355

Put this movie in front of my eyeballs right now. A new female-driven spy movie called 355 is in the works, and it has a killer cast: Jessica Chastain, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, and Lupita Nyong’oX-Men: Dark Phoenix director Simon Kinberg is set to helm the espionage film.

What a cast! Jessica Chastain, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, and Lupita Nyong’o have all signed onto the spy thriller 355. Deadline reports the women will “play international agents in a grounded, edgy action thriller that aims to alter a male-dominated genre with a true female ensemble, in the style of spy franchises The Bourne Identity, Mission: Impossible and James Bond.” Theresa Rebeck will write the script, but the idea itself apparently came from Chastain.

All of this sounds cool, as does the word that the intention is to launch a franchise. I’m all for a female-driven spy franchise. The only major qualm I have with this story: Simon Kinberg is directing. Look, I don’t have anything against Kinberg. And he and Chastain have a working relationship together – he directed her in the upcoming Dark Phoenix, and it was on the set of that film that Chastain pitched the movie idea to the director. Still, I can’t help but think a big female-driven spy movie should maybe, just maybe, have a female director as well. Wouldn’t that be cool? It seems like this is a strange, persisting trend. Hollywood keeps giving the go-ahead to female-driven team films, like Ghostbusters and the upcoming Ocean’s 8, but then hires a male director.

That said, this sounds like it has potential to be incredible. That cast is phenomenal, and the thought of all those actresses together in a big, action-driven spy movie is too good to pass-up. And I really like that Chastain seems to be the driving force behind the whole thing. “I had so much fun working on The Help that I always wanted to do another female ensemble film,” Chastain said. “I love the Bourne movies, the Mission: Impossible films, and wondered why, except for Charlie’s Angels, there hadn’t been a true female ensemble action-thriller spy film. That got my wheels going, along with the idea of casting actresses from all over the world to truly make it an international project. I realized the incredible creative freedom we would have with that. I brought the idea to Simon, told him about the actresses I was thinking of, and he was so sweet. He said, ‘I want to do it with you.’”

Chastain added that she personally called the rest of the cast and asked them to join the film:

Then I called all the women, told them what I was envisioning and that I wanted it to be a collaborative process, and how we would all create this together…the one thing that felt important is that we all show up at Cannes, because that would be the beginning of our journey together. Every single actress I called said yes, on the phone call. They committed to Cannes and to everything. So far it has been a very wonderfully easy process.

If you’re wondering where the title 355 comes from, Chastain has your answer:

“We have a consultant in our film that has a lot of knowledge in espionage. This title came from one of the conversations I had with him. Agent 355 was the code name of a female spy during the American Revolution. She was one of the very first spies for the United States, and her identity is still unknown. For a lot of women who work in the CIA and other organizations like that, Code 355 is a universal slang term for female spy. It’s the invisible woman who was never named.”

Kinberg added that the goal of the film is to focus on the ensemble cast, and give each character their own fully formed story:

“It won’t be as hyperbolic as some franchises, and unlike the other films that revolve around one main character, the goal here is the true ensemble, all these characters who have their own distinct traits, histories — fully formed and complex characters with equal weight in the film. That’s unique, as is having all female spies. We are digging into the reality of spy craft today. There are all kinds of things that seem out of a James Bond or even a sci-fi movie, but the technology is so advanced that it’s real. Having someone who knows that reality informing the script has been really helpful.”

Again, all of this sounds very, very cool, and I’d like to see it immediately.

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