Jessica Chastain grew up in Sacramento, California, mainly raised by her single mother, stating that often “there were many nights when we had to go to sleep without eating”. Despite her uneasy upbringing, Chastain has made a name for herself in the acting world as an influential figure who advocates for women’s rights and racial equality within her work, emerging as one of the strongest voices within the industry.
After a string of fairly unsuccessful television and theatre roles, Chastain made her film debut in Dan Ireland’s 2008 film Jolene. Chastain was often cited as the only good thing about the production, with Rex Reed of the New York Observer stating that “Ms. Chastain not only holds her own corner of every scene, she’s the only thing you want to watch”.
The star took on a few roles over the next few years, in which she displayed much dedication and talent, such as The Debt alongside Helen Mirren, and Take Shelter, as Michael Shannon’s on-screen wife. However, it was 2011’s experimental drama The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malik, that earned Chastain further critical recognition and praise, despite filming taking place in 2008. She believed her character to be “the embodiment of grace and the spirit world”. The film is truly remarkable, and Chastain shines, despite starring alongside seasoned professionals such as Brad Pitt.
Since then, Chastain has had more critically praised roles, such as The Help, Zero Dark Thirty and Interstellar. Most recently, she has appeared in the American HBO remake of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, alongside Oscar Isaac, playing Liv Ullmann’s character, who also directed Chastain in her film Miss Julie. She also starred in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, serving as producer – her performance as Tammy Faye leading to an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
However, despite her powerful on-screen presence and philanthropical efforts, such as collaborating with other women in Hollywood to create Time’s Up to protect women from harassment and assault in the industry, Chastain is known to be rather private outside of the workplace. She avoids bringing a partner with her to red carpet events and enjoys the simple domesticity of life.
While the actress was attending Julliard, on behalf of a Robin Williams funded scholarship that she earned, she suffered from bad anxiety that led her to fear being kicked off the program. Luckily, her performance in The Seagull during her second year of university helped to build her confidence. Until then, she had spent most of her time reading books and watching films alone. Describing herself as a loner and a misfit, Chastain spent her school days skipping class to read Shakespeare, finding a sense of release in creative outlets.
One of these outlets that Chastain is fond of today is playing music. A fan of playing guitar, the actress switched to ukulele in order to travel easily with the instrument. Her favourite songs to play include ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots’ by The Flaming Lips, as well as, according to how she describes her younger self – rather fittingly – Radiohead’s ‘Creep’. In an interview with Elle Canada, she stated: “It [the ukulele] sounds really sweet, so when you play songs like Radiohead’s ‘Creep,’ there’s this amazing contradiction — this beautiful dichotomy,” she explains.
The actress clearly has great taste. After forming in 1985 as school friends, Radiohead, originally called On a Friday, released their debut single ‘Creep’ in 1992. The band began to receive attention from the single, however, not all of it was positive, with Radio 1 blacklisting the track for sounding “too depressing”. By 1993, the band had released their debut album Pablo Honey, which charted at number 22.
These days, the album is widely overlooked in the vast excellence of their discography, even by fans of the band. It was ‘Creep’ that became the debut’s most memorable track, with US audiences becoming so obsessed with it that the band dropped it from live sets, claiming that they hate it. Even though Pablo Honey as a whole faded into the background of Radiohead’s discography, with their seminal, era-defining works OK Computer, In Rainbows and A Moon Shaped Pool, propelling Radiohead to legendary status, ‘Creep’ has remained one of their most streamed and successful tracks – not bad for a song they refuse to play live.
Despite the chorus’s lyrics initially reading like a melodramatic teenage diary entry, “I’m a creep/ I’m a weirdo/ what the hell am I doing here?/ I don’t belong here”, the song’s gentle melody and guitar tone, alongside an incredible and emotive vocal performance from lead singer Thom Yorke, make it an undoubtedly memorable and addictive track. Hopefully, one day, we will get to experience this Jessica Chastain ukulele ‘Creep’ cover, but for now, it seems as though we only have an Instagram recording of her playing Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again.’