“I’m not quite used to this.” says Jessica Chastain, sitting in the lobby of New York City’s Mercer Hotel, acknowledging the double takes and stares around her. Its no wonder: Even thought it may seem that she arrived in Hollywood a total star, with 2011’s The Help and then Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain hasn’t actually been famous – as in turn-around-and-stare-at-her-famous – for very long.
Just six years, 18 films, two Oscar nominations, a Golden Globe, and $640 million in box office ticked sales ago, in fact, Chastain was a theater actress who’d never been in a film – at an age, 31, when many begin to think of giving up on Hollywood. Raised in Sacramento, California, by a chef mom and a firefighter stepdad, she says she went “through the hallways of school feeling lonely and not like I fit in” until she found friends – and her confidence – in drama class. “Like that show Glee,” she says, laughing as she spears a bite of fruit salad.
The first in her family to go to college (Chastain grew up with three siblings, two of whom are teenagers and the other of whom serves in the military), she vaulted from Sacramento City College to New Yoek’s prestigious Juilliard School thanks to the unlikely fairy godfather who funded her scholarship, the late Robin Williams.
But Chastain never chased celebrity; it found her. More accurately, Al Pacino (“he’s super, super funny,” she says) did in 2006, when he cast her in Oscar Wilde’s racy play Salomé. Producers and directors noticed, and by 2011 The Help, a nearly $200 million box office sensation, earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and helped her sput a resurgence of women-driven films. Soon after, The Three of Life with Chastain alongside Brad Pitt, was the toast of the Cannes Film Festival – and in 2013 she won the Golden Globe for her portrayal of a relentless CIA agent chasing Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty.
But all that, it seems, was just a preamble to this fall’s blitz: Chastain has three movies coming out in three months. There’s the top-secret sci-fi film Interstellar, with Matthe McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, this month. Last month was The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them (it’s actually one film in three parts, and yes, the awards buzz is buzzing away), and in late December it’s going to be all about A Most Violent Year – cue more Oscar speculation – in which Chastain plays a New York mob wife who might actually be thoughter than her gangster husband, played by Oscar Isaac. Now 37, reportedly dating the very poshly named fashion exec Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo, Chastain may be a “little shy” – but she grows bolder by the minute right in front of me at lour little table as she starts talking about women in Hollywood and “having it all.” When it comes to speaking her mind, she’s bot shy one bit. [Read more]