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Film Festival Today

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TIFF It Girl: Jessica Chastain

Written by: FFT Webmaster | September 16th, 2011

You can be excused if you believe that new starlet Jessica Chastain is in every movie opening this season. The busy actress can currently be seen on the big screen in three major summer movies, including Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE, the best seller adaptation THE HELP and the espionage actioner THE DEBT. At the recent Venice Film Festival, she regally walked the red carpet along with co-star and director Al Pacino for WILDE SALOME, his meta-textual adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play. At the Toronto International Film Festival this past week, she is wowing again in two big and very different films.

Jessica Chastain in TAKE SHELTER

In the American indie TAKE SHELTER, she plays a harried housewife who must deal with the delusional ravings of her husband, played by Michael Shannon, who is having apocalyptic dreams that are threatening to unravel their lives. The film, which had its world premiere at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, was heralded at the Cannes Film Festival with a Best Film win in the International Critics Week section. Just this last week, the film won the top prize at the Deauville Film Festival, a French event devoted to Hollywood and indie titles. Chastain also brushes up her Shakespeare in the adaptation of the Bard’s war drama CORIOLANUS, directed by and starring British lion Ralph Fiennes.

The Julliard-trained actress is becoming one of the industry’s busiest thespians, although her chameleon like ability to inhabit her characters has made her own “look” somewhat indistinct. At her press conference in Toronto, she shared that she is just now being recognized on the street but that most of the time she flies under the radar. All that may change with a possible Oscar nod for her role as the busty social climber in THE HELP, one of the season’s big hits.

Jessica Chastain in THE HELP

Jessica Chastain was born in 1981 as Jessica Howard in Northern California. She is one of five children. Her stepfather is a firefighter and her mother is a vegan chef. She took her mother’s maiden name as her stage name. After starring in school plays, she eventually was accepted into the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City, where she was trained in both the classics and contemporary pieces. After appearing in some student films, her first professional role came 2004 for a TV movie adaptation of DARK SHADOWS. She later honed her craft with appearances on such television series as ER, VERONICA MARS, CLOSE TO HOME and LAW & ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY. In 2008, she made her film debut as the title role in the American indie film JOLENE, for which she received the Best Actress prize at the Seattle International Film Festival.

She has been working non-stop ever since. She filmed her role as a young Mossad agent who captures a notorious Nazi criminal in THE DEBT in 2009, but the film’s theatrical release was delayed until this past month in North America. The reclusive director Terrence Malick saw her in early rushes of the film and decided to cast her in the most non-speaking part of the mother in his existential drama THE TREE OF LIFE, which won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

In the next few months, she will be seen on screen in TAKE SHELTER, CORIOLANUS and WILDE SALOME, while also reuniting with her THE DEBT co-star Sam Worthington in the psychological thriller TEXAS KILLING FIELDSChastain stays on in Toronto to work with executive producer Guillermo del Toro on the film MAMA, directed by Andres Muschietti, set for release next year. Also coming in 2012 is the Prohibition era drama THE WETTEST COUNTY IN THE WORLD being directed by John Hillcoat. For the hard-working 29 year old actress, there is a recognition building that she may possible be the next big thing.

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