Jessica Michelle Chastain is an American actress and film producer. Known for her roles in films with feminist themes, she has received various accolades, including a Golden Globe Award and two Screen Actors Guild Awards, in addition to nominations for three Academy Awards and two British Academy Film Awards. 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 an early 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 series, 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 for her starring roles in the dramas Take Shelter (2011) and The Tree of Life (2011). Her performance as an aspiring socialite in The Help (2011) 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 the horror film It Chapter Two (2019), and she continued to receive critical acclaim for her performances in the dramas A Most Violent Year (2014), Miss Sloane (2016), Molly's Game (2017), and The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021). Her portrayal of Tammy Faye in the last of these earned Chastain her third Academy Award nomination.
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 fashion executive Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo, with whom she has two children.
Early life and education
Jessica Michelle Chastain was born on March 24, 1977, in Sacramento, California, to Jerri Renee Hastey (née Chastain) and rock musician Michael Monasterio. Her parents were both teenagers when she was born. Chastain is reluctant to publicly discuss her family background; she was estranged from Monasterio, who died in 2013, and has said that no father is listed on her birth certificate. She has two sisters and two brothers. Her younger sister Juliet died by suicide in 2003, aged 24, following years of drug addiction. Chastain was raised in Sacramento by her mother and stepfather, Michael Hastey, a firefighter. She says her stepfather was the first person to make her feel secure. She shares a close bond with her maternal grandmother, Marilyn, whom she credits as someone who "always believed in me".
Chastain developed an interest in acting at age seven, after her grandmother took her to a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She would regularly put on amateur shows with other children, and considered herself to be their artistic director. As a student at the El Camino Fundamental High School in Sacramento, Chastain struggled academically. She was a loner and considered herself a misfit in school, eventually finding an outlet in the performing arts. She has described how she used to miss school to read Shakespeare, whose plays she became enamored with after attending the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with her classmates. With too many absences during her senior year in school, Chastain did not qualify for graduation, but later obtained an adult diploma. She later attended Sacramento City College from 1996 to 1997, during which she was a member of the institution's debate team. Describing her early childhood, she recalled:
I grew up with a single mother who worked very hard to put food on our table. We did not have money. There were many nights when we had to go to sleep without eating. It was a very difficult upbringing. Things weren't easy for me growing up.
In 1998, Chastain finished her education at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and made her professional stage debut as Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet staged by TheatreWorks, a company in the San Francisco Bay Area. The production led her to audition for the Juilliard School in New York City, where she was soon accepted and granted a scholarship funded by actor Robin Williams. In her first year at the school, Chastain suffered from anxiety and was worried about being dropped from the program, spending most of her time reading and watching films. She later remarked that her participation in a successful production of The Seagull during her second year helped build her confidence. She graduated from the school with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2003.
Despite significant media attention, Chastain remains guarded about her personal life, and chooses not to attend red carpet events with a partner. She considers herself to be a "shy" person, and in 2011 said that she enjoys domestic routines like dog-walking and playing ukulele, rather than partying. She has cited the actress Isabelle Huppert as an influence, for managing a family, while also playing "out-there roles" on screen.
Chastain is an animal lover, and has adopted a rescue dog. She was a pescatarian for much of her life; following health troubles she began practicing veganism. She is an investor for Beyond Meat, a meat substitutes company.
In the 2000s, Chastain was in a long-term relationship with writer-director Ned Benson that ended in 2010. In 2012, she began dating Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo, an Italian count of the Passi de Preposulo noble family, who is an executive for the fashion brand Moncler. On June 10, 2017, she married Preposulo at his family's estate in Carbonera, Italy. In 2018, the couple had a daughter through surrogacy. They later had a second daughter. They reside in New York City.