Breaking News

See Our Clooney Wedding Cover. Plus: Exclusive Details!

Jessica Chastain: Snapshot

Name
Jessica Chastain
Date of Birth
March 24, 1977
Birth Place
Northern California
Going from years of bit TV appearances to starring in six films in one year, flame-haired Jessica Chastain has proven she's red-y for superstardom.

After attending Juilliard, the actress scored her big break in 2006 by impressing Al Pacino, who handpicked the star for his stage production of the Oscar Wilde play Salome, and later connected her to director Terrence Malick. Chastain's casting in his 2011 drama, The Tree of Life, saw her hit red carpets from California to Cannes, and solidified her spot on the It list.

A year later, the Academy came calling: Chastain earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her turn as Celia Foote in The Help, and a Best Actress nod in 2013 for her portrayal of a gritty CIA agent in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty.

Jessica Chastain: Five Fun Facts

  1. Jessica Chastain began using her mother's maiden name of Chastain, rather than her given name of Howard, to avoid being confused with fellow redhead Bryce Dallas Howard. The two later costarred together in 2011's The Help.
  2. A pre-fame Jessica Chastain roomed with Michelle Williams when both appeared in a summer stock production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. "We became like sisters," she told Marie Claire of that period.
  3. Jessica Chastain attended Juilliard thanks to a scholarship funded by Robin Williams, who attended the school in the 1970s.
  4. As a vegan, Jessica Chastain ate soy and drank Southern sweet tea in order to gain weight for the role of Celia Foote in The Help.
  5. After learning about her 2012 Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination at the Giorgio Armani Privé presentation during Paris Fashion Week, Jessica Chastain received a standing ovation from those in attendance, including Cameron Diaz and Colin Firth's wife, Livia.

Jessica Chastain: Biography

Late 1980s

Jessica Chastain

'Technicolor' Dreams

The daughter of a fireman father and a vegan chef mother, Chastain grows up one of five children in Northern California. Her grandmother takes her to see a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, in which a girl close to her age stars as the narrator, inspiring her to act. "I was the kid who would always say, 'Oh, I'm going to be an actor!' And the adults would look at me and go, 'Hmm, sure you will!'" she tells U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. "I was always having to convince my family." After graduating from high school, Chastain enrolls at Juilliard.

Early 2000s

Jessica Chastain

As Seen on TV

Prior to graduating in 2003, Chastain signs a one-year holding deal with producer John Wells, the creator of ER and The West Wing. She makes her small-screen debut on a 2004 episode of the medical drama and appears several times on Law & Order from 2005 to 2006, but fails to make a major impact in Hollywood. "When I first moved to Los Angeles, I don't think anyone knew what to do with me," she says. "There's something about me that's … different, not modern. I was auditioning a lot for the crazy characters or the victim, someone who'd been attacked. Which is great, because usually those are the best acting roles."

2006

Feeling Al-Right

Chastain scores a major break when Al Pacino helps cast her in a Los Angeles stage production of Oscar Wilde's Salome, and later directs her in his film adaptation, Wilde Salomé. "Besides Juilliard, Al is my other great teacher," she tells The New York Times. The legendary actor also recommends Chastain to director Terrence Malick, who at the time is beginning to cast his newest film.

Read More on Jessica Chastain's Life

Photo Credits

BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Yearbook Library; Alan Markfield/Getty

Edited by Julia Wang

Jessica Chastain

Celebrity Central / Top 25 Celebs

From Our Partners