How Al Pacino Gave Jessica Chastain Her First Big-Screen Break

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Jessica Chastain Al Pacino Salome
Jessica Chastain Al Pacino Salome

The past decade has been good to Jessica Chastain. Her celebrated acting career has encompassed more than 20 films and two Oscar nominations. However, when the young actress first caught the eye of Al Pacino, she was just struggling off-Broadway journeyman.

That moment, however, changed everything. And the film that came out of Pacino’s discovery is, eight years later, finally making its way to the screen.

Salomé is the first film I ever shot, and it’s finally coming out,” the 37-year-old actress said in a recent interview with The Daily Beast. The film which co-stars Al Pacino (who also wrote and directed) is an adaptation of a stage production, for which the star cast the then unknown actress, after a friend of his caught her performance in a low-profile off-Broadway play.

“I was actually in Australia and I got a call from my agent saying, ‘We have a call for you to audition for the lead in Salomé opposite Al Pacino.’ I thought, ‘How did this happen?’ because I wasn’t getting great auditions, and they said, ‘He requested you,’” Chastain recalled.

"It was one of the great moments of my life; it completely changed my career,” she continued. “As I was auditioning, I could hear out in the audience, ‘Oh, wow… what am I seeing?’ I could hear [Pacino] loving whatever I was doing, which made me even more confident.”

Pacino kept her on for the film version and helped create the buzz around the budding star. In 2012, he even compared her to Meryl Streep. “She reminds me [of her], she can go that far into character,” the 74-year-old actor said.

Lest we forget, before Pacino, there was Robin Williams — who indirectly gave Chastain another important early career break by providing her scholarship to Julliard. “Robin Williams changed my life,” Chastain wrote on her Facebook page in remembrance of the late performer.

Salomé (finally) opens in London on Sept. 21.

Photo credit: Omniverse Vision