Jessica Chastain talks ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and the unexpected emotion of ‘Interstellar’

CANNES – Ned Benson's “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” seems to have been well-received in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival after debuting in two parts in Toronto last year. With that reception has come a lot of favorable ink for actress Jessica Chastain. Perhaps it's for those reasons and more (like, um, relaxing in the south of France) that the actress was as cheerful as ever when Greg Ellwood sat down with her to discuss her performance in the film earlier this week.

While the two-film experiment (telling the story from both her character and James McAvoy's separate perspectives) has been combined for a single experience, the “Him” and “Her” versions will still get modest releases. That's a bonus, as far as Chastain is concerned.

“I just see it as it's like Olivier Assayas has the film 'Carlos,' and there's the five-hour version, which I've seen many times and I love, and then there's the two-hour version, which is also good,” she says in the video interview above. “But you get to choose what you see.”

About finding her way into the eponymous Eleanor's state of mind, Chastain says she has “always found whenever anyone is struggling with sadness, they're struggling to get out of it. So there is momentum to try to pull yourself up. They don't just sit in it. There's a desire to be something else. And with Eleanor, she feels she can't go through it, so her decision is to try to disappear, to erase her history, disappear herself, cut off her hair, black makeup on her eyes, put a 'mask' on, because she doesn't want to look at her face and be reminded of Eleanor Rigby. I find that a very active thing to play.”

And of course, with the new “Interstellar” trailer landing this week, we couldn't pass up a chance to ask her what to expect of Christopher Nolan's film. She immediately perks up, singing like there were many secrets still to be revealed.

“It was amazing to work with Christopher Nolan,” she says. “I don't think he's capable of making a bad film. He's so smart, and I think that's what we can expect. I think the one thing people will be surprised about – yes, it's science-fiction, but it's very emotional.”

And it's not just those two films lying in wait for Chastain this year. She has a bumper 2014 in store, to say the least, including collaborations with Liv Ullman (“Miss Julie”) and J.C. Chandor (“A Most Violent Year”). That's a serious workload, but of course, we're no stranger to this as she came out of the gate swinging in 2011 with a number of performances that had been waiting to see the light of day, from “Take Shelter” to “The Tree of Life” to “The Help.” Oh, and there's still Andrew Dominik's “Blonde” on the horizon, which will find her in the shoes of icon Marilyn Monroe.

She shows no signs of slowing down, folks. Lucky us.

Check out our video interview with Chastain at the top of this post, and stay tuned to HitFix throughout the week for more from the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.