Set right smack at the private Paley Center in Midtown Manhattan and bearing the sponsorship of Yves Saint Laurent, the Cinema Society's screening of the upcoming southern bootlegging drama, Lawless, was an event much more fit for champagne than moonshine.
Still, despite the buttoned-up atmosphere, the two top-billed stars from the film able to make the event, Shia LaBeouf and Jessica Chastain, proved loose and candid in speaking with reporters.
In fitting with the folksy (if violent) spirit of the film, LaBeouf, who plays an outlaw bootleger, told The Hollywood Reporter that he was convinced to join the project when director John Hillcoat "took me down to Hamburger Hamlet and asked if I wanted to be in 'Goodfellas in the Woods."
The answer, obviously, was yes, and it seems as if the film provided the former child actor with a valuable growing experience.
"I'm a fallible 26-year old man," he told reporters, in response to a question originally posed by the New York Daily News. "Who here, who's human, hasn't been in a fight? It happens. It's not that abnormal. I realize I have a problem with drinking, that's not my shit at all, but it worked for me. I don't do it in life, but when I'm on set and it works for me, I'm gone."
It was LaBeouf's involvement that wound up leading The Dark Knight Rises star Tom Hardy to join the cast, playing LaBeouf's older, more contemplative but just as violent brother.
"Tom got into this movie because I wrote him a fan letter," LaBeouf revealed, noting the letter-writing technique was also how he found himself naked in a Sigur Ros video. "I said ‘Yo, Bronson’s f---ing crazy man, you’re incredible. Can I be in a movie you’re making?’ And he’s like ‘Well I don’t have anything right now, but I’ll send you some stuff I like.’ He sent me some scripts, there was nothing for me, but I sent him this and he was like, ‘Man, I’m in.’”
Hardy, though absent from the proceedings, stayed in the fore of conversation. While LaBeouf told reporters that he had a difficult time communicating with on-screen love interest Mia Wasikowska -- he scared her to the point that he had to communicate with her via the lyrics from songs on his iPod -- Chastain said that there was no such intimidation with Hardy, her love interest in the film.
"No no," she laughed during a conversation with THR. "My favorite thing is, I work actually with a lot of men that you would think at first impression would be kind of scary. Sam Worthington, Michael Shannon, Al Pacino, Sean Penn. What I love so much about these men is that they are very strong, and they have this almost aggressive vibe, but it’s because they have this intense vulnerability, that they have to be very strong to protect themselves. So it’s actually, once you get to know them, you realize they’re all kittens. At the end of the day, they’re like kittens."
When told that might be the first time Hardy has been called a kitten, she laughed, "I think he would actually, if you said that to him, he would go 'Yes I’m a kitten.' He would agree with me.”
Chastain also discussed her highly-anticipated film with Hurt Locker Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty, which tells the story of the long effort to kill terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Rumor had it that it was a difficult shoot, something she did not deny.
"Well I think with any movie when you’re telling a story like we’re telling, there’s an insane amount of pressure, because you want to honor the people that really were there, and you want to honor history," the Oscar-nominee said. "And you don’t want to tell the wrong story. So with that pressure, and then of course, we shot a lot of Chandigarh, India, which is near the border of Pakistan, and it was a long shoot, it was a lot of stress, but I will say it was one of the best scripts I’ve ever read, the part is phenomenal, and the company that I’m in that film, it’s wonderful. I haven’t seen the movie yet."
Acknowledging that it's been rather secretive, she joked, "I know the ending."
As for the political football that has been played with the film -- Congressional Republicans are accusing the Obama administration of leaking confidential information to Bigelow and her screenwriter, Mark Boal, in order to get a positive portrayal -- Chastain admitted to at least some interest in the ordeal.
"You know, I guess of course I paid some attention to it, but it didn’t really affect me at all," she offered. "My goal was just to do as much research as I could, and to tell an honest tale. So I didn’t want to show up unprepared. I did a lot of reading, talking to people and I played the character -- whatever the character is -- to the best of my knowledge."
Email: Jordan.Zakarin@THR.com; Twitter: @JordanZakarin