Dave Karger
August 12, 2011 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It’s been almost three years since you’ve been on a movie screen. Was that by design?
I had a lot of exposure around The Reader and Revolutionary Road. It was my choice to lie low after that, definitely. I mean, I was sick of the sight of myself after that awards season, so I can’t imagine what everybody else must have been feeling. There was a hell of a lot of Kate Winslet going on.

Contagion is such a squirm-inducing movie. Were people germaphobic during filming?
It turned us all into cross-contamination freaks, for sure. There was a huge bowl of jelly beans on the set. And I love jelly beans. Anything gummy, bring it on. So I went right for the bowl and Steven [Soderbergh] said, ”Do you have any idea how many crew members I have seen put their hand in that bowl in the last few weeks?”

Did you get to interact much with the rest of the incredible cast?
We barely overlapped with each other. I had a day and a half with Laurence Fishburne, I had a day with Matt Damon, and Gwyneth [Paltrow] and I literally rubbed shoulders and talked about children in the makeup trailer one lunchtime, and that was kind of it.

Later this fall you appear in Roman Polanski’s Carnage. Were you nervous to work with him?
I didn’t find him remotely scary or intimidating. He’s very blunt. He would come up to me and say, ”You know the way you’re saying that line isn’t working.” And I would say, ”I know. There are two ways to say it. And I’ve tried them both.” And he’d say, ”Yeah, and it’s still s—.” I would laugh in his face and say, ”That’s not helpful, Roman!” But that’s okay. I love that honesty. And he really was right.

If you win the Emmy next month for Mildred Pierce, you’ll be even closer to an EGOT. So how are you going to get a Grammy?
Oh, no, I’ve got one, darling. It’s the Tony I haven’t got, love.

I should have known that!
No, there’s absolutely no reason you should have known. Isn’t that the most insane thing that anyone’s ever told you, that Kate Winslet’s got a Grammy? I got it for spoken word — I read a story [on 1999’s Listen to the Storyteller]. But how the hell am I supposed to get a Tony? God, that means I’m going to have to go on stage…and be really good!

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