Jessica Chastain Eyes <i>Iron Man 3</i>

Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain is in talks to star opposite Robert Downey Jr. in Marvel's Iron Man 3, the Shane Black-directed sequel loosely based on the 2005-2006 "Extremis" story arc, Deadline reports.

The role is described as "a sexy scientist every bit as smart as Tony Stark," suggesting that Chastain would play Maya Hansen, an old flame who in the storyline by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov tips off Iron Man to a stolen nanotechnological drug that grants users superhuman abilities.

According to Deadline, Chastain previously had been offered the part, but was unable to accept because of scheduling conflicts with other projects. But with those ironed out, the actress has re-entered negotiations -- even as Marvel lined up meetings with the likes of Diane Kruger, Gemma Arterton and Isla Fisher.

Chastain, who last year became the breakout star of such films as The Help, The Tree of Life, The Debt and Take Shelter, would join Downey and other returning franchise stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Scarlett Johansson, as well as potential newcomers Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce.

Co-written by Black and Drew Pearce (No Heroics), Iron Man 3 is set to begin filming next month in North Carolina before moving to China in late summer. It opens May 3, 2013. Iron Man grossed $585 million worldwide, surpassed in 2010 by the sequel's $624 million.

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