You were up for an Oscar alongside your co-star Octavia Spencer for The Help, was that a bit awkward?
It would have been awkward if I was set on winning but I wasn’t. A year ago it was ‘Jessica Chastain who?’ and now it’s ‘Oscar-nominated Jessica Chastain’. I can’t help but smile saying that.
You walked down the red carpet for the Cannes premiere of The Tree of Life holding Brad Pitt and Sean Penn’s hands, whose idea was that?
In the car on the way to the red carpet I was so nervous, I was shaking and crying. When I got there and saw Sean and Brad, who’d done it a million times, they told me to grab their hands. They are class-act gentlemen.
Did you know the film would be divisive when you were making it?
I wasn’t surprised that there were mixed feelings about it but for me that’s a good sign. When you get those extreme reactions, you know it’s making an impact.
Have you managed to fit in any theatre when you’ve been in London?
I saw Ben Whishaw in a play called Cock at the Royal Court a couple of years ago. When I got home people would ask me, ‘What did you see in London?’ and I would have to say, ‘I saw Cock.’ It made me blush every time.
Is it true that you play the ukulele?
I’m scared that I’ll be on a talk show and David Letterman is going to whip out a ukulele and make me play, so I’m going to put it out there: I’m not that good.
Have you brought it to London?
Yes, it’s in my room. I nearly got into trouble at Claridge’s the other night; I was jet-lagged so at 4am I pulled out my ukulele and started strumming. Suddenly, there was a loud banging on my door. I was too scared to open it, so I called reception to assure them that I had stopped.
What do you miss when you’re travelling?
I miss my dog, a mutt called Chaplin. I live in Venice Beach in LA so when I’m at home I wake up, he looks at me, I get a cup of tea and we go for a walk by the ocean. It’s my favourite thing to do.
Do you surf?
No. I’m really afraid of the ocean. I love to look at it and I love to be on boats but I never really learnt how to swim.
* The Help is available to own on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday. Take Shelter is released on Blu-ray/DVD on 19 March