Video]

January 31, 2013|By Glenn Whipp

"If I ever ask you for anything it’s to speak with you for five minutes … just five minutes."

Jessica Chastain received that mysterious text from producer Megan Ellison in 2011, completely unaware that director Kathryn Bigelow had been trying to gauge her interest in playing Maya, the lead CIA operative heading the hunt for Osama bin Laden in "Zero Dark Thirty."

"I thought, 'Wow. That’s super-dramatic,' " Chastain remembers of the message.

She called Ellison immediately and learned a few details about the movie -- but not many. Secrecy shrouded the project, and Chastain didn't know the full dimensions of the role until Ellison sent her the screenplay. After reading a few pages, Chastain realized she was being offered the part of a lifetime.

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Jessica Chastain on 'Zero Dark Thirty'

"As an actor, I always look for characters I haven’t played before or characters that have opposites in them or characters we haven’t really seen before, and I found all of those in Maya," the Oscar-nominated Chastain said in a video interview, above, the first segment of a three-part conversation.

"So then I wrote Kathryn an email, saying, 'Look, now I’m going to be heartbroken because now I’m really passionate about this film,' " Chastain says. "So if we can make the schedule work, I’m there.'"

What hooked Chastain about Maya, the woman based on the real CIA operative who tracked Bin Laden?

OSCAR WATCH: 'Zero Dark Thirty'

"In the script, when it first describes Maya, it’s as petite, girl-like, looking younger than she is," Chastain says. "And I really loved the idea of someone who’s small and you think is insignificant in stature and voice being this fierce lion."

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