Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty

Before a great 2012, and kicking off this year starring in the upcoming Zero Dark Thirty, Jessica Chastain had a 2011 like no other actress. Until then relatively unknown, this Californian redhead played in no fewer than six films released in 2010 – with turns in films including The Help and The Tree of Life securing her place among the brightest new stars.

As 2013 is looking to be yet another bumper year Ms. Chastain, we’ve taken a look back at some of the performances that catapulted her to where she is today: Oscar™ and BAFTA nominated for best actress in Zero Dark Thirty – with the Golden Globe already won.

Early TV Roles (Dark Shadows, ER, Veronica Mars, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, Poirot)

Shortly after graduating Juilliard in 2003 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Chastain found her first professional role playing Carolyn Stoddard in a TV adaptation of Dark Shadows (the role filled by Chloë Grace Moretz in the recent Tim Burton effort).

Following this, small parts in television trickled in, including Er, Veronica Mars, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, and perennial favourite Poirot (pictured).


Jessica’s feature debut saw her playing ‘Jolene’, the protagonist in E. L. Doctorow’s short story inspired by Dolly Parton’s song of the same name.

The film charts Jolene’s life from an abused 15 year old foster child, to a 25 year old woman, and the various relationships between. Chastain portrays Jolene seduced by her uncle, in a lesbian pairing, with a drug dealer, a mobster in Las Vegas and eventually a rich psychopath.

In an otherwise so-so film, Chastain’s performance was lauded; winning her the best actress award at the Seattle International Film Festival.

The Debt

Chastain’s great mentions saw her stepping into the shoes of an acting legend – the young Rachel Singer to Helen Mirren’s portrayal in older age. Rachel is a Mossad agent, part of a team who travel to East Berlin to capture a Nazi war criminal.

Things don’t go as planned, and in later years the agents’ stories start to unravel, causing life-changing and deadly revelations. Chastain was wholly convincing as a young Rachel, and worthy of a role shared with ‘The Queen’.

Take Shelter

This thrilling drama saw Jessica Chastain team up with another actor who had an amazing 2011. Michael Shannon, best known for his no-nonsense Christian Federal Agent in Boardwalk Empire, plays a family man with visions of an apocalypse.

He constructs a shelter for his young family including wife Samantha. What is he really sheltering them from? Will the storm come? With a 92% ‘fresh’ on RT – The pair have obviously done a good job leading this film as two newcomers.


Shakespeare next: Ralph Fiennes starred opposite and directed Chastain in his directorial debut adaptation of Coriolanus. Virgilia (Chastain), finds herself caught up in modern day alternate vision of Rome and her husband’s political and military struggles.

Her effect over Coriolanus is important, and Chastain brings a power to the role that helps do Shakespeare’s tragedy justice.

The Tree of Life

For Terrence Malick’s first film in five years, he chose Jessica Chastain for his female lead. Starring opposite Hollywood royalty Brad Pitt in a film also boasting Sean Penn (and dinosaurs), Chastain plays loving mother of three boys and wife to Pitt’s Mr. O’Brien.

A gospel to life, belief, creation, loss and love, Jessica is ethereal in this standout role in a film that has earned wide critical acclaim.

The Help

The Help found a phenomenal audience on the other side of the Atlantic as Disney’s civil rights era picture about a white journalist’s efforts to expose the racism in the houses of her traditional Mississippi town.

Jessica plays Celia Foote, a naive young bride; colour blind in a world were segregation was rife. Her delicate portrayal of this tragedy beset southern belle ensured we would remember her in this powerful film. 

Texas Killing Fields

Based in part on a string of murders in the I-45 corridor in Texas, this crime thriller casts Chastain as Detective Pam Stall as she joins other law enforcement workers to protect the innocent and stake out the murderer.

The tagline for this dark film reads “Once in... there’s no way out”, but thankfully Jessica has been able to bring her talent to a number of different genres. Fun fact: Texas Killing Fields also stars Chloë Grace Moretz, who played Chastain’s character in the most recent remake of Dark Shadows.

Madagascar 3

Following her monumental 2011, Jessica Chastain kicked off 2012 lending her voice to Gia, an Italian jaguar, in the third instalment of the wildly popular Madagascar series of animated films.

Gia’s colouring is a nod to Chastain’s rich locks – and her beauty certainly doesn’t go unnoticed by Ben Stiller’s lion, Alex. The film has grossed nearly $750,000,000 worldwide.


Jessica Chastain is the diamond in the rough in John Hillcoat’s violent tale of three bootlegging brothers in rural Virginia. Jessica’s Maggie Beauford finds a place to run away to in the arms of Tom Hardy’s Forrest Bondurant.

But, as the law personified by Guy Pearce, and the mob by Gary Oldman close in, there strength is tested. Chastain is at once vulnerable, comforting, and has the sensibilities to keep the brothers sane.

Zero Dark Thirty

Jessica follows up Lawless with another strong female character. As ‘Maya’, she heads up Kathryn Bigelow’s epic hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty. Maya is the CIA agent who won’t rest until Bin Laden is captured or dead, and refuses to take no for an answer, even when it leads to personal struggle and sacrifice.

Chastain’s performance has already won her a Golden Globe, and nominations for best actress at both the BAFTAS and the Academy Awards™, among the film’s many nominations and critics circle wins.

Watch Jessica Chastain’s award winning performance in Zero Dark Thirty out now.