Want to melt Jessica Chastain? Here's the secret.
On screen, Jessica Chastain projects acute intensity, or icy drive, or some combination thereof, which earned her back-to-back Oscar nominations for "The Help" and "Zero Dark Thirty."
In person, she's a hugger, a back-rubber, a giddy lover of baby animals, with whom she's currently shooting "The Zookeeper's Wife."
"It's heaven. Baby cubs. Baby lion cubs, that love me. They fall asleep on my face. They come over and kiss me," says Chastain. "I love them so much. I lay there for an hour."
In other words, the real Chastain is the antithesis of the creepy lady of the manor she plays in "Crimson Peak," out now. Chastain is Lucille Sharpe, the mysterious, odd sister of an impoverished nobleman (Tom Hiddleston) who marries a wealthy American orphan (Mia Wasikowska) and brings her to the family's crumbling British estate. Weird things happen. And it led to countless questions, from countless reporters, about whether Chastain, in real life, believes in ghosts. She made headlines by answering in the affirmative.
"Yeah but doesn't everyone? Why not believe in ghosts? Is it a controversial thing to do," says Chastain.
She's used to repetitive questions. But. But. Come on, people, get creative.
"The worst was for 'The Martian.' Would you like to go to space one day? I just answered that for four months for 'Interstellar!'" says Chastain.
Forging her sibling bond with Hiddleston was the easiest part of shooting "Peak."
"We knew each other before," says Chastain. "We were both Shakespeare nerds."
But the project itself proved to be more arduous.
"It's a lot of sadness," says Chastain. "I had a tough time on this one. I want to do something with you where our characters have fun together. Playing a character, it's difficult because in every scene I'm with him, I'm feeling what Lucille is feeling. We were never on the same page. Our characters aren't on the same team."
At heart, Chastain is a big-time film geek, in addition to her love of theater. She laughingly orders that this writer take a selfie with Hiddleston, who's most famous for playing bad brother Loki in the "Thor" films, to show her son, a big Marvel buff. The two bonded during the shoot.
"I really had a rough time and Tom did help a lot. I sat down and talked to you about it. I was depressed. It was a hard shoot and a hard character. I thought these were the fun characters to play and Tom said, 'It's only fun if the character is having fun.' Which is why I loved doing 'The Help' and I loved doing 'Tree of Life.' Lucille doesn't have a fun day ever," says Chastain.
With her red hair, her flawless features and those insane cheekbones, Chastain doesn't go incognito much. She's fine with fans, making sure to stop and sign autographs after departing, as she had earlier promised.
"I get a lot of, 'How you doing? I know you. Are you an actress?' I get that a lot. But when someone does recognize me, it's for 'Interstellar' and 'The Martian' because I look like myself. And the one I get the most is 'The Help.' That's the most fun I've ever had," says Chastain.