2011 ‘It Girl’ Jessica Chastain Salutes the Brits: ‘They’re Just So Civilized’

Jessica Chastain (left) with Helen Mirren at 'The Debt' premiere in August. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)

Jessica Chastain — who co-stars in the apocalyptic fable Take Shelter — is a big, big fan of the British.

A year ago, Chastain was a virtual unknown. By the time 2011 is over, U.S. audiences will have been able to see her in seven films.

The actress made a big impact in May at the Cannes Film Festival in Terrence Malick‘s film The Tree of Life, in which she starred opposite Brad Pitt.

But she’s also worked with several British acting heavyweights including Dame Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave, Ralph Fiennes, and Gary Oldman.

On the Brits she says: “You’re just so civilized. A lot of my British friends and other actors are really intelligent, really thoughtful, incredibly nice. There’s no rudeness. There’s so much love and care and politeness, but also they have a wicked sense of humor, like they’re mad funny.”

Apart from sheer talent, nobody can quite pinpoint the key to Chastain’s success. Some view her as an actress who conveys old-time Hollywood glamour.

It was never the intention that so many of her films would be released in 2011. As she explains: “For four years, I’ve been making eleven films, and everyone would joke that there was a Chastain curse because for some reason my movies wouldn’t come out. It would get stalled or go to this festival and then the filmmaker would pull it because it wouldn’t be ready yet. There were many stops and starts in my career. I’ll tell you what this year is the exact opposite of what that curse was, because it really is now everything coming out at once. It’s like baptism by fire for me.”

She seems a little dazzled by all the compliments brought on by her rising profile: “It’s so strange. I saw Geoffrey Rush, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, hello!’ I had been wanting to meet him, and then he said, ‘Oh, you know, I know who you are. You have eight movies coming out.’ And then we were talking and then Charlotte Rampling was there, and I said to her, ‘Oh, I’m such a fan of your work,’ and she said, ‘And I, yours.’ She said that she had seen my work as well!”

Jessica Chastain is definitely being seen as Hollywood’s big new discovery: the only possible peril is that all the exposure may provoke a backlash, but there’s no sign of that yet.