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The Conversation: Abigail Breslin on working with Meryl Streep, dysfunctional families, and the perils of forgetting your house keys


First up, your new film August...

Can you hold on one second? I've just got home and I don't have my keys so I need to tell my dad that I'm locked out... OK, I'm in.

OK... So how was it working with Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep in August: Osage County?

It was pretty intimidating, very nerve-racking at first. They're like people that you've looked up to your whole life and then you have to, like, sit around a table and act with them. But once I'd met everybody and realised that they were so nice and really welcoming and everything, it was much easier. They were really good to me.

Did they give you tips on your career and acting? Did Meryl take you under her wing?

They didn't really say anything in particular. It was more seeing how they were on set and watching them act that was a big lesson. I felt like I was at acting school for three months because I learnt so much just from watching them.

Benedict Cumberbatch is in the film too – are you a fan of Sherlock? Or any other British TV?

I hadn't seen 'Sherlock' unfortunately. It was a lot of fun working with him, he's such a super-sweet guy and he's so talented. I haven't watched much other British TV, although my brother likes The Office.

You came to public attention with Little Miss Sunshine. Do you think there are any families out there that are actually as dysfunctional as the one in the film?

I think that every family has some level of dysfunction. That was the extreme end but I think that every family goes through challenging times. Dysfunction is normal!

At such a young age, did you have a sense of the themes and emotions you were portraying?

I'm not going to lie and say I knew a ton about the emotional complexities of the role at nine years old. But I did know what would make me feel sad and make me feel angry and what would make me happy. I was young and I was playing a young girl who didn't really understand the emotional complexities of situations either, so it kind of worked.

How did you know back then that acting was the right path for you?

My brother started acting before I did then I just kind of fell into it. I went to my first audition when I was five and I got it and ever since then I've really loved it. I just knew immediately that I wanted to keep doing it.

You're one of the youngest actors to ever be nominated for an Academy Award. A co-star at the time, Alan Arkin, said he didn't think it was in your best interest to win because you needed to have a childhood. Do you feel you had that balance right growing up?

Yeah, I definitely did. I don't think I missed out on anything in normal life; I've always felt like I've had a really good childhood and adolescence and my life is pretty normal when I'm not filming. I'm just at home hanging out with my friends. Even when I'm working I try to bring my friends with me.

Yes, I bet Julia Roberts never gets locked out.

Ha, right!

Did you get in OK?

Yes, I'm in my apartment now!