Degrees of separation: what connects Rebecca Hall to Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain?

Rebecca Hall
The British actor turned to directing and writing with her debut film, an elegant, intense adaptation of Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing. With strong reviews, Rebecca Hall’s film, shot in a beautiful monochrome, has had a limited cinema release and appeared on Netflix .

Rebecca Hall at a screening of Passing during the Mill Valley film festival in California.
Rebecca Hall at a screening of Passing in California. Photograph: Getty Images

Hall in the family
Her family can’t help but loom large: father Peter was the celebrated theatre maestro; her Detroit-born mother is the opera singer Maria Ewing. Ewing gained widespread acclaim in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Salome. The art nouveau-style 1986 production, directed by Peter – later screened on Channel 4 – culminated in a notorious nude performance of the Dance of the Seven Veils.

Maria Ewing in Salome.
Hall’s mother, Maria Ewing, in Salome … Photograph: Getty Images

A stage hoo-ha
In opera and beyond, there have been many interpretations of Oscar Wilde’s salacious 1891 play based on an ancient tale. Fast forward to shouty-era Al Pacino and you’ll even find that he directed 2011’s Wilde Salomé, a docudrama about making stage and screen adaptations of the work (following his Looking for Richard in 1996).

Al Pacino at the premiere of Wilde Salomé in Venice, 2011.
… made into a 2011 film directed by Al Pacino. Photograph: Getty Images

Jessica Chastain
Long before her breakout roles, Jessica Chastain was Salome to Pacino’s King Herod in a 2006 stage production that was the basis for the film. In this early part of her career, Chastain also had some small TV roles in ER, a Law & Order spin-off and teen mystery series Veronica Mars.

Jessica Chastain in Venice, 2011.
Jessica Chastain played Salome to Pacino’s King Herod on stage in 2006, and appeared in Veronica Mars … Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Passing to Thompson
Numerous up-and-coming actors featured on Veronica Mars in the original three-year run from 2004: Tessa Thompson appeared in the second season, before leaping into the Marvel universe and much else. In her latest, she plays opposite Ethiopian-Irish actor Ruth Negga in none other than Passing, Rebecca Hall’s aforementioned deft exploration of race, class and sexuality.

Tessa Thompson at a screening of Passing in West Hollywood in October.
… as did Tessa Thompson, who also stars in Passing. Photograph: Getty Images

Pairing notes

Watch Thompson can be found in another exploration of race and class, 2018’s Sorry to Bother You.

Drink In the original Passing novel, an early scene is set in the Drayton Hotel in Chicago, which is said to have been modelled on the city’s Drake hotel where afternoon tea remains a staple.