James McAvoy & Jessica Chastain on keeping secrets during ‘Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’

Jessica Chastain prepared for her role in “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” by keeping secrets from director Ned Benson. “I have to create [my character’s story] as real as possible in my head … maybe even write it out as a journal,” she tells us in the video chat below. “Most of the time, actually, a lot of it is secret; I create a lot of secrets for my character that even the director doesn’t know, things she wouldn’t tell anyone, but I think that’s how you make something feel real.”

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“Disappearance” is actually three films in one. It tells the story of a New York couple (Chastain and James McAvoy) whose happy marriage comes apart after a tragedy. Versions titled “Him” and “Her” approach the story from each character’s point of view; those two films premiered at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, while a combined version called “Them” debuted in 2014 at Cannes and opened in U.S. theaters on September 12. “Her/Him” unspooled as a double feature on October 10.

McAvoy was keeping his own secrets from Chastain and Benson. “I didn’t know there were two movies to begin with,” he confesses to us. “I turned up for the first days of rehearsals and they gave me … a really thick version of the script, and I just suddenly thought, ‘This is really weird!’ and then realized on the go in the rehearsal room on the day that we were going to be making two movies … It took me a couple of weeks to admit that to the director as well.”

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The multiple-movie approach was no secret to Chastain, who also produced the films, and she’s still adjusting to life after finally completing them. “I’ve been involved with this project for probably a little over seven years,: she says, “so it’s going to be a strange thing when we don’t get together all the time to talk about it or to film … because it’s been such a part of my life.”

Chastain currently ranks sixth in our Oscar odds for Best Actress (click here for our complete stats). She was previously nominated in that category for “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012) and before that earned a supporting bid for “The Help” (2011). Do you think she’ll win? Watch our complete interview with Chastain and McAvoy below, then use our drag-and-drop menu to make your predictions. Click here!

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