Jessica Chastain Says Her Oscar Nomination Started a ‘Bittersweet Birthday’

'Mama' Reviews
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Two years ago, you would be forgiven if you’d never heard of Jessica Chastain. But after a breakout year in 2011, in which she starred in no less than seven critically acclaimed movies and garnered an Oscar nod for her portrayal of Celia Foote in The Help, Chastain has cast an indelible mark on Hollywood.

After being nominated on her birthday by the Academy last week for her portrayal of a tenacious CIA agent in pursuit of Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain won the Golden Globe Sunday night and appears to be front runner for the Oscar.

“It was a bittersweet birthday for me because I was on an airplane and I woke up,” Chastain told reporters at the Globes last weekend. “Then Kathryn Bigelow came over to me and said, ‘Congratulations. You got nominated for an Oscar.’ And I was so excited I wanted to scream and, like, yelp, but then I was afraid I was going to get duct-taped in my seat by an airline employee.”

Originally from a Northern California suburb, Chastain trained at the prestigious Julliard Conservatory then worked on stage and in guest spots on TV to hone her craft.

In 2011, she played roles as varied as a rural homicide cop in Texas Killing Fields, a Shakespearean princess in Coriolanus, and a neglected housewife during the Civil Rights era in The Help. But her big break came playing the saintly mother in 2011’s The Tree Of Life which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and was nominated for Best Picture.

“All of a sudden I started getting all these scripts sent to me which was really devoted wives and mothers,” said Chastain. “If someone tries to type me, I’m super stubborn and I will do the opposite.”

This tendency led her to Mama, a horror film in which she stars as a punk-rocker bassist whose missing nieces are discovered in a forest after five years. She and her boyfriend, (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) take in the children only to discover they may not have been so alone in the forest after all.

“I was definitely moved by the hero’s journey, this woman becoming a hero, becoming a selfless person,” said Chastain. “I kind of liked that in the beginning she’s a bit of a bitch. She’s a little unlikable. She’s a little selfish and she grows a heart of gold in the end.”

Like her fellow nominees, a statue of gold is what Chastain hopes to be hoisting come Oscar night. Last year, she attended the ceremony with her grandmother, who will probably accompany her this year, too.

“She’s so much fun,” laughed the redhead. “Going with her, it’s just such a reminder to enjoy it and not take it seriously.”

In 2013, she’ll be seen in Tar, an omnibus look at author C.K.Williams’ life, and opposite James McAvoy in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby about the ups and downs in the relationship of a New York City couple.

Beyond that, who can say? One things for sure is a Golden Globe win and a Best Actress nomination bode well for Chastain.

“Because of last year, it means that a director like Kathryn Bigelow will call me on the phone and ask me to be in her movie,” said the actress. “Who is going to call me this year? It is really exciting.”