Jessica Chastain calls Brad Pitt, her co-star in the new film "The Tree of Life," "phenomenal" and says she prepared for her role in "The Tree of Life" by watching old Lauren Bacall films.
"When I first met Brad, it was right before we did the courtship section of the movie," Chastain said in an interview provided by Fox Searchlight Pictures. "So, Brad and I were like, 'Hey, it's nice to meet you!' and then all of a sudden, we were on the grass, you know, kind of playing with each other's hair and he was incredibly nice and charming and smart and just a really great guy. And the next time we work together, we're jumping right into the marriage with the children."
The film opened in select U.S. theaters on Friday, May 27, and tells of three young brothers in the 1950s in the Midwest. Chastain plays the boys' tender mother while Pitt plays their sometimes harsh father and his character's oldest son, who is 11, witnesses the loss of innocence. Sean Penn portrays the boy when he is an adult, who tries to reconcile with his father.
Chastain was impressed with her co-star's dedication to the role.
"He was so brave and generous by not being 'Hey, I'm likable Brad' - he really went for the difficult, scary scenes, especially with the boys," she said. "It's really hard for someone to do because everyone wants to be liked but he was just 100 percent committed to the story that we needed to tell and he was so inventive with my scenes with him, we just didn't know what was going to happen."
"Every time we would go, we just really wouldn't know where we were going to be and working like that with another actor is such a gift," she added. "It's this ultimate freedom. And he is phenomenal, I think, in this film."
Pitt was equally impressed with Chastain, telling the Associated Press in a recent interview that we will be seeing a lot more from the talented actress.
"We're going to see great things from her. She's a great find," Pitt said. "She just walked into this thing, and she was throwing punches with me on par and dealing with the unwieldiness of going off-script and working with non-actors. Man, I really relied on her. It takes great talent to keep that focus, and there's real charm and beauty, and she's really bright, this woman. So I think she's capable of a lot of things that we've yet to see."
In preparing for the role, Chastain said that director Terrence Malick told her to watch old Lauren Bacall films.
"I also watched a lot of movies from the '30s and '40s - Terry asked me to," Chastain said. "I watched a lot of Lauren Bacall movies. He asked me to because there was a different way of talking."
"He said to me, and I find this to be true, I find myself doing this a lot, that the way we speak nowadays, we speak so fast because we're so afraid that somebody's going to cut us off, so we kind of talk and there's this rambling, but if you watch movies back from the 1930s, 1940s, there's this confidence and directness, and it's very slow - the way they speak," she said. "Which is actually the way that Terry speaks in real life."
"The Tree of Life" won the coveted Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, May 22. Chastain also starred in two other films that aired at Cannes, including "Take Shelter," which was awarded the Critics Week Prize.
The 30-year-old actress has five projects in development, including an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's Salome called "Wilde Salome," which stars Al Pacino. Chastain will also star in a movie project helmed by Terrence Malick that also stars Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem and Ben Affleck and is slated for a 2012 release.
Watch a trailer for "The Tree of Life" below.