While it's not unusual to see some A-list stars compete with themselves at the box office, most of those cases involve the actor or actress looking mostly recognizable for fans. But you can't say that about Jessica Chastain's two movies that currently dominate the top two spots at the box office this weekend. In "Zero Dark Thirty", we see Chastain displaying her seemingly naturally red locks, and then a dark brunette haircut for her starring turn in "Mama."
And, yes, her expressions are also quite different in each, even if both are characters not seen cracking a smile. Such ability to transform into completely different characters may be a benefit to being able to get away with starring in two movies that compete with one another. Or does it really matter when the content is what audiences are really gravitating to?
That will be interesting to analyze as Hollywood also figures out whether it was Chastain or the movie content that happened to make her queen of the box office during a holiday weekend. Going by how the movie industry has worked in the past, they'll go strictly by numbers and give Chastain even more employment based on her double box office win. Plus, with her chances of winning Best Actress at the Oscars ramped up a few points, she could ultimately end up competing with herself more often in coming years.
If Hollywood goes strictly by the film's content, then you go by intense publicity for "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Mama" going with Guillermo del Toro's name as a selling point. In past cases, stars that had the top two movies at the box office were going mostly by the star's name recognition. Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the few actors in history who often competed cinematically with his own name based strictly on his status. "Titanic" and "Man in the Iron Mask" going neck and neck at the box office in 1998 is an example of at least the latter film being successful based on a name and not content alone.
Chastain may become a new breed of actress who isn't ostentatious enough to have a movie do well based on her own name and rather by her choice of roles. So far, she's been very astute in finding herself in numerously good movies that do well based on cumulative aspects rather than holding the movie herself. Evidence of that is in her recent films "Take Shelter", "The Tree of Life", "The Help", and "Lawless."
This isn't to say that she isn't a solid, Oscar-caliber anchor in "Zero Dark Thirty." Nevertheless, her ability to change her appearance suits her as a character actress rather than a star that everybody will instantly recognize. Because Hollywood already has myriad red-haired A-list actresses, you could say it's imperative that Chastain look different in every future role to help her stand out.
The pressure is typically lessened that way without having to worry about fans going to a movie merely to get their jollies recognizing your visage. Along with Chastain's ability to deftly pick projects that become box office winners, she may have to be renamed the Queen of Content who just so happens to reap the benefits of box office performance.
Yes, even many A-list stars once competing with themselves at the box office would covet such a title when brilliant movie content has become a new needle in a haystack.