The Surprisingly Superstitious Jessica Chastain on Her Biggest Fears, and Why Failure Isn't One of Them

"I always pick movies if there's something really scary to do because that's my excuse to do it."

Photo by WireImage.


Photo by WireImage.

While celebrity style bloggers can't seem to get enough of the dresses Jessica Chastain is wearing on the red carpets at Cannes right now, where she and co-star James McAvoy are feting the debut of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, the actress is also busy denying rumors about being offered the lead in the next season of HBO's True Detective. Our hopes there might be dashed, but as we learned in her recent interview with The Talks, it's not for fear of tackling darker roles.

Ms. Chastain, do you fear failure?

I'm trying to not play it safe. I learn more when I fail than when I succeed, so if I push myself to do something that's really difficult, I could fail and I'll learn a lot. I'll be awful, but I'll still learn a lot from it. But if I don't fail, then I'll be in a great movie. I hope to be the kind of actor that isn't always great.

Most actors probably think differently.

It's a weird thing to say that out loud, but otherwise you're not really learning something. I'll be in a bad film, or I will be the one that is horrible in a film, but I think it will be good for me to do that. I am where I am because I chose projects that were risky, because it wasn't the obvious choice. My big fear is being typecast. I love playing different accents, different women, different colored hair . . . I want to be able to do it all!

That seems to be working out quite well for you, isn't it?

But I don't want to get too excited because it means its not going to happen. I'm really superstitious.

In what ways?

If someone says something really positive I'm like, "Don't say it!" If they say, "I think this movie's going to do really well." I'm like, "Don't say it! Don't say it! Don't say it!" I also have these things that I do, like I fly a lot, but I won't get on a plane without touching the outside. I have to touch the outside of the plane and put both my feet on the lip of the door of the plane at the same time. If I'm carrying a coffee and a bag, I will actually set them down because I can't get on without doing that.

What happens if you don't?

We'll crash, I don't know!

Would you ever jump out of a plane?

Well here's the funny thing: in real life I wouldn't do it, but if I read a script and the character jumps out of a plane I would do it. I always pick movies if there's something really scary to do because that's my excuse to do it.

Some actors insist on doing all of their own stunts. In Raider of the Lost Ark, for example, Harrison Ford had himself dragged behind a truck.

The scariest thing I've done was in The Tree of Life. There was a scene underwater at Barton Springs. I have a fear of drowning, as I'm sure everybody does, and I'm not a great swimmer. I was wearing this huge dress and the water is like 5 or 6 degrees and they wanted me to hold my breath and go all the way down. I couldn't do it and I was getting cold, so they had these guys who took me all the way down to the bottom of the spring, it's really deep, and put sandbags on my feet so I wouldn't float up.

That doesn't sound much better than getting pulled behind a truck . . .

Yeah, really scary. And what they would do is I would take one breath and then I would open my eyes and I'm at the very bottom moving around doing my thing and all of a sudden I had to touch my lips like, "I need air, I need air!" And they would give me air.

Read more of The Talks with Jessica Chastain.

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More from The Talks:

Christian Bale: "I Like Being Responsible For Myself"

Helen Mirren: "I Tend To Trust Women More"

Mila Kunis: "They Build You Up Just To Knock You Down"

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