Oskar (Thomas Horn) is convinced that his father (Tom Hanks), who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, has left a final message for him hidden somewhere in the city. Feeling disconnected from his grieving mother (Sandra Bullock) and driven by a relentlessly active mind that refuses to believe in things that can’t be observed, Oskar begins searching New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he found in his father’s closet. His journey through the five boroughs takes him beyond his own loss to a greater understanding of the observable world around him. Directed by Stephen Daldry (The Reader, The Hours), ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ opens in limited release December 25th, then expands nationwide January 20th in the US. It’s set for release Febuary 3rd in the UK. Look out for a more in-depth interview with Sandra Bullock and the rest of the cast closer to the films release date.

What was it about this story that got you interested?

Sandra Bullock: You watch this child struggle to find a meaning and an understanding, with logic, with science, the idea of, “There has to be an answer?” Which, as you get older, we learn that there’s not always a “Why?” Or a “Because” to a situation. Sometimes there’s just not an answer, and yes, it breaks your heart. Then to see this child want to have an understanding, or a gift at the other end of this key, once the key opens up the lock. What he finds is a gift, but not the gift that he expected. It was a story that I feel is relatable to a lot of people, all around the world. Dealing with grief.

Your character Linda Schell, she really struggles with her grief, at times it brings an ugliness out of her. Even though that is completely understandable in way, given the circumstances, was that difficult to portray?

Sandra Bullock: At first yes. I had to be OK with having her not being best mum at times, at first she seemed like she wasn’t being the mother she should be to this child who was struggling. So approaching it, I felt like it was cruel at some points, but once you step into those shoes and you see what she’s dealing with, it’s totally understandable. I think you have the backdrop of the event, and how it was received and how it’s being remembered, how you see this child grieving….all the people that lost loved ones, as the reminder of what this stories about. But then every individual deals with grief and pain in their own specific way, and I know we like to see it come out a certain way, a way that makes us feel more comfortable. But what I think is most interesting is that her grief is ugly, and in pain, and imperfect, it’s not what you would hope for, or expect. But it’s probably more real than most depictions of grief that we see on the big screen.

What was it like working opposite Tom Hanks?

Sandra Bullock: Everything you hear is true (laughs), all the good stuff! But the thing that I was most in awe of and most grateful for was the scene……there’s a scene where I get a phone call from Thomas Schell, who’s played by Tom Hanks. It’s a scene that was all off-camera for him, he doesn’t have any camera time. And I said, “Tom can call from the Hotel, wherever he wants to call,” I assumed that was what was going to happen. Then at the crack of dawn, there shows Tom Hanks, in the lobby of this office building. I thought, “What is he doing here?” So they say, “He wanted to be here for his off-camera, he wanted to be in a room close by.” You know, an actor of his calibre, and many actors do choose not to be there for their off-camera. But he showed up, sat in that room all day, adjusting his performance, giving something different each time. Once you do a scene five or more times, you know what’s coming, you know what to expect, that spontaneity and fresh thing can go. He made it different and fresh every take for thirteen hours. And that’s why he’s the actor he is, because he knows him being in that room, him changing it up every time, it helped my performance, or the way I listened completely.

I can imagine this role was emotionally taxing. How did you find working with Stephen Daldry considering that?

Sandra Bullock: He shows so much faith in his actors. I just didn’t understand how he knew his actors could do it, I thought what if one of us said, “It’s not gonna happen.” There were moments were I felt empty, it was extremely taxing emotionally at times, at times I felt that I had no more to give, I’d be like, “You’ve peeled me off the floor six or seven times,” and he’d go, “Oh no darling, you can do it. You’re fabulous, do it.” (Laughs) Working with him, seeing his work, you want to do well for him. He has so much faith in his actors. He’s so good.