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Jessica Chastain - Biography

All you need to know about the Eyes of Tammy Faye star

jessica chastain
Matthew Moore
Online News Writer & Diversity and Inclusion Lead
Updated: 3 February 2024
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It's been a slow road to what, at first glance, might seem like overnight success for Jessica Chastain.

Early life

One of five children, she was born on March 24, 1977, into a blue collar California family. It was her grandmother, who sparked her passion for acting by taking her, aged seven, to see David Cassidy in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

"There was a 10-year-old girl on stage as the narrator," Jessica recalled later. "And as soon as I saw the girl … I just knew it was what I was going to do." After studying at the Julliard School of Performing Arts in New York, she began her ascent up the ranks.

Early career

Al Pacino hugging Jessica Chastain© Stephen Shugerman

In 2006, Al Pacino selected her for his adaptation of Oscar Wilde's Salome. He recommended her to Terrence Malick, who cast her opposite Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life. Then, her CV landed on Steven Spielberg's desk just as his DreamWorks studio was producing The Help, a drama about the civil rights movement. In this film, she played a ditzy Southern dame, who defies convention by befriending her maid. Gradually, the directors' darling was making an impression on audiences too. Jessica said wryly: "I must be the first unknown actress that everybody is getting sick of. People don't recognise me when I walk down the street, but they'll hear my name and say, 'She's everywhere!'"

In the four years after her big break from heavyweight Al, the flame-haired actress made 11 films which arrived in cinemas within 12 months of each other. Her casting in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty sheds light on comparisons with Hollywood's queen of quick changes Meryl Streep.

Critical success

Jessica Chastain holding an Oscar's award© Myung Chun

Jessica has found plenty of awards success during her career, securing an Academy Award nomination two years in a row, one for Best Supporting Actress in The Help and the other for Best Actress in Zero Dark Thirty. It would prove to be third time lucky for the Hollywood star, as she finally scooped Best Actress in 2022 following her role as Tammy Faye Messner in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Her role in Zero Dark Thirty also scooped her a Golden Globe.

It's not just film where Jessica is renowned, as the star has also secured herself an Emmy nomination after appearing in the TV series George & Tammy, while her stage roles have seen her earn a Tony Award nomination for her role in Doll's House.

Personal life

Jessica Chastain with Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo© Kevin Mazur/MG22

Jessica often keeps her personal life out of the spotlight, but during the 2000s she dated writer and director Ned Benson, but the pair split in 2010. In 2012, she began dating Italian noble and fashion executive Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo, with the pair tying the knot in 2017. The couple have welcomed two children, a daughter through surrogacy who they named Guilietta, and a son, Augustus.

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