• Golden Globe Awards

Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)

The year 2011 changed Jessica Chastain’s career. Seven of her movies premiered around the world before mid-October, some of them in respectful film festivals like Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and Venice. At the beginning of that year, she was shy and nervous in front of the press, but her giant beautiful smile and warm attitude broke the ice between her and journalists immediately. Who wouldn’t like the woman who admits that she was so nervous at The Tree of Life premiere in Cannes that she needed to walk between Brad Pitt and Sean Penn? “They held my hands and helped me through my first big red carpet event.” By the end of the year she knew the drill with media, but nevertheless, was still charming.
Success didn’t come overnight. Acting was something that always interested her. “We lived in a cul-de-sac and we use to do plays for the neighborhood. We cast the neighbors’ kids as well and charged a ridiculous amount of money for people to see the plays.” Her parents encouraged her to follow her dreams. But especially important was her grandmother’s support. She took her to see her first play. She also helped her move from Sacramento to New York where she attended the Juilliard School, a performing arts conservatory. Years later were payback time; Chastain took her grandmother to the Oscar gala.
But before that, she studied hard. When classmates went out to party she often stayed home and learned her lines. In 2004 she was working in off-Broadway theater, Playwrights Horizons. Her director recommended her to Al Pacino, who cast her to star in his production Salome. The success of the play helped her. After having small guest roles on TV shows like ER, Veronica Mars, Close to Home and Law & Order: Trial by Jury, she got her first film debut in a drama called Jolene. The story about a 15-year-old foster child who has one bad relationship after another was inspired by Dolly Parton’s song.
The next few years were filled with work. In drama-thriller Take Shelter she played a wife whose husband has apocalyptic dreams of rain and had an obsession to build a shelter for his family. In Coriolanus, a film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy that takes place in modern-day Rome, she appeared as Coriolanus’ wife. In the experimental drama The Tree of Life she was looking for the origins and meaning of life with her castmates. In the thriller Debt, she played agent Rachel Singer who tried to capture a Nazi war criminal in 1965 in East Berlin. In the crime movie Texas Killing Fields she was a detective who tried to find a mass murderer.
The Help, a film about African-American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s made her well known around the world. She was nominated both, for the Oscar and the Golden Globe for her role as a working-class outcast Celia Foote who is married to a wealthy socialite and who employs one of the maids. The next year in Zero Dark Thirty she won her first Golden Globe for a role as a young C.I.A. intelligence analyst who hunted terrorist leader Osama bin Laden for a decade.
In 2014 she appeared in four films – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Interstellar, Miss Julie and A Most Violent Year, in which latter film she plays the tough wife of a New York businessman struggling to hold onto his business amid corruption in his industry, which won her her third Golden Globe nomination. Fame doesn’t seem to change her. “I am naturally a happy and easy-going person,” she has said.And for sure I have to believe that. After she presented at the Globes last year, I walked her to the pressroom. I wondered why she didn’t move in a small staircase. She pointed out, in a very friendly way that I was standing on her gown. No-fuss just a big smile.