Chas­tain’s cin­e­matic charm

Tal­ented Amer­i­can ac­tress Jes­sica Chas­tain turns 40 today. Aref Omar lists some of her works

New Straits Times - - Groove -

1 THE DEBT (2010)

Chas­tain makes an im­pres­sion as a green Mos­sad agent who, in 1965, crosses into East Ber­lin to cap­ture a vi­cious Nazi war crim­i­nal.

Her char­ac­ter’s older self was played by He­len Mir­ren in this al­ter­nate his­tory drama thriller.

Chas­tain trained for four months in Krav Maga to pre­pare for her fight scenes.

2 THE HELP (2011)

Adapted from the 2009 novel of the same name by Kathryn Stock­ett, this pe­riod drama fol­lows a young white fe­male as­pir­ing jour­nal­ist and her re­la­tion­ship with two black maids dur­ing the Civil Rights Move­ment in Jack­son, Mississippi in 1962.

Chas­tain, who plays the wife of a wealthy so­cialite who be­friends one of the maids, re­ceived an Os­car nom­i­na­tion for Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress.

To gain weight for the role, the ve­gan ac­tress ate a lot of mi­crowave-melted soya ice cream.

3 TAKE SHEL­TER (2011)

This dra­matic psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller sees a young fa­ther and hus­band, plagued by apoc­a­lyp­tic vi­sions, hav­ing to de­cide whether to shel­ter his fam­ily from a com­ing storm or from him­self.

In the mov­ing movie, Chas­tain plays his em­pathic wife. Ap­par­ently the ac­tress only re­ceived US$100 (RM442) per day for her role.


Di­rected by Ter­rence Mal­ick, this ex­per­i­men­tal and epic drama chron­i­cles the ori­gins and mean­ing of life through a man’s child­hood mem­o­ries of his fam­ily liv­ing in 1950s Texas.

Chas­tain plays his gen­tle and nur­tur­ing mother as op­posed to his strict and au­thor­i­tar­ian fa­ther, played by Brad Pitt.

The but­ter­fly that lands on her hand onscreen was real. Mal­ick spot­ted it flying around one morn­ing while Chas­tain and Pitt were re­hears­ing. They fol­lowed it around with the crew, for three blocks, be­fore find­ing a suit­able spot with the right con­di­tions to shoot.


Chas­tain plays a fic­tional CIA in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst in­volved in the al­most decade-long international man­hunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden af­ter the Sept 11 at­tacks in the US in this po­lit­i­cal thriller.

She won a Golden Globe for Best Ac­tress and was also nom­i­nated for an Os­car and Bafta.

Chas­tain’s agents orig­i­nally de­clined the role. Pro­ducer Me­gan El­li­son, who had worked with Chas­tain on Law­less

(2012), gave di­rec­tor Kathryn Bigelow Chas­tain’s phone num­ber so she could per­son­ally of­fer her the role, to which she ac­cepted.

Bigelow of­fered her the role af­ter see­ing Chas­tain in an early cut of

Co­ri­olanus (2011).


This drama about love and loss was orig­i­nally shot as a two-part movie, fol­low­ing the in­di­vid­ual points of view of a cou­ple played by Chas­tain and James McAvoy.

Af­ter pre­mier­ing in 2013 at the Toronto Film Fes­ti­val, di­rec­tor Ned Ben­son edited the movies into one fea­ture, which then pre­miered at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val.

With re­gards to film­ing the love scenes with McAvoy, Chas­tain said: “I ac­tu­ally had trou­ble keep­ing a straight face! He is very funny.”

7 MAMA (2013)

Chas­tain plays a free spirit who has to care for two kids that later seem to hold a dark su­per­nat­u­ral se­cret in this hor­ror movie, di­rected and co-writ­ten by An­dres Muschi­etti, based on his 2008 Ar­gen­tine short film.

The ac­tress was the first and only choice for the role.

She also took guitar lessons as her char­ac­ter plays the bass.


Set in 1981 in New York City, this crime drama fol­lows the tri­als of an am­bi­tious im­mi­grant (played by Os­car Isaac) and his wife (Chas­tain) who fight to pro­tect their busi­ness and fam­ily.

Chas­tain en­vi­sioned her nou­veau riche char­ac­ter as don­ning only Ar­mani.

The fash­ion house obliged her of­fi­cial re­quest and lent her their ap­parel, so ev­ery item of cloth­ing she wore in the movie was vin­tage Ar­mani from 1981.

Af­ter Javier Bar­dem left, Chas­tain sug­gested Isaac, her for­mer Juil­lard class­mate, who ended up be­ing cast.

9 IN­TER­STEL­LAR (2014)

Di­rec­tor Christo­pher Nolan’s epic sci-fi movie sees a team of ex­plor­ers trav­el­ling through a worm­hole in space on a mis­sion to en­sure hu­man­ity’s sur­vival.

She de­liv­ers a mov­ing por­trayal as a sci­en­tist and daugh­ter of one of the ex­plor­ers.

Chas­tain was film­ing Miss Julie (2014) in Ire­land when she was first of­fered the role: The script was de­liv­ered per­son­ally by Nolan’s as­sis­tant but she was not al­lowed to keep it af­ter read­ing it.

10 THE MAR­TIAN (2015)

Cate Blanchett was di­rec­tor Ri­d­ley Scott’s orig­i­nal choice for the role of Com­man­der Lewis but she had a sched­ul­ing con­flict. So the role went to the next best ac­tress: Chas­tain.

The ex­cit­ing sci-fi movie, based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name, sees an as­tro­naut (played by Matt Damon) stranded on Mars af­ter his team as­sumes him to be dead.

When he man­ages to send a sig­nal to Earth of his ex­is­tence, Chas­tain and gang take on the dar­ing and dan­ger­ous mis­sion to res­cue him.











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