Three Oscar-Nominated Actors Discuss Veganism in Their Life and Work

By Alexandra Beane — February 22, 2013

On Sunday night, February 24, when the Academy Awards celebrates excellence in film, three of the nominees in the acting categories will no doubt be ordering the vegan entree at the Governor’s Ball following the ceremony. Two have been vegan for a while, and one is a newbie, but all have spoken about what led them to become vegan, and how their beliefs impact their work.

Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain is nominated for Best Actress for her role as Maya, the CIA agent determined to find Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty. Earlier this month, she told  talk show host  Ellen Degeneres that she has been a vegetarian for 15 years, and a vegan for six. She also said that her mother is a vegan chef. In an interview with the Reelz Channel promoting her last Oscar-nominated role in The Help, Chastain discussed how she remained vegan during the shoot in the deeply-southern state of Mississippi. Even on the set, as she played the domestically-impaired housewife Celia Foote, whose housekeeper taught her to cook, the props people were able to put together some veggie products to masquerade as fried chicken. “They took a turkey dog and tofurkey and battered it, and deep fried it,” Chastain said. “I haven’t had meat in so long…..so if I had had meat, I wouldn’t have been able to do the scene.

On a recent visit to London, while she was doing promotional interviews, The Guardian newspaper noted that “a few corridors away a group of aides remind each other, direly, that ‘Jessica isn’t vegan – she’s very vegan’. They go on to strategise in tones really best suited to leaders at war, or foreign-territory publicists deciding where to treat an American star to lunch.”

Chastain, who (along with another “veteran vegan” Woody Harrelson) topped PETA’s list of Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrities of 2012, said, I don’t want to torture anything.”….[I]t’s about trying to live a life where I’m not contributing to the cruelty in the world….While I am on this planet, I want everyone I meet to know that I am grateful they are here.” However, Chastain’s veganism does not extend to her wardrobe and accessories choices. She has been spotted out and about recently in leather clothes and shoes, and carrying leather bags.

Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway, on the other hand, has gotten a lot of attention on red carpets lately for her designer vegan footwear, specially made for her. For the New York Les Mis premiere, she wore faux leather “bondage boots”  designed for her by Tom Ford. She wore vegan Jimmy Choo peep toe shoes to the Golden Globe Awards in January. Maybe with all of the attention these designers have been receiving for Hathaway’s custom-made footwear, they will be inspired to give all of their customers some faux leather and other vegan options as well.

Based on her sweep of all of the major awards in her category, Hathaway is predicted to walk off with the Best Supporting Actress award for playing Fantine in Les Miserables. The newest vegan of the Oscar-nominated vegan actors, she has nonetheless seemed dedicated. Her footwear in the film was completely vegan. “We couldn’t use any animal materials on the shoes for her character Fantine,” said costume designer Paco Delgado. “We had to find very specific shoemakers to create lace-up boots and ankle boots. We also did flats that were much more sophisticated.” Hathaway told Ellen DeGeneres, that as new vegan, she still found some challenges on the set, courtesy of director Tom Hooper’s quest for realism.  “For some reason, for the dock scenes, (Hooper) wanted us to have dead fish, for days, and days and days on end and of course this was the first role that I’ve done since going vegan, so there I am in period-looking leather shoes, stepping on dead fish, and I was having a real crisis of conscience.”  

Hathaway went from being a vegetarian to “almost vegan” with the help of a personal nutrition coach when she had to lose weight to fit into her Catwoman suit for The Dark Knight Rises.
“By the time the movie finished, I decided to give veganism a try. You can’t go hog-wild as a vegan. You can eat a lot of pasta and have a few vegan pastries.” Last year, Hathaway had a vegan wedding in California’s beautiful coastal paradise, Big Sur.

Joaquin Phoenix

Phoenix is nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of a troubled, alcoholic WW II veteran who gets caught up in the spell of a cult leader in The Master. He has been a vegan since childhood, like his siblings, and has been outspoken on animal issues. A  strong animal rights advocate and strict vegan, Phoenix narrated the powerful film Earthlings, which documents the multitude of ways that humans cause animals suffering — for their use as food, fashion, pets, entertainment and medical research. The actor has said, “Of all the films I have ever made…this is the one that gets people talking the most.

Phoenix carries his veganism to his wardrobe, and insists on faux leather in his roles, including “The Man in Black” himself, Johnny Cash, in Walk the Line. He wore vegan sandals for his role as Commodus in Gladiator. “My lifestyle is part of who I am and therefore is always a consideration when working: I always discuss this with producers, and they are very accommodating.”

The actor has appeared in numerous ads for PETA and narrated undercover videos exposing animal abuse. In an interview with PETA, Phoenix talked about the event that changed his life: watching a fish die on a fishing trip when he was just three years old. “My family and I were on a boat, catching fish. As one fish was caught, he was writhing, then he was thrown against the side of the boat. You couldn’t disguise what it was. This was what we did to animals to eat them. The animal went from a living, vibrant creature fighting for life to a violent death.” Now, he says, “Animal rights is a part of my everyday life. When you live by example, you create a certain level of awareness.”

 

Cover Image and Image at Top of Page Courtesy of Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Image of Jessica Chastain Courtesy of Bryan Crowe / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Image of Anne Hathaway Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Image of Joaquin Phoenix Courtesy of The Weinstein Company/Phil Bray

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