Jessica Chastain, Co-Star of "The Help," Will Be Broadway's The Heiress in Fall 2012

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05 Jan 2012

Jessica Chastain
Jessica Chastain
Aubrey Reuben

The producers of the new Broadway production of The Heiress have found their title actress in Jessica Chastain, the Juilliard School alumna who has distinguished herself recently in such films as "The Help" and "Coriolanus."

She played the title role of Salome opposite Al Pacino in the 2006 Los Angeles staging of Oscar Wilde's play, and appeared in Othello at the Public Theater and Rodney's Wife at Playwrights Horizons, both Off-Broadway.

Chastain was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance as vivacious outsider Celia Foote in "The Help," the film version of the best-selling novel. Her 2011 film credits also include "The Tree of Life," "The Debt" and "Take Shelter."

The Heiress, the durable 1947 play about a plain spinster named Catherine Sloper, a gold-digger suitor, a blunt father and a family home with a good view of Washington Square, is by Ruth Goetz & Augustus Goetz. The new staging, directed by Moisés Kaufman (I Am My Own Wife, 33 Variations, The Laramie Project), will bow on Broadway in fall 2012 at a theatre to be announced. This is the first official announcement of the production following a late 2011 report in The New York Times that a production was in the works. This will mark Chastain's Broadway debut.

The Heiress will be produced by Paula Wagner, Roy Furman and Stephanie P. McClelland.



Wagner said in a statement, "I was immediately struck by Jessica's talent and skill when I saw her on stage opposite Al Pacino in Salome. She is an actress with that rare ability to transition effortlessly between the stage and screen. Moisés Kaufman had the vision to see Jessica as the perfect actress to play one of the great psychologically complex female characters."

Based on the novel "Washington Square" by Henry James, the play tells of Catherine Sloper being pulled between her cold father and a warm suitor who may be motivated by greed. (Catherine spends a lot of time looking out the window for her beau, and listening for a carriage.)

In 1995, Lincoln Center Theater had a major hit with a revival of the 1850-set play. It won Tony Awards for Best Revival, Best Actress (Cherry Jones), Best Featured Actress in a Play (Frances Sternhagen) and Best Direction of a Play (Gerald Gutierrez). It was the third Broadway revival for the play, and was celebrated for adding depth and psychological heft to a work that could be lazily sold as melodrama.

The property was a famous 1949 Hollywood film starring Olivia de Havilland (who won the Best Actress Oscar for her work) and Montgomery Clift. It was nominated for Best Picture.

Kaufman is a two-time Tony Award nominee as author of 33 Variations, which he also directed on Broadway starring Jane Fonda, and as director of the Broadway production of I Am My Own Wife for which he won an Obie Award and also received Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel nominations. His play Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde earned him a Lortel and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway play as well as a Joe A. Callaway Award for Best Director. And his film of his play The Laramie Project earned him two Emmy nominations (writing and directing) as well as a National Board of Review Award and a Humanitas Prize.

Together Ruth Goetz and Augustus Goetz wrote the Broadway plays Franklin Street (1940); One Man Show (1945); The Immoralist (1954), an adaptation from the novel by Andre Gide; and The Hidden River (1957), an adaptation of a novel by Storm Jameson. The Goetzes also collaborated on the films "The Heiress" (Academy Award, 1949), "Sister Carrie" (1950), "Rhapsody," "Trapeze" and "Stagestruck." Ruth Goetz is the sole author of the plays Sweet Love Remembered (1959), written after her husband's death in 1957; and Madly in Love (1963).

Follow The Heiress on Twitter @TheHeiressBway.