FIVE minutes in and we’re already discussing nipple tassel twirling. There’s a technique to it, Melissa George is explaining. “You can make them both go one way or one stop and the other go. I had to study.”

You should try it, she says. I’m not sure I have the equipment, Melissa. Nor the nipple tassels.

Melissa George is an Australian actor who lives in Paris, who once upon a time appeared in Home And Away and these days works alongside Sean Penn and Gabriel Byrne. You will have seen her in films such as Mulholland Drive or The Amityville Horror or Derailed, or maybe on TV in Friends or Grey’s Anatomy.

She is funny, earthy (see above), outspoken (see below) and lives in France, where she is a single mother of two boys. It’s Friday afternoon, and she got off the plane from Paris only a couple of hours ago and here we are in the Caledonian Hotel, Edinburgh, discussing the techniques of burlesque dancing.

The reason is her new film The Butterfly Tree, which is receiving its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival a few hours after we speak. It’s an Australian movie about grief and desire and illness and flowers, roller skating and, yes, nipple tassels.

“I’ve never seen a burlesque dancer with nipple tassels on roller skates and butterfly wings,” George points out. Watch The Butterfly Tree and you will see George tackling all of the above. “This is not easy.

I know I made it look easy, but it’s not easy.

I think that we nailed it.”

Making the film in Queensland, Australia, she says was one of the happiest experiences of her life. She travelled with her two sons, the youngest only a few months old.

“I was obviously still feeding my son,” she points out. “Not many mothers after giving birth get to play a burlesque dancer with barely nothing on. I love stuff like that when you’re personally stretched and professionally stretched at the same time.”

The film gives George a chance to channel her inner Blanche DuBois goes disco. She plays a former burlesque dancer turned florist who brings a little bit of sunshine into the life of a widower and his teenage son while hiding her own secrets.

It’s a movie about the male gaze made by a female director, Priscilla Cameron. George’s character Evelyn is a woman who has been looked at all her life. “There’s every reason for it in a way,” George points out. “Women are beautiful. They are shaped beautifully.”

Born in Perth, western Australia, in 1976, these days George’s “Strine” has the faintest hint of a French flavour in the speaking. She seems very at home in Paris. Last night, she tells me, she had dinner with the French film director Leos (Holy Motors) Carax. “We meet once a week at the same restaurant. We have the same meal and just talk about updates of the week. I adore him.

“Being in Paris opens you to all sorts of places and people.”

And yet, anyone with a passing interest in George will know that life in the French capital has not been easy of late. George has come through a bitter custody dispute over her two sons with her ex-partner Jean David, founder of AlloCine.

The couple now share custody, which is why George has to stay in Paris. What’s the shape of life in 2018, I ask her?

“The shape of life doesn’t have a shape. There’s no shape. What’s the shape for me?

I wake up in the morning, put my feet on the floor, take a deep breath, look at my phone. Any fires to put out? No? Ooh, it’s going to be a good morning. Go for lunch, look at the phone again. Any fires to put out? Yes. Not such a good afternoon. It’s like that.”

But George, who was previously married to the Chilean film director Claudio Dabed, says she is beginning to find her feet again. “That’s a great feeling.

“And, you know, if you want to treat yourself to life you go to Paris anyway, don’t you? I’m reminding myself of that every day.”

Work is looking up, too. She recently shot a new TV series, The First, in New Orleans with Sean Penn and she’s still buzzing about it. “I got to work with my idol and every day he gave me everything he had, absolutely everything he had.”

It was on the set of The First, too, that she first started noticing the impact of the #MeToo movement. “You’re not so sexualised any more on set,” she says. “A lot of the male crew are a lot politer. Everything is kind of shifting and it’s also making women have a lot more respect for themselves too. Time’s for us now. We have to make the most of it and we have to step it up a little bit too.”

We have to talk about Harvey Weinstein. The Hollywood producer who last month pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and criminal sex act charges in New York. Leading actresses, including Romola Garai and Kate Beckinsale, have accused Weinstein of arranging business meetings in hotels with them and turning up to find him dressed only in a bathrobe.

George made three films with Weinstein, including The Amityville Horror remake and Derailed. What she remembers is just how important he once was.

“When I had meetings with Harvey Weinstein it was like ‘Oh my God if I don’t impress Harvey in this breakfast meeting I’m not going to get the movie.’ That’s how we used to think. Now it’s ‘If I’m not a great actress and a respectable woman and human being I’m not going to get the role’.

“But I remember being at the Peninsula [hotel] shaking because I was about to meet Harvey Weinstein.

“I was an Australian tough girl and have seen Harvey so many times. He’s always been so respectful, always a gentleman always very kind because I give off the energy to him that I’m not going to accept anything otherwise.”

That said, after one meeting she believes she was demoted from the lead female role in Derailed to that of the wife, with Jennifer Aniston drafted in to take the role she had originally.

Still, she says, “I’ve never had anything but pleasant experiences with that man. But I know why. It’s because I showed him that’s the way it’s going to be.

“It’s no excuse for what he’s done and it’s no excuse for the way he manipulated certain women into doing certain things but in my case ... I just remember saying: ‘you look ridiculous with what you’re wearing.’ Suddenly the penny drops. Hold on, Melissa, sorry, I say, what he was wearing?

“Well, we know what he wears.”

A bathrobe? “Yes, so I remember saying: ‘You look ridiculous and I hope I leave the meeting with the lead in Amityville Horror’.”

This is Melissa George the tough Australian girl speaking. I am beginning to see how tough.

“I had nothing but very good experiences with Harvey,” she repeats. “But I know it’s got a lot to do with how I handled the situation. I’m not a #MeToo.”

The Butterfly Tree is in cinemas from Friday.