Almost Famous: Jessica Chastain Breaks Out in Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life

by VelvetMagazineME

Almost Famous: Jessica Chastain Breaks Out in Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life

Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain


Jessica Chastain has everything it takes to be a star—striking red-haired beauty, a talent that inspires legends—but because her biggest movies have been delayed by what the 30-year-old actress calls “weird financial things,” the public hasn’t yet discovered her. All that is about to change with The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick’s transcendental saga about a Texas family named O’Brien, starring Chastain as Brad Pitt’s wife and Sean Penn’s mother. This is just the first of the actress’s nine (yes, nine) upcoming films, which find her playing everything from the ultimate biblical temptress in Al Pacino’s Wilde Salome to the virtuous wife in Ralph Fiennes’s Coriolanus (with Vanessa Redgrave) to a Mossad assassin in John Madden’s thriller The Debt. Still, it’s the Malick film that could define her. Drawing on Chastain’s blend of intelligence and radiant warmth, her Mrs. O’Brien is no ordinary wife and mom. She’s the cosmic principle of grace that brings love into the world.

“I wish I could live up to that character in my life,” Chastain says with a laugh so lovely you immediately grasp why Malick cast her. Raised in Northern California, where her father is a fireman and her mother runs a vegan restaurant, Chastain knew early on that she wanted to act. She hadn’t even graduated from Juilliard before she was getting TV offers, and was hopscotching between Hollywood soundstages and Off-Broadway theater. “I’ve been lucky,” she says. “I’ve never had to take a job except for acting.”

She pursues it with a passion. Pitt says his favorite memory of Chastain is “her fierce, open-handed slap” during one of their scenes, and adds, “Jessica is surprising and entirely genuine in everything she does.” Madden, who directed Gwyneth Paltrow to an Oscar in Shakespeare in Love, agrees. “She’s got an incredible luminosity,” he says. “She can transform herself into anything.” And Malick has already cast her in his next project, The Burial, with Ben Affleck.

“I always want to work with the best,” Chastain says. “When I’m 60 I’ll be able to say, ‘I got to work with Terrence Malick. I got to act with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.’ ” Who knows? Perhaps one day they’ll say they got to work with her.

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Regards, Velvet Magazine