Jessica Chastain

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Jessica Chastain
Jessica Chastain TIFF 2015.jpg
Born Jessica Michelle Chastain
(1977-03-24) March 24, 1977 (age 38)[1]
Sacramento, California, United States
Alma mater
Occupation Actress
Years active 2004–present

Jessica Michelle Chastain (born March 24, 1977)[2][3] is an American actress. Chastain began her Hollywood career in guest-roles on several television shows, before making her feature film debut in Jolene (2008). In 2011, she gained wide public recognition for her starring roles in six film releases, including Take Shelter, The Tree of Life and The Help. Her performance as Celia Foote in the latter earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, as well as nominations for the Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, and Critics' Choice. In 2012, she made her Broadway debut in The Heiress.

Chastain garnered critical acclaim in 2012 for her performance in Zero Dark Thirty, winning the Critics Choice Movie Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama and receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress, the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role. Other notable films include Christopher Nolan's Interstellar (2014) and A Most Violent Year (2014), for which she received her third Golden Globe and Critics' Choice nominations. Chastain's performances in Zero Dark Thirty and in the 2013 horror-fantasy film Mama led film critic Richard Roeper to describe her as "one of the finest actors of her generation".[4] In 2012, Time featured her as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World".[5]

Early life[edit]

Chastain was born in Sacramento, California, the daughter of Jerri Renée (née Chastain), a vegan chef, and Michael Edward Monasterio (1957–2013), a musician. Her parents separated, and she was raised by her mother and stepfather, Michael Leroy Hastey, a fireman. She has five siblings, Juliet Christina Chastain (1978–2003),[6] half-sisters Laci and Nicole from her father's later relationships, and two half-brothers, from her mother's later marriage.[7][8][9][10][11] She is close to her maternal grandmother Marilyn, who attended the Oscars with her in 2012 and 2013.[12][13][14][15] Her ancestry includes Spanish (from her paternal grandfather), Greek (from a great-grandfather), Dutch, English, Scots-Irish, Scottish, German, and distant French Huguenot.[16]

Chastain first developed an interest in acting at the age of seven, after her grandmother took her to a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which starred David Cassidy.[17] Chastain said that she struggled academically as a student at El Camino High School in Sacramento. With too many absences during her senior year in 1995, she did not qualify for graduation but eventually obtained an "adult diploma".[18][19] She later attended Sacramento City College,[19] where she was a member of the debate team (1996–97).[20] In 1998, she appeared as Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet staged by TheatreWorks,[21] a professional theater company in the San Francisco Bay Area. A scholarship by Robin Williams provided the funds for Chastain to attend Juilliard School in New York City,[22][23] where she was a member of the Drama Division's Group 32 (1999–2003), which also included Michael Urie and Jess Weixler.[24] She was an active participant in the drama department and starred in several theatrical productions and student film projects. She graduated from Juilliard with a B.F.A. degree in 2003.[25][26]



Shortly before her drama school graduation, Chastain attended a showcase for final-year students in Los Angeles and was promptly signed to a holding deal by television producer John Wells.[27] She relocated to California, took up residence in Venice Beach, started auditioning for jobs and was discovered by talent agent Hylda Queally.[28] Facing early difficulty in even getting auditions for roles, she recalled that "being a redhead and not having very conventionally modern looks, it was confusing for people and they didn't know exactly where to put me."[29] In her television debut, The WB network's pilot remake of the 1960s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, she portrayed Carolyn Stoddard, who was originated by Nancy Barrett.[30] Directed by P. J. Hogan, the pilot did not live up to the network's expectations and the series was eventually not picked up for broadcast.[30] Chastain later appeared in a guest stint on the medical drama series ER, which marked a professional watershed as she subsequently found a niche playing eccentric characters in television.[29] "I did a job on ER as a psychotic woman, and after that got a lot of jobs in TV where I wasn't the normal one," she later said. "I played a lot of girls who had something off. Maybe they'd been the victim of some horrible accident. Or they were crazy."[27]

She guest-starred in a few television series, such as Veronica Mars, Close to Home and Law & Order: Trial By Jury. While working at Playwrights Horizons, she was recommended by her director to Al Pacino, who was looking for an unknown actress to star in his new production of Salome and hired her on the spot. The success of the play at Wadsworth Theatre, which sold out after getting positive reviews, helped bring her to the attention of several casting directors.[27][31]

In 2008, she made her film debut as the title role in Dan Ireland's drama film Jolene, which was based on the short story Jolene: A Life by E. L. Doctorow, itself inspired by Dolly Parton's song "Jolene" and follows her life over the course of ten years, as an abused 15-year-old foster child up until her life as a 25-year-old woman.[32] While the drama received mixed reviews, Chastain was generally praised for her performance, with New York Observer noting that she "not only holds her own corner of every scene, she's the only thing you want to watch."[33] It was later released in the United States on October 29, 2010 and Chastain won the Seattle International Film Festival Award for Best Actress.[34]

In 2009, Chastain starred in Stolen, a mysterythriller film directed by Anders Anderson. It was universally panned by critics and not released as video on demand and in a limited theatrical release until March 2010.[35] The same year, she guest-starred as Mary Debenham in the Agatha Christie's Poirot episode Murder on the Orient Express, based on Christie's 1934 novel.[36]


Chastain at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival

In 2011, Chastain showed a wide variety in her roles, including: Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life and the crime thriller Texas Killing Fields.[37][38]

Chastain's biggest commercial success of 2011 was The Help, which was based on Kathryn Stockett's novel of the same name. Her performance received praise from critics and earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, which she lost to her co-star Octavia Spencer. Chastain continued to receive positive reviews for her performance in the 2011 film Take Shelter playing the wife of a small town man plagued by apocalyptic visions.[39]

In John Madden's drama-thriller film The Debt, she portrayed a young Mossad agent sent to East Berlin in the mid-1960s to capture a former Nazi doctor who carried out medical experiments in concentration camps.[40] Chastain shared her role with Helen Mirren, both actresses portraying the character at different phases of her life.[40] The actresses worked together before shooting started, creating a consistent voice and mannerisms for their character, while Chastain also took classes in krav maga and German, and studied books about Josef Mengele and Mossad history to prepare herself for the film.[40] Premiering at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival in September 2010, the film was released on August 31, 2011 and Chastain received positive reviews from critics and viewers.

On November 29, 2011, Chastain was awarded the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performances in The Help, Take Shelter and The Tree of Life,[41][42] as well as gaining an Independent Spirit Award nomination the same day for her performance in Take Shelter.[43] On December 1, 2011, she received a Satellite Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Mrs. O'Brien in The Tree of Life.[44] Chastain went on to win the award and many other honors from critics, including the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress.[45][46]


Chastain played Virgilia in the adaptation and Ralph Fiennes's directorial debut, Coriolanus, which was released in January 2012 and was met with generally positive reviews from the critics.[47] In the animated comedy film, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, she voiced Gia the jaguar with an Italian accent, the film was released on June 8, 2012 and received generally positive reviews from critics.[48]

Chastain played Salomé in a film adaptation of Wilde Salomé with Al Pacino and Maggie Beauford in John Hillcoat's prohibition era drama, Lawless.[49]

In April 2012, Chastain entered the list of Time 100 most influential people of the world.[5] She was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in June 2012.[50] The same month, Chastain was named the ambassador of the new Yves Saint Laurent fragrance, called Manifesto.[51]

Chastain at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con International

In 2012, she appeared in Tar as C.K. Williams' mother. She reunited with Terrence Malick in the romantic drama film To the Wonder, but her performance was later cut from the film.[52] In early 2012, Chastain was reported to have been scheduled to star in the action films Oblivion and Iron Man 3, but she dropped out.[53][54] Chastain was also offered for the role of Princess Diana in the biopic film Diana but she was replaced by Naomi Watts. Her portrayal of Maya in Kathryn Bigelow's action thriller film Zero Dark Thirty earned her the Critics Choice Movie Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress, the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role .[55]

In 2013, she played the lead role, alongside Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, in Andrés Muschietti's horror film Mama (2013), based on Muschietti's 2008 Spanish-language short film, Mamá.[56] With the release of Zero Dark Thirty and Mama, Chastain became the first woman in 50 years to have the leading role in the top two films at the box office.[57] Also in 2012, Chastain played Catherine Sloper in her Broadway debut and a limited-run revival of The Heiress which ran on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre from November 1, 2012 to February 9, 2013, the original final performance having been canceled so she could attend the BAFTAs.[58]

Chastain then took on the part of the titular character in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby with James McAvoy, about a three-part drama subtitled Him, Her and Them written specifically for her by her former boyfriend Ned Benson.[59] She also played the lead and title role in Miss Julie, a film adaptation of August Strindberg's play, directed by Liv Ullmann.[60] The film premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Also in 2014, Chastain appeared with Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway in Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan,[61] and co-starred in J. C. Chandor's film A Most Violent Year,[62] for which she received Golden Globe and Critics Choice Awards nominations.[63][64]

For her work in 2014, she was honored by the Critics' Choice Movie Awards with the first ever Critics' Choice MVP Award for her critically acclaimed performances in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Miss Julie, Interstellar and A Most Violent Year. Chastain holds the distinction of being one of the only actresses to have ever starred in films holding the top two box office positions in a given weekend, which she did twice with The Help and The Debt in 2011, and with Zero Dark Thirty and Mama in 2013.[65]

In the fall of 2013 it was announced that Chastain would star in Guillermo Del Toro's horror film titled Crimson Peak alongside Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam. The film is set to be released on 16 October 2015.[66][67][68][69] She will star in the feature film adaptation of The Zookeeper's Wife, directed by Niki Caro.[70]

Personal life[edit]

Chastain in London, 2014.

Chastain was estranged from her biological father and has refused to confirm various news reports on his identity. In an interview with Vogue in 2013, she stated that no father is listed on her birth certificate and she considers Michael Hastey, her stepfather, to be her father.[71]

Chastain is the eldest of five siblings; she has two younger sisters and two younger brothers. In 2014, she revealed that her involvement with the non-profit To Write Love on Her Arms was prompted by the suicide of one of her sisters.[72]

Chastain is a feminist[73] and she is a vegan.[74] As of June 2013, she lives in Greenwich Village,[75] with her dog Chaplin, a three-legged rescue dog.[76]

She was in a long-term relationship with film director Ned Benson before breaking up in 2010.[77] As of 2012, she is in a relationship with Count Gian Luca Passi di Preposulo, an Italian-born executive for Italian fashion brand Moncler.[78]

Film, television and stage credits[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]


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  11. ^ Interview on Late Show with David Letterman, "Episode #19.76", January 17, 2012, 00:30 seconds into the interview Letterman: Where you from? Chastain: Northern California, the wine country ... Sonoma area
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External links[edit]