Actress Jessica Chastain immediately pops to mind when it comes to the most beautiful among our ginger brethren, with her piercing light eyes, super pale skin, and her long fiery tresses. She’s a unique face among the blondes and brunettes of the Hollywood elite.
Chastain has proven herself to be quite the talented actress, taking roles in a variety of projects that showcase her ability to shine. Whether it’s kicking butt in space or fighting wicked forces in the name of love, Chastain brings a certain magic to the big screen, thoroughly inhabiting her characters and bringing them to life. But Chastain wasn’t always a glamorous actress with a handsome husband and an enviable bank account. Instead, Chastain is from more hardscrabble stock, and she has had to work hard to get where she is today. Want to find out more? Read on to witness the stunning transformation of Jessica Chastain.
Jessica Chastain's origins are pretty humble
Jessica Chastain came into the world as Jessica Howard, the child of a vegan chef named Jerri Hastey and a firefighter named Michael Hastey living in Sacramento, Calif. By all accounts, Chastain wasn’t born into a privileged family, and money certainly wasn’t abundant. Additionally, Hastey was actually Chastain’s stepfather, as her biological father was Michael Monasterio who wasn’t in the picture during Chastain’s childhood.
Chastain also had a younger sister named Juliet, and, as children, the two “played outside until it was dark,” as Chastain recalled in an interview with The Guardian. She added that they wished “the light would stay longer, so you didn’t have to go home.” To this day, Chastain still loves the smell of freshly cut grass.
For a long time, Chastain was guarded when she discussed her childhood and for good reason. Tragically in 2003, her sister took her own life at the home of their biological father, who himself passed away in 2013 from bronchitis. Still, Chastain is close to her remaining family to this day, all of whom treat her “very normally,” according to her interview with The Telegraph.
When Jessica Chastain was 7, she knew she wanted to act
While most of the women in Jessica Chastain’s life had children when they were still teenagers, she knew that wasn’t the destiny that she wanted. Rather, Chastain discovered her passion in life when she was 7 years old, while watching a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. “As soon as I saw that I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is my job, this is what I am,'” she gushed in an interview with The Telegraph. “I’ve always had an active imagination, and I didn’t do very well in the public-school system, but that was a complete aha moment for me.” Thus her acting dream was born.
On a less happy note, Chastain recalls being bullied as early as age 8 because of her red hair and freckles. “I was told every day at school that I was ugly,” she revealed in an interview with Glamour. “And that no one wanted to be my friend. The most cruel things.” How awful.
Fortunately, things got better when Chastain joined drama club, and she found her people there.
Jessica Chastain's grandmother was her first mentor
Jessica Chastain described her younger self as a “sullen” and and unhappy child, prone to picking fights and being “rebellious” before she was even in the double digits. Fortunately, one of her family members took a special interest in her and began to nurture her innate talents. “Well, my grandmother was very, very helpful and inspiring for me. She’s the one who first took me to a play,” she revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. She noted, “I think she saw that I needed an outlet or something to find my people, in a way, and be creative.”
That mentoring took many forms, whether it was theater, dance, or some other creative activity. “She started by taking me to ballet lessons,” she continued. “She was, you know, giving me gifts that had to do with finding a hobby, but in an art form, in expression.” And that’s what helped Chastain start to build the foundation that would guide her forward in life.
A famous actor helped Jessica Chastain pay for a prestigious college education
After Jessica Chastain finished high school, she was accepted to The Juilliard School in New York City, a prestigious performing arts conservatory. But as exciting as that was, the opportunity came with a massive amount of responsibility. “I am the first one in my family to go to college and I felt a great responsibility when I was at school, because my family was making so many sacrifices for me to be there,” she explained to The Hollywood Reporter, adding, “It was very expensive. The first two years it was really tough on us.”
Fortunately for Chastain and her family, she got some help thanks to actor Robin Williams, a famous Juilliard alum who gave out scholarships to needy students. “It was after my second year I found I got that scholarship,” she said of the Robin Williams Scholarship. “It paid for not only all my schoolwork, but it paid for my apartment, and my books, and my flight home to see my family for Christmas.” Chastain added that she never got to meet Williams, who died in 2014, but she sent him many letters of thanks.
Chastain graduated in 2003.
Early on in Jessica Chastain's career, people wanted her to dye her hair
Believe it or not, when Jessica Chastain first started working in the movie business, everyone told her that she needed to change her now-signature — and 100 percent natural — ginger look. “People would tell me to dye [my hair] blond when I first started auditioning in [L.A.],” she shared in an interview with The Telegraph. “Funny how defined we are by how we present ourselves to the world. I’m either thought of as ethereal or fiery. And maybe that’s the interesting thing about red hair: there’s that fiery Renaissance connotation and the ethereal.” It’s a good thing she resisted that advice because now she’s iconic for the very thing people told her to change.
In addition to that, some folks had the nerve to tell Chastain she didn’t have the looks to hack it in Hollywood. “Before then, I wasn’t getting parts because people kept telling me I wasn’t pretty enough,” she continued. “But I’ve come to realize that everyone’s idea of what’s pretty is so different.” That’s for sure, but, if there’s one thing Chastain isn’t, it’s unattractive.
The year 2011 was monumental for Jessica Chastain
To say that 2011 was a banner year for Jessica Chastain would be an understatement, as that was the year she was a guest at the Cannes Film Festival. She had appeared in two films that year, Tree of Life and Take Shelter, and suddenly everyone knew who she was. “I knew at that moment it was life-changing,” she recalled in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Walking down that red carpet with Sean Penn holding one hand and Brad Pitt holding the other, and everyone’s like, ‘Who is this girl in the yellow dress? Who is this person?’ I knew that that red carpet, after having that premiere, it would just be a turning point in my life.” And indeed it was.
After that, Chastain didn’t have to hustle to find work in Hollywood anymore, which was quite the change. “All of a sudden people started sending me scripts, instead of the opposite,” she continued, noting, “People actually start to seek you out rather than you seek you out.” After that, her career truly took off.
Jessica Chastain had to change her body for The Help
Tree of Life and Take Shelter weren’t the only films that Jessica Chastain appeared in during 2011. In fact, she also appeared in another film, one in which she had to significantly change her body — something she wishes she did differently. “You know, I put on weight for The Help and all of that,” she revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. She shared, “I think because I didn’t have a support system that I needed, I did everything in an unhealthy way.”
Fortunately, Chastain has learned since that there’s a better way to go about such things. “But, now I know, ‘OK, if I have to play the piano, I need a piano teacher. If I have to gain weight or gain muscle, work with a nutritionist,” she continued. “I give myself the respect to know that I am not a piano teacher, I am not a nutritionist, and I need to be able to take guidance from other people.” That’s good advice for anyone!
Someone famous helped Jessica Chastain with Zero Dark Thirty
One of Jessica Chastain’s biggest films was Zero Dark Thirty, which was directed by Oscar winner Kathryn Bigalow. Chastain didn’t even have to chase the role, as it fell right into her lap. “I was in Toronto, and I had heard from [producer] Megan Ellison,” she explained in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, adding, “And she said, ‘By the way, do you know Kathryn Bigelow’s trying to get a hold of you? She wants to meet with you on something.'” Of course, Chastain told her to give Bigelow her number!
At the time, Chastain was under contract to appear in Oblivion, which would have been a conflict. Fortunately, she got help from a friend in a high place. “The person who made it possible for me to do this movie is Tom Cruise,” she continued. “Someone contacted him from my agency and said, ‘Listen, she wants to work with you. And she would love to, but there is this other film, and it’s so important.’ And he said, ‘OK, we’re going to let you out of your contract.'” That was a super stand-up move, Tom!
Jessica Chastain's brought something different to her character in Interstellar
Jessica Chastain got something of a late start in Hollywood, as many of her best roles were cast when she was well into her 30s. That helped her avoid being pigeonholed as a sex symbol, which allowed her to take on different kinds of characters in a variety of films. “The part I played in Interstellar, for example, was originally written for a man,” she revealed in an interview with The Telegraph. “Chris Nolan decided to make it about a father and daughter instead.”
Chastain is aware it doesn’t go both ways, as only a sex symbol can play, well, a sex symbol. “Of course if you need a sex object then that’s different,” she continued. “But if you need a woman who is known for something other than her sex appeal then a male character can easily be changed to a female character.”
Chastain played a similar role the following year as Commander Melissa Lewis in 2015’s The Martian.
Jessica Chastain wants to see more opportunities for women in Hollywood
In 2015, Jessica Chastain was on set shooting for the 2017 film The Zookeeper’s Wife, which was directed by Niki Caro, a woman. And for Chastain, being in an environment with more women than usual was an inspiring experience. “I can’t tell you — it’s amazing. I’ve never been on a set with so many women,” she penned in an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re not even 50 percent of the crew — we’re probably something like 20 percent women and 80 percent men — but it’s way more than I’ve ever worked with on a film before.”
This inspired Chastain to make a call for more gender diversity in all of Hollywood, a cause that’s near and dear to her heart. “It’s not a valid excuse to say women don’t call asking to direct superhero movies,” she continued. “Every female director I’ve asked if she’d be interested in directing a big movie like that says, ‘Hell, yeah.’ I don’t think the problem is women; it’s the representation. It goes to the agents. It has to change.” Louder again for the people in the back, Jessica!
Jessica Chastain is an advocate for women's causes
Securing more equal opportunities for women isn’t the only cause that Jessica Chastain has championed. In fact, she’s been outspoken about a host of women’s issues, something that’s only increased as she’s gotten more and more successful.
For one, Chastain has been hard at work since launching her own production company, Freckle Films, in 2016, according to an article in Deadline. The company notably boasts only female execs.
Additionally, in 2017, she was honored at Variety’s Power of Women event for her work with Planned Parenthood. Affordable access to women’s healthcare “makes it possible for a woman to have the equal opportunity of her male counterparts of having jurisdiction over her body, her life and her health,” she explained in an interview with Variety. Chastain has also pledged not to work in states with overly restrictive abortion laws, according to Sky News. And, of course, she’s been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
Meeting the right partner changed Jessica Chastain's ideas about marriage
For a long time, Jessica Chastain was open about the fact that she wasn’t sure if she’d ever get married. “I’m not quite sure of what I want in my life, and who knows if marriage is a part of it,” she once revealed in an interview with People magazine. “So to me, marriage is not an important thing.”
But all of that appeared to change for Chastain after she got serious with Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo, an Italian noble and fashion executive. “He’s a gentleman,” she gushed in an interview with W magazine. “And that’s very important to me.” He’s also not an actor, something Chastain has said was a deal-breaker for her in the past.
Clearly, Passi de Preposulo was able to melt Chastain’s heart, as the couple were married in June of 2017, as reported by Vogue magazine. Their wedding in Italy was quite the high-profile affair, as actors like Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway, among others, were in attendance. Sounds like it was one heck of a time!
Jessica Chastain became a mother in 2018
A little over a year after Jessica Chastain married Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo, the couple celebrated another exciting milestone. That’s because the newlyweds welcomed their first child into the world via surrogate in 2018, something they had kept secret, according to an article in Page Six. Additionally, according to an article in Us Weekly, Chastain and Passi de Preposulo named their daughter Giuletta Passi Chastain. Congratulations, you two!
True to form, Chastain hasn’t plastered her social media accounts with pictures of her baby, preferring instead to keep a low profile and ostensibly protect her little one from the insanity of the internet. But she did share one snap on her Instagram page back in January of 2019 of her daughter’s hand reaching out for a gorgeous ring. “You’ve got good taste, kid,” she wrote in the caption. Aw!
Whether or not Giuletta has inherited her mother’s red hair remains to be seen at the time of this writing, but no doubt she’ll be beautiful with two gorgeous parents!
Jessica Chastain continues to be an A-lister
One thing seems pretty certain, and that’s that Jessica Chastain’s career isn’t slowing down anytime soon. She had top billing in big-budget films like Dark Phoenix and It Chapter Two in 2019, and she has plenty of additional work in the pipeline, according to IMDb.
A project that Chastain has been most excited about is a biopic about the scandalous televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. Chastain will sing on screen for the first time in the project. “I got the rights to play her in 2012 after Zero Dark Thirty came out,” she revealed in an interview with Variety. “I re-watched the documentary [about Bakker] when it was on TV and I was like, ‘Why hasn’t anyone done a movie about her?'” Good question, indeed.
Now that Chastain has her own production company, she’ll finally have the chance to bring the role to the big screen, something she’s no doubt looking forward to. And after that, chances are Chastain will continue to dazzle both on screen and on the red carpet for years to come.
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