Chastain praised for her versatility as a film artist


Riding the crest of back-to-back Oscar nominations, versatile actress Jessica Chastain will accept the Maui Film Festival’s Nova Award in a Celestial Cinema tribute at the Wailea Gold & Emerald Golf Course during this year’s event, June 12 to 16.

“Few film artists are as talented and versatile as Jessica Chastain,” said festival director Barry Rivers, when he announced her award this morning. “She has made this clear in the range of characters she has brought to life in her chameleon-like silver-screen performances. Jessica is one of a kind, and we couldn’t be more pleased to honor her with the 2013 Maui Film Festival Nova Award.”

Chastain’s most recent Academy Award nomination was for her searing portrayal of a CIA analyst single-mindedly pursuing Osama bin Laden in “Zero Dark Thirty.” She was nominated as best actress in a leading role, one of the film’s many nominations, including best picture.

That nomination followed her supporting actress Oscar nomination a year earlier for “The Help,” where she played a white Southern wife joining efforts by the African-American maids and nannies bucking the bigotry of the ’60s in Jackson, Miss. In the same year, she co-starred with Brad Pitt in Terrence Malick’s visionary tone poem, “The Tree of Life.”

The inscription on the Maui Film Festival’s Nova Award honors a film artist for “astonishingly original and seamless performances, and the way they consistently infuse each character that they embody with insight, humanity and wisdom.”

Born in Sacramento, Calif., Chastain studied dance and began performing theatrically in her youth, before winning a scholarship to attend New York’s Juilliard School. Although she seemed to appear out of nowhere in a series of memorable, award-winning movie performances, she had actually spent years honing her craft on stage and in several TV productions.

Besides her repeat Oscar nominations, she also had the distinction of starring in the top two movies at the box office earlier this year when her “Mama” topped the charts, bumping “Zero Dark Thirty” to the second spot. Her filmography also includes “Lawless,” “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” “The Debt” and “Take Shelter.”

Other awards and nominations encompass the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards and Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics’ Choice Awards. She stars in “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” due for release this year, and the drama “Miss Julie,” due in 2014.

She joins the previously announced Kirsten Dunst and Brie Larson as luminaries to be honored at this year’s festival. The late Eddie Aikau, an iconic Hawaiian waterman, is the subject of the opening-night tribute screening of “Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau.”

Numerous other filmmakers are expected to attend the five-day festival of screenings, parties, panels and more at the Wailea Resort and in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. For more information, tickets and passes, visit or call 572-3456.

* Rick Chatenever, now retired, is the former editor of Maui Scene.