When she’s not advocating social justice and raising awareness about mental health, Jessica Chastain is starring in the critically acclaimed films with which we associate her. For someone who didn’t experience stardom until the age of 31, Chastain has wasted no time in catching up in ranks with the long-time superstars of Hollywood. In fact, TIME magazine named Chatsain one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2012, and reputation-wise there’s no doubt that she is one of the most revered actresses of today. With her upcoming movie, Eve, soon to be released – let’s take a look back at some of Chastain’s best roles so far.
Celia Foote in The Help, 2011
It’s difficult to say who gave the best performance in the emotional and highly memorable drama The Help, released in 2011 and based on the book of the same name. The story, told from the perspective of a black maid in 1960s Mississippi, explores a time and place fraught with racism. The Help features several multi-dimensional characters that help emulate the culture and injustices of the time in which it is based. Emma Stone and Viola Davis are as excellent as always, while Octavia Spacer won several well-deserved awards for her exceptional performance. Jessica Chastain, however, received particular attention for her critically acclaimed portrayal of an aspiring socialite in the film. As the story progresses, Chastain’s characters goes from a lonely outsider – desperate to fit amongst the other ‘society women’ – to a strong-willed woman who learns to value her ability to stand up for herself and for others. Chastain, even while still a relatively new name at the time of The Help’s release, earned an Oscar nomination for her spellbinding take on the tragic character.
Maya in Zero Dark Thirty, 2012
Just one year after the phenomenal success of The Help, Chastain wows us once again – this time in her portrayal of a CIA intelligence analyst who helps bring down Osama Bin Laden during the 2001 military raid. Zero Dark Thirty was a well-received political thriller which saw Chastain nominated for yet another Academy Award. Unlike her seductive but insecure character in The Help, Maya of Zero Dark Thirty is an intelligent, driven, and capable analyst stationed in Pakistan with the task of finding the location of the notorious Al-Qaeda leader following the September 11 attacks. The film, described in reviews as ‘gripping’ and ‘suspenseful, wouldn’t have been the same without Chastain’s convincing depiction of a woman devoted to an important and stressful mission.
Molly Bloom in Molly’s Game, 2017
At a time when people were increasingly turning away from traditional gambling establishments in favour of low-stake online casino games, the rich and glamorous of Los Angeles would set themselves apart by attending in-the-flesh poker tournaments with jaw-dropping prize pots. The most glamorous and high-stake of all these poker events were often illegal – and none more infamously high-profile than those arranged by 26-year old Molly Bloom. Young, attractive and business-savvy; Bloom hosted underground games with buy-ins of $250,000 for several years until her arrest during an FBI raid in 2010. The players who attended her poker games included stars as big as Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck, the Olsen twins and Matt Damon. Bloom’s story has everything you want from a juicy Hollywood scandal; A-list names, VIP secrecy, a dramatic FBI bust, and insane amounts of money. Best of all; it’s all true! Molly Bloom is portrayed by Jessica Chastain in the 2017 movie Molly’s Game, based on Bloom’s autobiography. Starring in the movie are also Idris Elba and Kevin Costner, though both are outshone by Chastain as the ambitious and glamorous lead.
Murphy in Interstellar, 2014
You can always trust Christopher Nolan to assemble a star-studded cast, and such was the case in the hugely successful Interstellar, in which Chastain stars alongside Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine. The sci-fi drama sees Chastain’s character grow up from the ten-year-old daughter of astronaut McConaughey, as decades pass on Earth, but McConaughey is experiencing mere weeks go by in a wormhole on his mission to save the planet. Back on her, Chastain is driven by the same scientific interest as her father, when seeking to find solutions to Earth’s draught and sand storms which threaten humanity. However this is also the story of daughter saddened by the absence of her beloved father. Chastain’s convincing performance as a scientist and anxious daughter is one of the most memorable elements of Interstellar.
Jolene in Jolene, 2008
Chastain’s first ever big movie role was as the 15-year old girl who escapes foster care and tries to make a life for herself in a cruel world where men take advantage of her at every turn. This tragic story is told through the 2008 film Jolene, based on the short story Jolene: A Life which in turn was inspired by the classic Dolly Parton song. Not only did this indie film introduce us to Chastain in her remarkable debut, but the actress’ portrayal as Jolene would set a precedent; Chastain is an actress who depicts intelligent, fierce and feminist characters, always in a convincing way that gets us emotionally invested. While Jolene does not see her happy ending, Chastain’s own fortune only gets better as the actress climbs to stardom following the movie’s release.
Chastain’s hotly anticipated new film, Eve, sees the actress play an assassin who, after a hit goes wrong, finds herself in grave danger. The movie already looks to be a promising action thriller. Fans of Jessica Chastain can expect to see the movie in cinemas a little later this year.