One is a former child actor who was nominated for an Oscar at age 14 for Taxi Driver; the other was nominated at 10 for Little Miss Sunshine. But when Jodie Foster, 45, and Abigail Breslin, 11, teamed up for the adventure film Nim’s Island (opening April 4)—about a neurotic author who travels halfway around the world to help a little girl find her missing father—they learned they had even more in common. The duo sat down with PEOPLE’s Mary Green to chat about phobias, what they can’t live without while on location and, of course, growing up in Hollywood.
During filming, did you two compare notes about being child stars?
FOSTER: Everybody asks us that because it’s odd for everybody. People remember me when I was your age and assume that must be a topic of conversation. I don’t think we ever mentioned it.
BRESLIN: We talked about movies, food and TV. And the Dog Whisperer! My dog needs a dog whisperer.
Had you seen any of the other’s films before shooting began?
BRESLIN: I saw Flightplan.
FOSTER: Which I was a little shocked that you’d seen! I saw Little Miss Sunshine, of course.
Abigail, what did you learn working with Jodie?
BRESLIN: Just watching, I learned.
FOSTER: I don’t think Abby needs much mentoring. She’s got a great head on her shoulders. It would be a big mistake if she were thinking about her career. The tough time is adolescence. I never want to be 15 again—that was rotten. I wouldn’t want to go back there and be in the public eye.
What things did you find you have in common?
FOSTER: Abby’s from New York, and I have a place in New York, so we’re both city kids. I was raised by my mom, and she’s a little bit afraid of everything that’s camping or insects. Our vacations were always about going to other cities and seeing movies or eating Chinese food. Abby’s a Manhattan girl, and I assume one day she’ll be wearing all black. So this movie was like summer camp for us.
Jodie, you went to Yale. Abigail, do you want to go to college?
BRESLIN: Yeah, I don’t want to have a career until after college. I either want to do this or be a veterinarian.
FOSTER: College is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I never tell my kids [sons Charles, 9, and Kit, 6], “You need an education.” I always say, “Don’t miss out, because you’ll never have more fun.”
When you film on location, like shooting Nim’s in Australia, what things do you always bring along?
BRESLIN: I bring a stuffed animal. I like velvet—the rougher kind, not the softer kind—and I’ll wrap it around the arm of a stuffed animal.
FOSTER: I realized it made me crazy not to be able to cook. So I bring along my favorite omelet pan.
Jodie, do you cook a lot for the kids?
FOSTER: I do. They’re not as adventurous as they could be, but they’re starting to appreciate certain things. I like bringing home some weird piece of fruit they’ve never seen before and saying, “Okay, it’s taste night.” Invariably they always hate it, but I make ’em taste it anyway. They like the lamb chops with the mint jelly and rice. That’s their favorite meal.
One theme in the film is overcoming fear, so what are your biggest fears?
BRESLIN: I’m really afraid of heights, but getting on the zip line [a pulley suspended below a cable; gravity pulls riders downhill] like 10 times [for several scenes in Nim’s], I’m not as afraid as I was.
FOSTER: I don’t like snakes. Of course, Abigail didn’t tell me there were death adder snakes on Hinchinbrook Island [where Nim’s was shot] until like three days ago.
BRESLIN: It’s probably good you didn’t know.
FOSTER: I would have been running in the other direction! When I was a kid, my brothers and sisters used to [tease] me and go, “There are snakes in your bed!” I’m still traumatized.