It wasn’t even four months ago that HBO announced that Oscar Isaac and Michelle Williams would star in its remake of Ingmar Bergman‘s Scenes from a Marriage, and now Williams has bowed out due to scheduling issues, and the equally talented Jessica Chastain has signed on to take her place.
The original six-episode series starred Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson and aired on Swedish television in 1973, and has since been canonized as part of The Criterion Collection. The modern remake will explore many of the same themes — love, hate, marriage, divorce, and, of course, monogamy — through the lens of a contemporary American couple.
Chastain and Isaac go all the way back to their days at Juilliard together, and I was a big fan of their 2014 collaboration A Most Violent Year, so here’s hoping they can recapture their old magic — which just so happens to be the theme of this show! The only thing that gives me pause is that, as with Williams and Blue Valentine, Chastain has explored marital issues before in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, but I suppose not too many people have seen that ambitious cinematic experiment, so it shouldn’t interfere with their viewing pleasure on HBO too much.
Hagai Levi (The Affair) will write and direct the new Scenes from a Marriage, as well as executive produce alongside Isaac and, now, Chastain. Lars Blomgren, Daniel Bergman, Blair Breard and Amy Herzog will also executive produce, as will Michael Ellenberg, whose Media Res banner is producing alongside Endeavor Content. The project has been in the works for several years, as it was among the first that former HBO exec Ellenberg announced when Media Res launched three years ago.
While some will be tempted to play the “upgrade or downgrade” game here with Williams, there’s no question that HBO just hired a top-tier actress in Chastain, who has two Oscar nominations of her own thanks to her work in The Help and Zero Dark Thirty. More recently, she earned Golden Globe nominations for her fiery turns in Molly’s Game, Miss Sloane, and yes. A Most Violent Year. Though I personally haven’t cared for Chastain’s taste in genre films of late — Crimson Peak, Dark Phoenix and It: Chapter Two are all pretty bad, IMO — she excels in thoughtful dramas like Scenes from a Marriage where the writing is more important than the visual effects.
Though I haven’t bothered to see Chastain’s action thriller Ava yet based on the poor reviews, and am not enthused by The 355 trailer, I’m a fan of her two space movies, Interstellar and The Martian, and I look forward to seeing the actress in new films from Michael Showalter and John Michael McDonagh. Deadline broke the news about Chastain doing Scenes from a Marriage, and you can click here to read about Chastain’s limited series centered on country music legend Tammy Wynette.