Jessica Chastain films It Chapter Two in cold blood
She talks about being submerged in 4,500 gallons of fake blood & working with director Andy Muschietti
Jessica Chastain has been friends with Argentinian director Andy Muschietti ever since she starred in his feature film debut, the 2013 supernatural horror Mama.
But little did the 42-year-old US actress know that the path they were going to embark on together after would lead to the sequel to 2017's It, the highest-grossing R-rated horror film of all time.
And that she would be tortured quite a bit along the way.
Opening here tomorrow, It Chapter Two sees Pennywise the killer clown (Bill Skarsgard) resurfacing from the sewers 27 years later and seeking revenge on the Losers Club. Those kids, now adults, reunite to face their fears and fight their nemesis once more.
Chastain plays the grown-up version of Beverly Marsh, the only female member of the Losers Club. James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Isaiah Mustafa and Andy Bean round up the cast.
One memorable scene features her being locked in a bathroom stall that fills with 4,500 gallons of fake blood made of methylcellulose and red dye.
She said at our interview at the Heritage Square Museum in Los Angeles: "When Andy was first talking to me about the scene, he was a bit worried because, of course, it is an uncomfortable one. He goes, 'Don't worry, it is going to fill up with blood and it is only going to go here.'
"And I say, 'I feel like if we are sensing that she is afraid of drowning, then that has to look like she is drowning in it.'
"He looks at me and goes, 'You would do that?' I say, 'Yes, of course, let's do it.'
"And then, all of a sudden, I was on set and it was so cold in there, they had to keep the blood cold because otherwise it would smell really bad and get rancid. So before every take, people would come up to me and pour this cold blood on me.
"It was really more physically demanding than I imagined. They were like, 'No, no, no, you are wearing it until the end of the movie.'"
On how Muschietti gave her the role played by then 15-year-old Sophia Lillis in It, Chastain said: "Andy sent me a side-by-side picture of us and went, 'What do you think?'
"I said, 'What are you talking about?', not knowing that he was winking here and there.
"And then when he finished the first movie, before I even saw it, he was like, 'I really want you to play Beverly in the second one', before we really even knew if there was going to be a second one.
"I was always going to say yes, but it is a nervous thing when it is your friend, because when friends ask you to do things, you want to work with them and help them achieve their artistic vision. But also, there is a lot of pressure when you show up to see the first screening. Within three minutes, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I love this film.' I was so happy he wanted me to be a part of it."
Chastain started preparing by studying Lillis' performance and reading Stephen King's 1986 novel of the same name.
She had not met Skarsgard prior to It Chapter Two and calls the 29-year-old Swedish actor "a very gentle person".
However, that softer side was not seen at their first meeting.
She recalled: "At the table read, he was sitting to my right. I get a bit shy at a table read because there is like a hundred people in one room, most of whom you have never met before, and I had this fear that everyone is judging and trying to figure out what to do with the character.
"In one of the very first scenes, Bill was reading Pennywise. We were all kind of playing it low and then he just, without warning, stalked in my face and went, 'Boo!' And I just went (screams).
"Everyone laughed and I am sure all the Warner Bros executives were like, 'Yes, we got it!' But he was good fun."
Chastain is currently working on 355, a women-led spy film she pitched, produces and stars in alongside Penelope Cruz, Lupita Nyong'o, Fan Bingbing and Diane Kruger.
She said: "The different thing about this is that the creatives own the film. It is like a co-op in some sense. We raised the money in Cannes, and we all have percentages of the film.
"It might be a nice way to see, if it is successful, how it can influence the industry, especially for women who in the past may have been deemed not a value because of their age."
The project was put on hold for a while because of the disappearance of Chinese actress Fan last year due to her troubles with the Chinese authorities for tax reasons.
"We are only halfway through," Chastain said. "I was shooting yesterday, and I ran in my costume to the car, changed my clothes in the car on my way to the airport and arrived here."
The writer is the chair of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.