Actress Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life) studied Marilyn’s life while preparing to play Celia Foote, the naive employer of maid Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) in The Help, a comedy-drama set in 1960s Mississippi at the height of the Civil Rights movement, based on a 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett.
Acccording to the Denver Post:
“As one of the truly likable characters in The Help (set in the author Kathryn Stockett’s hometown of Jackson, Miss., in 1962), Celia hires Minny Jackson, a blacklisted housekeeper to clean and teach her how to cook. She then goes about confusing Octavia Spencer’s feisty character by treating her as an equal.
Celia is something of a Jackson outcast herself. She hails from a place called Sugar Ditch. And the way Chastain embodies her, she should recall another Sugar: ‘Sugar’ Kane Kowalczyk, so fabulously portrayed by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.
‘When I read The Help, there were so many comparisons and mentions of Marilyn Monroe I thought I had to figure out what this was about. The Norma Jean aspects of Marilyn are very similar to Celia coming from Sugar Ditch. This idea of bleaching her hair blond and starting this clean life. What is Celia running away from?’ Chastain asks.
That’s a fine question, and her portrayal captures Celia’s social uncertainty and her carnal embrace of life. She’s a kind and voluptuous force. She was not however, Chastain says, an obvious fit.
‘When we were in Mississippi, I’d run into someone from the town and they’d ask who I was playing. I’d tell them Celia Foote, and their eyes would kind of glaze over. They’d look at me. Oh how’s that possible? You could see all the anxiety. Omigod, they’re going to ruin the movie,’ she says with a laugh.”