Jessica Chastain forged her own path in Hollywood and worked her way to the top of the biz, but instead of stopping, she just found more mountains to climb. The beautiful redhead has become one of the silver screen’s most critically acclaimed leading ladies even while agitating for equal pay behind the scenes. Get to know Jessica Chastain, the Hollywood phenom.
Jessica Chastain Facts
1. Early Years
Jessica Chastain was born in Sacramento, California on March 24, 1977 and is the oldest of five siblings. Her mom was only 16 years old and her dad was only 17 years old when they had their daughter. Sadly, her dad ended up bailing on Chastain and her mother not long after her birth. Chastain was raised by her mom and her step dad.
2. Who Needs Him
For the longest time, Chastain kept her biological father a secret from the public. Instead, the media constantly referred to her her stepfather as her biological father. The actress eventually unveiled the truth and made it clear that she wants nothing to do with her biological father. She also revealed that he isn’t even listed on her birth certificate. He passed away in 2013.
3. The Other One
Chastain’s real last name is Howard but she changed it to Chastain—her mother’s maiden name—in an attempt to avoid any confusion with fellow actress and redhead Bryce Dallas Howard.
4. Classically Trained
Considering how talented Chastain is as an actor, it should come as no surprise that she studied at Julliard, the prestigious acting school located in New York City. On top of that, she received the prestigious Robin Williams scholarship to help pay for her tuition.
5. Scattered Family
Jessica has four younger siblings but only one—her sister Juliet—shares the same mother and father as her. Will Chastain is her half-brother on her mother’s side whereas Nicole Monasterio and Laci Smoot are half-sisters on her father’s side.
6. Destination Wedding
Chastain dated Italian fashion executive and real-life count Gian Luca Passi Preposulo for five years before the two tied finally the knot in June 2017. The ceremony took place in Passi Preposulo’s native country of Italy. Several celebrities and friends of Chastain’s, such as Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway, attended the wedding.
7. Where’d That Baby Come From?
Even with her star continually on the rise, Chastain somehow manages to keep her life private from the media and public. Case in point? She kept her baby a secret for four whole months. Chastain and her husband welcomed a baby girl to the world via a surrogate and named her Guiletta Chastain Passi. Chastain has not revealed why she chose to use a surrogate. Once again, she’s good at keeping secrets.
8. Tragic Ending
Graduating from Julliard should have been one of the happiest days of Jessica’s life, but unfortunately a dark cloud hung over her. Just three days before graduation, her sister Juliet committed suicide. She was just 24 years old and had struggled with drug abuse and depression for many years. Juliet was able to track down and reconcile with her estranged father before ending her life in his house.
9. Rebel With a Cause
Chastain may have graduated from acting school but the same cannot be said of her time in high school. She played hooky so many times that the school refused to give her a diploma. Chastain wasn’t skipping class to drink or do drugs, but instead would spend the time in her car reading Shakespeare. Thanks to an adult education program, she received her diploma many years later.
10. A Foot in Every Genre
Chastain’s career may have started off slow but she’s gone on to become a major star. She has appeared in Oscar nominated movies alongsde blockbuster hits, like Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, Interstellar, The Martian, and It: Chapter Two. As of 2020, all 23 movies’ box office numbers added up domestically gives her a lifetime gross of over $1.4 billion and over $3.65 billion worldwide.
11. Don’t Judge an Actor by Their Hair
Chastain is a natural redhead and for some reason, that is not an ideal look for casting directors. Early in her career, Chastain’s fiery tresses worked against her, making it for Chastain to land roles. Times were so tough that she even considered bleaching her hair. Thankfully, she decided against it and soon enough, Hollywood came calling.
12. Beauty and Brains
Chastain appeared on Victoria’s Secret “What Is Sexy” list in 2012 for Sexiest Smile and again in 2013 for Sexiest Actress. In complete contrast with those lists, she also nabbed a spot on Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012.
13. Going the Extra Mile
In order to come off as authentic as possible, and avoid being featured on a list of the worst accents in movies, Chastain learned to properly speak German for her role in the 2010 film The Debt. She also knows how to speak a little bit of French but not enough to the point where she would feel comfortable acting in a French film just yet.
14. What Could Have Been
Like every working actress, Chastain has lost out or passed on big roles over the course of her long career. In an alternate reality, she played Sookie in the vampire TV show True Blood, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch as Bill Compton. She also almost joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Hope Van Dyne in Ant-Man but turned it down for a legendary reason. She wanted to be involved in the MCU as a hero, not a sidekick. Hell yeah, girl.
15. Money Isn’t Everything
Chastain has stated that she doesn’t care how much she gets paid for a role, all she cares about is that she is getting paid an equal amount to her male co-star. If she isn’t, then she will turn down the role, regardless of how big the movie is. She’s already put this to the test too, but wouldn’t state what it was for. According to rumors, she may have turned down roles in Oblivion with Tom Cruise or Iron Man 3 with Robert Downey Jr.
16. Missed Opportunity
Chastain has always been grateful to Robin Williams. Without the scholarship he created, she wouldn’t have been able to attend Julliard. To show her appreciation, she wrote numerous letters thanking Williams, but sadly never got to meet him. The closest she came was once at a restaurant when Williams was seated at a table beside her. She wanted to wait until he finished eating to introduce herself but he ran out the second he was done and she never saw him again.
17. Team Effort
Chastain uses her Instagram account for more than just posting pictures and videos. She also ran a social media campaign calling on her over 2 million followers to help find her grandmother’s dog. The poor pooch had been stolen at a MacDonald’s. Thankfully, the campaign proved to be a success as the dog was eventually returned.
18. How Many Candles?
For the longest time, Chastain kept her age a mystery from the public. She refused to reveal her exact age as she was concerned with the potential for ageism in Hollywood due to the lack of roles for older women.
19. Leaky Faucet
Chastain is one of those lucky actors who can cry on demand. She’ll even tear up during rehearsals for emotional scenes and have to reassure the director that she’ll be able to do it again during filming. In her words, she has a “bottomless well of tears.”
20. Tough Upbringing
Chastain has been open about growing up in a poor household. As a child, she was evicted from her home on more than one occasion. One of the more devastating times came when she returned home from school and found a man locking the doors. The man supposedly felt bad—and rightfully so—and allowed her to go inside and grab some of her stuff.
21. Where’s That Coming From?
While she filmed the horror movie Mama, Chastain shot scenes alone in a forest. To help her get into the scary scenes, she wore an earpiece that played hair-raising music.
22. On the Brink of Stardom
Even with a breakout year in 2011, Chastain still managed to go unnoticed in public, for the most part. Nothing exemplifies this more than in 2012 when she had an interview with USA Today at a hotel. She informed the maitre d’ that she had an interview there and requested a table in a quiet area. The maitre d’ obliged and then offered her good luck on her job search. He thought he was looking at a regular job interviewee, not an Oscar nominated actress.
23. Stick to Acting
Chastain has found a lot of success taking risks in her acting career but not so much in her everyday life. This became very clear the day before the premiere of her movie The Tree of Life, when she thought it’d be a good idea to try motocross for the first time. She ended up bailing hard and tearing a ligament in her knee, resulting in her wearing a knee brace throughout promotion for the film.
24. Future Is Freckled Females
Chastain added multiple positions to her resume in 2016 when she launched Freckle Films, a production company with all-female executives. Not long after going public, they partnered with Maven Pictures to acquire and co-produce projects together. The company has acquired the film rights to two books, The Magician’s Lie and Life and Other Near Death Experiences.
25. Off to a Hot Start
In her last year at Julliard, Chastain landed a talent holding deal with TV producer John Wells. A TV deal was huge for a new actor, but this one was even more impressive because it was put together by an Emmy award winning executive producer. This deal would lead to Chastain making her TV debut on ER, which came not long after she moved to Los Angeles.
26. Coming up Together
It’s not uncommon for actors who are fresh in the industry to room together before making it big, and Chastain’s roommate in 2004 happened to be fellow Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams. They lived together for a summer while working on the play The Cherry Orchard. The two would end up being nominated for Oscars in 2012, with Williams up for Best Actress and Chastain for Best Supporting Actress.
27. A Year to Remember
Chalk up 2011 as Jessica Chastain’s breakthrough year. She would take over the cinema with six movies released in that time frame with one of them—The Help—resulting in an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
28. Putting Others First
After her sister’s suicide, Chastain took measures to raise awareness about depression, mental health and suicide, and began supporting the charity “To Write Love on Her Arms.” She also volunteers for the Humane Society of the United States, and used to spend Sunday’s at Los Angeles’s Animal Acres shovelling hay for horses. It’s no wonder Time magazine considered her one of the most influential people in the world.
29. Furry Companion
Chastain is the proud owner of a rescued, three-legged dog named Chaplin. The name is fitting too as Chaplin is an actor, having appeared alongside Chastain in the film The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. It’s unclear if Chaplin earned the role or if nepotism played a part.
30. Like Mother, Like Daughter
Chastain has been a vegetarian for 16 years and a vegan for seven. Chastain’s mom followed in her daughter’s footsteps and became a vegan too after spending two weeks eating the same food as her. However, it was hard for her to continue that diet when she returned home, as there were no vegan restaurants. So, to fix that problem, Chastain bought her mom a food truck and now she runs her own vegan place in San Francisco.
31. She’s Got the Music in Her
Chastain is musically gifted as well, with her instruments of choice being the guitar and ukulele. Her favorite songs to play are “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” by the Flaming Lips and “Creep” by Radiohead.
32. Here to Stay
After years of appearing on television, Chastain finally made her film debut in 2008 at the age of 30 in the movie Jolene. To make up for lost time and take advantage of as many opportunities as possible, Chastain would go on to appear in 15 movies in just three years, from 2011 to 2014. Surprisingly, fan fatigue has yet to set in, as movie goers can’t wait to see what movie she appears in next.
33. Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better
Chastain was only seven years old when she realized she wanted to become an actress after watching a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. When she discovered that the narrator was only 10 years old, she immediately knew that she could do the same job at her age. Her grandmother was the one who took her to the play and she never forgot that. Years later, Chastain returned the favor by taking her grandmother to the Oscars in 2012 and 2013.
34. Feeling Out Process
Auditions can be brutal for actors, regardless of how talented they are. It is an awkward process and few people actually enjoy it, but Chastain is one of those few. She enjoys the process, specifically when it involves working with other actors up for different roles, as she can immediately figure out who she has the best chemistry with.
35. Controlling Fear
Chastain strives to play characters that scare her and challenge her. She says that they bring her face to face with fear, the possibility of failing, and the opportunity to prove herself wrong. This also allows her to play characters that are the polar opposite of what she is like in real life. Chastain has said, “I do things when I’m acting that I would never in a million years do in my personal life.”
36. A Lesson in Compassion
Chastain received a negative comment on one of her Instagram pictures. The snap featured her wearing a t-shirt that said, “We Should All Be Feminists.” Rather than delete the comment or block the account, she dug deeper and found out that the person who made the comment was struggling with infertility. When Chastain discovered that the woman had a GoFundMe page to raise money for her treatment, she personally donated $2,000.
37. All for One and One for All
Chastain not only fights for equal pay for herself but her fellow actresses too, including her The Help co-star Octavia Spencer. Chastain’s production company is behind an upcoming holiday movie starring Spencer, and when she found out how little Spencer was making, she fought and helped her earn five times her original pay check.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27