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Premature Jessica Chastain Nostalgia. Is She Streep 2.0 ???

Remember when Jessica Chastain brought her grandma Marilyn to the Oscars in February?

What a sweet moment that was. Do you think she'll take her again this year?

What a difference a year makes, huh? Just last year we were wondering who she was and how she'd arrived to us so fully formed as an actress, and I had the pleasure of asking her just that shortly before she won her first nomination (Best Supporting Actress, The Help). This year she'll be fighting it out for the actual Best Actress trophy for Zero Dark Thirty.

Should Jessica be nominated in January (very very likely), one might even be tempted to think of her as Streep: The Next Generation. Meryl Streep is a tough act to be compared to but consider the similarities. Meryl Streep was a late arrival to the cinema (as actresses go) making her first motion picture in 1977 (Julia) in her late 20s after stage triumphs and degrees from Vassar and Yale. Jessica didn't arrive on movie screens until her early 30s last year though she had been filming movies since her late 20s (some of them were significantly delayed before release) after stage triumphs and an acting degree from Juilliard. By Streep's third year in the public eye she had co-starred in three Best Picture Nominees (Julia ,The Deer Hunter, and Kramer vs. Kramer -- the latter two won) and was a two-time Oscar nominee and winner and a full-fledged movie star. By Jessica Chastain's second year in the public eye she will have presumably co-starred in three Best Picture nominees (The Help, The Tree of Life, and Zero Dark Thirty) and become a two-time nominee.

The only thing missing in the comparison is a) the Oscar win for her second nomination which is a maybe at this point and b) the full fledged stardom. Chastain is definitely a known quantity now but not exactly a household name. Her films haven't had the seismic impact of Streep's breakthrough pictures -- The Deer Hunter and Kramer vs. Kramer were colossal hits of their day though The Help's box office reign last year was not unimpressive.

Jessica Chastain and her Take Shelter co-star Michael Shannon at a party for Zero Dark Thirty this week.

If Chastain wins this year, do you think she's got a triple the caliber of French Lieutant's WomanSophie's Choice and Silkwood, in her immediate future? Or is this way way way too much to ask? 


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Reader Comments (39)

the pics at the Oscars are so cute and endearing..... love them.

Until 2 days ago I would have agreed that Chastain is the successor to Streep - she took my breath away in everything I saw her in. Then I saw her on stage in The Heiress. And she was not engaging nor convincing. Major disappointment because it's such a great part and I so wanted to love her. That tells me that are things she cannot do unfortunately.

She's still amazing on screen and gives one of best performances of the year in Zero.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermurtada


Chastain is going to reign.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

I remember when most said that Cate Blanchett was Streep 2.0!!!!! Have to wait out and see on Jessica.... She could be a Julianne Mooree

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie R

She does not stand a chance to be Streep 2.0. Today's mean-spirited social media and proliferation of "critics" would be waiting with sharp claws to tear her apart for any hint of less-than-stellar performance. That's something Meryl never had to deal with in her "prime time". I hope she does not get tagged as Version 2.0 of anyone. She's simply Chastain the Great version 1.0. Thank you very much.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoberta

she seems very down to earth. (at the beginning of this year on some red carpet she even said to that giuliana girl from e! that she watched her reality show lol)

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

Damn, she's beautiful.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

You make a good argument for "next Streep," though I've heard it too many times for Blanchett and Winslet. Isn't she taking some time off after this? I feel like media scrutiny makes the Oscar curse that much worse these days, so a win would be perfect timing. I do think she's almost shockingly talented for someone bursting on to the scene so suddenly, but her backlash day will come, unfortunately.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

She's more Care Blanchett to me--very much a chameleon. Meryl is always Meryl, even with the right drag. I think, ultimately, the Oscars will reward her in supporting, one day.

Jennifer Lawrence has seeped into the public's consciousness as a movie *star* a lot more than Jessica has.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Until 2 days ago I would have agreed that Chastain is the successor to Streep - she took my breath away in everything I saw her in. Then I saw her on stage in The Heiress. And she was not engaging nor convincing. Major disappointment because it's such a great part and I so wanted to love her. That tells me that are things she cannot do unfortunately.

There are things Streep cannot do. No different from any other performer. Actors all have strengths and limitations including your precious Meryl. Fans claim her every woman performances deserves the same reverence as her foreign chameleon parts — well they don't. She's done an excellent job of removing much of the New Jersey from her natural public persona. She looks like she's acting, especially when playing the working class since she's privately strived so hard to rid herself of.

I see myself making many posts in this thread. I so love Chastain and I agree both her and Blanchett are Streepian — yet I'm impressed and enjoy their work over Streep's most celebrated.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

She has entered the pantheon of actresses who can correctly be referred to by solely their last name in all caps: CHASTAIN. See also STREEP, SWINTON, WINSLET

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill h

The triple thing is definitely very hard to achieve but, sure, I think she's the next Big Thing and I'm happy about it.
Plus, she might win a Tony next year for The Heiress.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

I always think marvins room is one of meryls best and thats a working class role.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermark

@ James T

Sorry but her reviews on Broadway are not good. She won't win the Tony I'm afraid.

Also she cannot be the next Streep as Streep was never presented as a sex symbol in the way that Chastain is. Have you seen her GQ cover and photoshoot ?

She's Jessica Chastain and that's a good thing.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralexis

I see the similarities but I agree it would be hard for any actor to become the next Streep. Streep came to prominence before the Internet, reality tv or desirability of plastic surgery. She and her agent Sam Cohn could mold her image and use the press to showcase her talent as a star actress. People also fell in love with her as a person, which I don't see happening here.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Jessica Chaistain always reminds me the young Katharine Hepburn who became moviestar at early 30s . Don't forget that she nominated for golden globe but it's not sure she will be nominated for the Oscar.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve75


Have you seen Hope Springs ... Streep plays a meek, everyday woman quite competently ..I wonder if you even see half the movies you gloat about!

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrick

I've heard that many more times over and over again:
Winona Ryder was the new Audrey Hepburn 20 years ago then I heard that also from Natalie P.
Brad Pitt is the second Robert Redford.
Leonardo Dicaprio is the new James Dean at the mid of the 90s.
I red somwhere in the past Chris Pine will be the next Harrison Ford. This is fucking Boolsheet.
Who is the next Jim Carrey or the next Ben Stiller or the new John Candy!!!??????
Meryl is Meryl and Jessica is Jessica.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve75

There will never be another Meryl Streep since we keep asking this question about every few years or so. She is the first Jessica Chastain and in the few short years she's already cemented herself as a great.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonn

As I read through people's opinions about Streep and Chastain, it struck me as interesting and funny that when we set our thoughts down in writing, like here at this blog, we start to turn our opinions into some sort of moral testament about ourselves. For example, I always liked Amy Adams until I wrote down some comments here and realized I didn't like her at all. I began to crusade against her for the effrontery of her performances, even for making the Julie sections of "Julie & Julia" so bad that she caused Streep to lose an Oscar! Now I think I don't really need to have a deeply felt opinion about Amy Adams. If she's a 4-time Oscar nominee primarily because she's a pretty white girl with good management, no skin off my back!

But Chastain, no slouch in the looks department, already deserves about 4 nominations in the space of two years. She's amazing. I don't know if she has "acting legend" in her future, but the fact that we're talking about it means it's possible. I don't know when that moniker got stuck to Streep, but I imagine it was "Sophie's Choice" that did it, so Chastain probably needs a really legendary performance to do the trick. I haven't seen "Zero Dark Thirty," but her character there doesn't sound like what I'm talking about.

The harder thing will be for her to keep going even if she wins an Oscar this year. In ten years she'll be in her mid-40's, around the same age that Streep was uncharacteristically flailing around trying to reset her public persona (and Streep being Streep, she got Oscar nominations even during this period, roughly from "She-Devil" to her resurgence in "Adaptation"). Judging from the careers of women like Streep, Dench, and Mirren who revitalize their careers in their older years, I'd say that one's 40's are the most perilous times for actresses in Hollywood. If you push through that, then you have the right to be deemed a "legend."

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOwen Walter

A year ago I would have contemplated that possibility because I did see the signs (unanimous critical appraisal, best picture movies, high versatility, etc, etc.) But for a couple of months now I have changed my mind and not because I don't think Chastain is great. The reason instead is that I think it is unfair for any actor to be compared as the version of another, particularly when this other actor has been around for much longer and is far more celebrated.

Jessica Chastain has just started her relationship with Hollywood, and casting her under the shadow of Streep is setting her up for biased criticism. Just look at the first commenter, who because of an idealization of Streep The Great, has ignored that Streep too has been panned for her stage performances (Mother Courage wasn't exactly a critical darling —The New Yorker considered her to be terribly miscast while NYTimes was a bit more kind but thought her performance was not on par with her best work.)

As other commenters have said, I'm all for regarding her as Chastain 1.0, the Great. As much as I love Streep and I consider her an acting legend, I do not wish Chastain Streep's career. I hope Chastain keeps challenging herself with risky roles (a la Kidman) and that she never gets complacent. One of my criticisms of Streep is that she has gotten too complacent. So, for this reason, no, I don't want Chastain to be Streep 2.0. And I don't think she is.

Let us appreciate Chastain's career as it unfolds, with all the mega talents she has to offer us. As another poster said, she will get some backlash at some point (it seems to happen to everyone who is highly praised: Blanchett, Winslet, Mirren.) When that happens, I will still be chanting the chorus of "She's still Chastain, The Great".

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJones

Saw the movie today she wont win the perofrmance is not really fleshed out really cold, i thought she was miscast actually in this role.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Hm no. Jessica Chastain is the old/new/current Jessica Chastain and Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim

Great comments... let actors and actresses be who they are ... when you take someone as good as Chastain and say she is the next Streep, you are setting her up to fail... this is true with all comparisons...

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Those pictures at the top of this article are SO. DAMN. CUTE. As for Jessica Chastain, sky's the limit. In the span of two years she has given about a million unique nuanced memorable performances. Can't wait to see Zero Dark Thirty and I can't wait to see what her career does next.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I totally agree with Jim.

and on a shallow note, she really looked AMAZING at the Oscars in that McQueen dress.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck

Nat, instead of completing Nicole Kidman piece, you gave us this.. SIGH

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNic-no

Nic-no, this took me 20 minutes and each interview piece takes HOURS. relax. it's really not an either or situation :)

December 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

It's inevitable for up-and-rising actresses to be compared to established icons like Streep or Huppert or B. Davis. But once these actresses prove their long-haul worth, they will morph into the likes of Streep in their own rights, much like what Nicole and Blanchett have been doing. Chastain is a gem, from what I've seen, and if the right opportunities continue to prevail, she will be a force to be reckoned with.
I do agree that every actress has her limitations as deftly pointed out by another commentator - Streep, much as I celebrate her many performances, has hit roadblocks in terms of artistry and career choices; Blanchett's comedic timing (eg. Bandits) has been found wanting; Huppert is given to showboating on stage, etc, etc. What counts above all else, is each actress needs to be appreciated for who she is...and that's why we love them!

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJns

It's going to be difficult for any actress to top Streep (or even equal) in Sophie's Choice. That's going to be the measure in years to come. It is possible though. And do remember, Streep did suffer a 'backlash' and had to recreate herself during the late-80s through the mid-90s. And she did so successfully.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Streep's everywoman roles are my favorite Streep roles. But, I grew up in the 80s when she was already embedded in the public consciousness. It's much easier to be critical of actors who enter the scene after you're a fully realized thinking adult. That's my experience.

That being said, Streep came up during a time when there were more sophisticated roles for women in their late 20s and 30s that were higher profile. It's hard for any actress this day and age to have a Streep triple, unless you're cate blanchett, it's 2006/7 and you also count the supporting category.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVince Smetana

There are certain roles written for women that exceeds the actresses playing them. Gone With The Wind. Sophie's Choice. The Piano. Alternate casting wouldn't have necessarily ruined these movies but would have given the career and cultural boost to other actresses that Leigh, Streep, and Hunter benefited from. I'll admit Streep's very good but she's not a favorite. She's lifeless to me. Her choices are boring as well as her taste in most material.

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

In terms of career trajectory and acting style, I see Chastain mimicking Sissy Spacek's career as opposed to Streep's. And wouldn't it depend, too, on what she has in the pipeline? IMDB has her in three upcoming films -- at least one of which looks like an Oscar-bait role -- but beyond that?

December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

everyone -- i'll admit that i kind of hate it when young actresses aren't expecrted to be new versions of older actresses so it was only in a moment of weakness that I posed this question to get the conversation going. I will be thrilled only if Jessica Chastain becomes the best Jessica Chastain that she can be.

but i do think the similarities in their very impressive first couple of years in the movies were interesting. It's not every day and actor starts with 3 best picture nominees!

December 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

and by "arent' I meant "are" -- ARGH

December 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

@alexis - I know about the reviews. Just saying that it might happen, given the moment. But don't feel sorry. I won't mind if she doesn't win :)

December 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

I think these kind of questions are "fun" and don't require any definitive answers. I was there for the original Streep tsunami and it was amazing to see. The Deer Hunter and Kramer v. Kramer were amazing back to back performances and Meryl dominated every scene she was in. Manhattan also probably came close to being nominated for Best Picture as well and her perfomance in that was unlike the other ones.

Meryl's first performances were the essence of movie charisma. I remember being unable to look at anything else in The Deer Hunter when she was on screen - in a mostly silent role (Jessica Chastain in Tree of Life?).

And then she brought out the chamelonic stuff in French Lieutenant's Woman (is that really the same actress?) and then Sophie's Choice silenced all doubters. Who else could have played that role like that? No one at the time that I knew about.

So far, Jessica doesn't seem like a completety different person from film to film (like early Meryl and Cate Blanchett), but maybe she has that in her? Not sure. So far she seems more like Susan Sarandon or Kate Winslet so far.

Oh, and I completely agree that movie and theater acting are very different. I saw Vanessa Redgrave in Madhouse at Goa once and thought it was the worsrt piece of acting in years. And Vanessa at the time could light up any screen. They're different jobs.

December 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

The Streep career is an anomaly, and unlikely to be repeated. Not even Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn ever dominated the proceedings as thoroughly as Ms. Meryl has, over such a length of time. While I have a great respect for her talent and durability, I sincerely hope that no one else is able to replicate her feat, which a definite downside. Think about it: she has first refusal on just about any great part (we're talking GREAT parts) for an actress over 50...and there aren't a lot to be had. This means that many of Streep's contemporaries have been relegated to the sidelines. Sissy Spacek, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton and Sigourney Weaver basically have to make due with the bit parts that come their way...Meryl's leavings, if you will. Glenn Close and Jessica Lange have been exiled to television. Debra Winger, Barbara Hershey and Kathleen Turner are kinda sorta still in the business, but just barely. There used to be room for all of these great ladies to do truly outstanding work. Now, it seems like there's room for just one. Jessica Chastain is great, and I hope she sticks around for a long, long time. I also hope that many of her contemporaries get the chance to shine well into their 50s and 60s!

December 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJosh R

I think Ms. Chastain is more Maggie Smith than Streep, you don't catch them acting as easily as you do Streep. Likely to have a long career as a working actress like Smith, Tandy and Plowright. Wish I would be around to see it. Look at Take Shelter for her best performance to date.

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

I don't understand why it is necessary to compare an up and coming actress like Jessica Chastain to Meryl Streep, Maggie Smith or anyone else for that matter. She has and will continue to pave her own way in the business.

March 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJamie Beckford

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