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If you asked the average movie fan who Jessica Chastain was back from 2008 to 2010, you might get some blank stares. But what a difference a year made. From 2011 on, she’d go on to be one of the busiest and most sought-after actresses of this generation, garnering awards and name recognition left and right. Whether it’s drama, horror, sci-fi, comedy, or action, Jessica Chastain is the definition of versatility, with equal parts beauty and talent in inhabiting her various characters.
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So let’s dive into the details of the fantastic Jessica Chastain facts:
She was born Jessica Michelle Chastain on March 24, 1977, in Sacramento, California.
#2 She’s reluctant to discuss her family background, and understandably so.
Jessica is estranged from her biological father, who passed away in 2013. And her younger sister Juliet died by suicide in 2003. However, she has a close bond with her firefighter stepfather, and maternal grandmother.
#3 “Any Dream Will Do”
Jessica caught the acting bug at age 7 when her grandmother took her to see a production of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’. She would put on shows with other children, seeing herself as the artistic director.
#4 A possible dancer
At age 13, she was part of a dance troupe and showed promise as a dancer before gravitating towards acting.
#5 Jessica struggled in school… just like a lot of us.
In a 2014 interview with Glamour, Jessica shared how she was bullied as a child because of her freckles and red hair. And in high school, she struggled academically—”I was a terrible student”—and considered herself a misfit. She didn’t qualify for graduation, but eventually got an adult diploma.
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#6 Solace in Shakespeare
Jessica found an outlet when she joined her school’s drama club. She’s also an admitted “Shakespeare geek”, having fallen in love with his works after attending the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with her class.
#7 An unlikely benefactor
After making her stage debut in a production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Jessica was accepted into the prestigious Juilliard acting school in New York. And she won a scholarship funded by a particularly famous alumnus: Robin Williams.
#8 Speaking of Robin Williams…
Jessica laments that she never got to properly meet Williams before his death in 2014. But she did send him many “Thank You” letters, and her best friend and fellow Juilliard alum Jess Weixler confirmed that Williams had watched all of Jessica’s films.
#9 She struggled with anxiety in her first year of Juilliard.
To the extent that Jessica came close to being dropped from the program. Adding to the pressure, she was the first person in her family to attend college. But after performing in a production of Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’ during her second year, she gained her confidence. She graduated in 2003.
#10 A surprising connection.
One of Jessica’s classmates at Juilliard was Oscar Isaac. The two would eventually co-star in 2014’s ‘A Most Violent Year’ and are set to reunite in an upcoming limited series remake of ‘Scenes from a Marriage’.
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#11 Early on, her red hair was considered a problem. Seriously.
It’s hard to imagine Jessica without her signature red hair. But when she started out at auditions in L.A, people recommended that she dye her hair blond. She also faced remarks that she wasn’t pretty enough, believe it or not.
#12 The first jobs.
She made her TV debut in a 2005 pilot remake of Dark Shadows, which wasn’t picked up to series. She also guest-starred on ‘E.R’ and ‘Veronica Mars’. And as an actor who studied in or is based out of New York, naturally, she appeared on one of the ‘Law & Order’ shows; specifically ‘Law & Order: Trial by Jury’, in which she played a recurring role as an ADA.
#13 She continued to work in theatre.
She met and co-starred with Michelle Williams in a 2004 production of ‘The Cherry Orchard’; the two soon became good friends and were even roommates. Her theatre work led to her being recommended to a particular acting legend…
#14 Enter: Pacino
Al Pacino was one of the first to champion her when he cast her in the title role in his production of Oscar Wilde’s ‘Salome’. Her work elevated her profile and helped gain the attention of casting directors.
#15 The film debut.
In 2008, Jessica made her feature film debut with the lead role in the independent drama ‘Jolene’, inspired by the Dolly Parton song of the same name. While the film received mixed reviews, Jessica drew praise for her performance.
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#16 2011 was the year everything changed for her.
Due to the release schedule, Jessica had a very busy 2011. The year saw six of her films being released, almost all receiving critical acclaim. Of note are ‘Take Shelter’ with Michael Shannon, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Coriolanus’ with Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler, and director Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’ with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Also…
#17 Jessica Chastain, Oscar nominee
Among Jessica’s 2011 films were ‘The Help’ with Viola Davis and Emma Stone. The film was her biggest hit at the time, with critics praising her performance as socialite Celia Foote. She received her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, which she lost to her co-star Octavia Spencer.
#18 She’s made the lists.
In 2012, she was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. Among other lists: runner-up for Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive, as well as Elle’s Annual Hollywood Power List.
#19 She believes in preparation for her roles.
Just to name a few: Jessica learned German and Krav Maga to prepare for the role of a Mossad agent in ‘The Debt’. For ‘The Help’, she researched Celia’s environment and put on weight to properly play the role. And she also met with astronauts and lobbyists for her roles in ‘The Martian’ and ‘Miss Sloane’ respectively.
#20 ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ tested her.
Despite securing another Oscar nomination, Jessica admits that the film’s dark subject matter made it difficult for her to film. She admitted to suffering from depression and bursting into tears while working.
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#21 She still knows how to lighten up.
Despite her serious roles, she can still have fun and enjoy herself. While taking a break from filming ‘Crimson Peak’ to celebrate her birthday, she partied with Tom Hiddleston and the two did “ping pong matches, crazy dancing, and karaoke”. And her episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’ gave us the “What Even Matters Anymore” sketch and the now-ubiquitous GIF of her chugging wine in despair.
#22 She’s musically-inclined
She plays the ukulele and even sings. She’s set to do her own singing in the upcoming ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’.
#23 Going meatless
Jessica is a vegan and is even one of the investors of the meat substitutes company, Beyond Meat.
#24 The animal lover
Jessica adores her three-legged rescue dog Chaplain. She’s even referred to him as the “love of my life”.
#25 Frequent collaborators.
Of her co-stars, two are probably the most frequent: Jason Clarke (‘Zero Dark Thirty’, ‘Lawless’, ‘Texas Killing Fields’) and James McAvoy (‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Dark Phoenix’, ‘It Chapter Two’).
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#26 She idolizes serious actresses.
Among her favorite actresses are Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Emily Watson, Isabelle Huppert, Julianne Moore, and Marion Cotillard.
#27 She was briefly coy about her age… and yet it’s easy to see why.
In a 2013 interview with The Independent on the subject of her age, Jessica at the time said “I will never say my age because I’m an actress, and I want to play different ages”. Even an earlier profile pegged her age at about 30. But considering how ageist Hollywood can be towards actresses, one can understand her then-evasiveness. And on that note…
#28 Jessica Chastain, the advocate.
Jessica considers herself a feminist. Among the issues, she’s spoken out on are discrimination towards women and minorities in Hollywood, portrayals of women in film, on-set gender balance, and equal pay (highlighting how Michelle Williams received less pay for her work on ‘All the Money in the World’ than Mark Wahlberg, despite being a co-lead), and sexual harassment (including contributing to the Time’s Up legal defense fund). She also supports the mental health non-profit organization, To Write Love on Her Arms, as well as Planned Parenthood.
#29 Fittingly, she gravitates towards complex female characters.
In line with her feminist leanings, she’s drawn towards playing more flawed female characters, like the ones in ‘A Most Violent Year’, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, ‘Miss Sloane’, ‘Molly’s Game’, and ‘Ava’.
#30 Happily married (to royalty), yet private.
Despite being one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, Jessica has managed to keep details of her personal life private. What’s known is that she’s married to Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo, an Italian count and executive for fashion brand Moncler, after several years of dating. The two have a daughter together via surrogacy.
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#31 Her next film originated from her.
Jessica came up with the idea for the upcoming female-led spy thriller ‘The 355’ and pitched it to writer-director Simon Kinberg as the two worked on Dark Phoenix. The two would co-produce the film (Jessica via her Freckle Films production company) and assemble a cast that includes Jessica, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, Penelope Cruz, and Bingbing Fan.
#32 And finally: yes, she’s aware of the resemblance between her and Bryce Dallas Howard.
They’ve even poked fun at how people confuse the two.
By Mario Yuwono
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