Jessica Michelle Chastain (born March 24, 1977) is an American actress and producer. She is known for her portrayals of strong-willed women in films with feminist themes. Chastain’s accolades include a Golden Globe Award and two Academy Award nominations. Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2012.
Born and raised in Sacramento, California, Chastain developed an interest in acting from a young age. In 1998, she made her professional stage debut as Shakespeare’s Juliet. After studying acting at the Juilliard School, she was signed to a talent holding deal with the television producer John Wells. She was a recurring guest star in several television shows, including Law & Order: Trial by Jury. She also took on roles in the stage productions of Anton Chekhov’s play The Cherry Orchard in 2004 and Oscar Wilde’s tragedy Salome in 2006.
Chastain made her film debut in the drama Jolene (2008), and gained wide recognition in 2011 for starring roles in half a dozen films, including the dramas Take Shelter and The Tree of Life. Her performance as an aspiring socialite in The Help earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 2012, she won a Golden Globe Award and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for playing a CIA analyst in the thriller Zero Dark Thirty. Chastain made her Broadway debut in a revival of The Heiress in the same year. Her highest-grossing releases came with the science fiction films Interstellar (2014) and The Martian (2015), and she continued to draw praise for her performances in the dramas A Most Violent Year (2014), Miss Sloane (2016), and Molly’s Game (2017).
Chastain is the founder of the production company Freckle Films, which was created to promote diversity in film. She is vocal about mental health issues, as well as gender and racial equality. She is married to the fashion executive Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo, with whom she has a daughter.
Chastain portrayed Molly Bloom, a former professional skier who ran a high-profile gambling operation that led to her arrest by the FBI, in Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Molly’s Game (2017). She accepted the part due to her desire to work with Sorkin, whose writing she deeply admired. Instead of relying on Bloom’s public persona, Chastain met Bloom to explore her character’s flaws and vulnerabilities. She also researched the world of underground poker and interviewed some of Bloom’s customers. Peter Debruge hailed her role as “one of the screen’s great female parts” and credited its success to both Chastain’s “stratospheric talent” and Sorkin’s script. Chastain received her fifth Golden Globe nomination for the film. In 2018, Chastain hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live and voiced the virtual reality production Spheres: Songs of Spacetime. She had filmed a part in Xavier Dolan’s ensemble drama The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, but her role was cut during post-production as Dolan found her character to be incompatible to the story.
In 2019, Chastain will join the X-Men film series in the installment entitled Dark Phoenix, in which she plays an alien shapeshifter. She will then play the adult Beverly Marsh in a sequel to the 2017 horror film It, entitled It: Chapter Two, based on Stephen King’s novel, taking over the role from Sophia Lillis. Chastain is set to star and produce the action film Eve, penned and initially scheduled to be directed by Matthew Newton, who has a history of alleged domestic violence. Following criticism against her for choosing to work with him, Newton was replaced by Tate Taylor. She will also star as the country singer Tammy Wynette opposite Josh Brolin’s George Jones in the biopic George and Tammy, will feature and serve as a producer in the ensemble spy thriller 355, and will also produce and star as the superhero Painkiller Jane in a film of the same name. In addition, Chastain will reunite with Octavia Spencer in an upcoming comedy; as a producer, she negotiated a higher salary for Spencer. She will also star alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in a film adaption of the 2016 video game Tom Clancy’s The Division.