Jessica Chastain, cast as Salome, is a beautiful young woman whose long red hair contrasts with her alabaster skin. She has appeared on television shows like ER, Veronica Mars, Close to Home, and as an assistant district attorney on Law & Order, but this was her first film.
On stage for the first rehearsal she was out of synch with Estelle Parsons, who was directing the play, regarding Salome’s intentions. Chastain felt her character is in love with John the Baptist and that it is a pure love, not a selfish love. She didn’t feel Salome was even listening to what the prophet said to her (“Back! Daughter of Babylon! Come not near the chosen of the Lord”), she was just obsessed with him (“Thy voice is as music to mine ear….I am amorous of thy body”). She also felt that she could do anything and get away with anything “because she’s Salome.” Parsons thought that Salome was too young to understand her true powers until she got to that place where she asks for the head of the Baptist. Pacino was on stage while they talked, then he stepped down, walked out of the theater and up to the balcony.
“They’re having a fight,” he said, all smiles. “Isn’t this great?”