Jessica Chastain is the hottest actress in Hollywood today. Just please don’t say that to her face.
I’m waiting to meet Jessica Chastain, who is already being touted by critics as possibly the “greatest actress of her generation.” I have to admit that I’m excited — tracking her fame feels like watching time-lapse photography of a seedling turning into a towering maple. The hype was kicked off when her film The Tree of Life debuted at Cannes. Audiences raved about Brad Pitt’s tour-de-force performance, patted Sean Penn on the back for another impressive turn — and then asked “Who’s that redhead?”
When Chastain walks onto the set of our L.A. cover shoot wearing faded CK jeans and a gossamer tee from Aussie designer Ruby Smallbone, she looks more like a film-festival darling than a budding A-lister. In fact, still enjoying her soon-to-be-short-lived anonymity, Chastain went to see the latest X-Men flick with a few friends last weekend.
How normal, right? But that’s where the relatable part ends. “The trailer for Warrior came on and, because I’d just worked with Tom Hardy [in The Wettest County in the World], I was excited,” she says, laughing.
The next preview was for The Debt — starring Chastain alongside Helen Mirren. Even though her face was projected on the 12-metre screen, no one in the theatre recognized her. “But my first big movie had only been in theatres for two weeks,” she adds. “I know I have to be a bit more realistic; by December — when I have, like, five movies out — things will probably be different.”
That’s putting it mildly. While the 30-year-old actress seems poised for overnight success, she has actually been working toward it since she was six years old: After her grandmother took her to see a play, Chastain was hooked. “Everything was very real for me when I was playing make-believe,” she says with a little smile.
“So to know there was a job where you just basically play all day, I was like, ‘Why doesn’t everyone want to do this?’” Well, probably because most people don’t have a clear vision of their life’s goals at five. (I spent years wanting to be an astronaut chef, as if that were a viable option.) Chastain’s early expression of quiet confidence was telling, to say the least.
Read on to find out how Chastain got her big break...