The broken love story, adapted from the classic 1970s Ingmar Bergman series, is already one of the most talked about new shows of the year.
And the actors themselves threw so much of themselves into the fractious fictional marriage that they worried their own career-long relationship could hit the skids.
The pals, who studied together at the prestigious Julliard school and co-starred in A Most Violent Year, are front and centre of the new drama launching on Sky Atlantic, at 9pm on 11 October.
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Oscar Isaac said: “We’re close friends and that was important for many reasons, a big one being that we have a shorthand together – we’re efficient. We were really able to spend time on the important issues like, ‘Who are these people and what do they mean to each other?’"
Jessica Chastain added: “When we first meet Mira she’s in this marital depression where she has stifled and muted herself – and it was super interesting to explore all of that with Oscar.
“It also became difficult and quite painful in later episodes where not only are we verbally but physically hurting each other. And when you’re filming those scenes with someone that you really love – because there’s deep love between Oscar and I – it becomes very complex and difficult to navigate. And I think you see it in the work.
Watch a trailer for Scenes From A Marriage
“It was a raw shoot for both of us and thank goodness our friendship is OK and we keep talking and our families have vacationed together and spent a lot of time together.
“But while we were shooting it, at the very beginning, I looked right at him and I said ‘are we going to be friends after this?’ because it felt way too upsetting and too intense. But I’m very happy to say that we are still very good friends!”
The original Scenes from a Marriage starred Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson as the couple on the brink, as a successful businessman and cheating husband who has dominated the relationship faces the end as his behaviour has consequences.
After its 1973 run in Sweden, watched by almost 50 percent of the audience, the divorce rate rose by 50 percent. It swept around the world and inspired a generation of filmmakers, with descendant films including Crimes and Misdemeanours and Marriage Story.
It’s been brought back to life — with Bergman’s family’s co-operation — by Hagai Levi, the Israeli showrunner who created In Treatment.
The modern stars loved getting into the new series, especially by Levi’s gender flipping approach which sees Chastain’s character as the financially successful breadwinner.
She said: “It became incredibly interesting to me because it really depicts women, and my character, Mira, as full human beings. I loved the idea of exploring a woman with complications and complexities. That was the really exciting part.”
She added: “It’s complicated but I definitely see it as a love story, although to me it’s a love story where the characters keep getting in their own way.
“I think Mira loves Jonathan fully and completely but the problems that they get into are because she closes off part of herself.
“And I think in order to really love someone you have to love yourself as well and when you forget to love yourself you can really cause a lot of havoc in your life. I think it’s an interesting take on love because in my mind, they both want the same thing in every episode – they want to be together, but they want it to be different. And then they start to become afraid of each other.”
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The new series is set over a period of years, and is an intense ride.
Isaac said: “It was exhausting but there were moments of incredible beauty and synchronicity between all of us, which was great.
“It felt like playing with amazing musicians for like a five hour gig, where you pour it all out on the stage and you have incredible moments when you are flying so high because you are just in this amazing zone and moments where you are so tired you don’t feel like you can go on and you feed off the energy of the other person and what is going on.
“So yeah, that’s how it felt for me. It was very special.”
Scenes from a Marriage, Sky Atlantic, Monday October 11, 9pm. All episodes are available now on Sky and Now TV.
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