Casting began in early 2020. After Isaac met Levi, he wrote to Chastain to tell him about the project. She was not available. The producers chose Michelle Williams. But the pandemic has reshuffled everyone’s schedules. When production was ready to resume, Williams was no longer free. Chastain was. “It was the most incredible miracle for me,” said Levi.
Isaac and Chastain met in the early 2000s at Juilliard. He was in his first year; her, in her third. He first saw her in a scene from a classical tragedy, slapping men in the role of Helen of Troy. He was friends with his then boyfriend, and they quickly became friends themselves, bonding through the shared trauma of an acting program designed to break his students apart and then rebuild them. Isaac remembered her as “a true force of nature and strong, completely solid, with an incredible amount of integrity,” he said.
In the next window, Chastain blushes. “He was super talented,” she said. “But talented in an unexpected way, it is a challenge and one that goes against the constructions and the ideas.” She introduced it to her manager, and they celebrated each other’s early successes and went to each other’s premieres. (Some of these photos are used in “Scenes From a Marriage” as a backdrop.)
In 2013, Chastain was chosen for “A Most Violent Year” by JC Chandor, alongside Javier Bardem. When Bardem gave up, Chastain campaigned for Isaac to have the role. Weeks before filming, the two began to meet, fleshing out the story of their characters – a husband and wife trying to corner the heating oil market in 1981 in New York – details of marriage, affairs , of life.
It was the first time they had worked together, and each felt a deeper connection than a parallel education and approach. “Something connects us that is stronger than any idea for a character or a story or whatever,” Isaac said. “There is something else that is more like a shared existence.”
Chandor noticed that they supported each other on set and also challenged each other, giving each other the freedom to take the characters’ relationship to dark and dangerous places. “They have this innate trust in each other,” Chandor said.