Interviste a Kate Winslet:
The Hollywood Repoter (Agosto 2020)
Newsweek (Ottobre 2016)
Glamour (Marzo 2011)
V Magazine (Settembre 2011)
Grazia (Settembre 2011)
Marie Claire (Aprile 2009)
Vanity Fair USA (Dicembre 2008)
Telegraph (Dicembre 2008)
Parade (Maggio 2006)
KATE WINSLET SI SENTE A CASA
BY TATIANA SIEGEL
Il 13 marzo, il giusto in cui gli Stati Uniti sono diventati quasi irriconoscibili, Kate Winslet era a Philadelphia, sul set della mini-serie HBO “Mare of Easttown“. Rimanevano solo 21 dei 116 giorni di riprese quando la produzione ha chiuso, e lei sperava di poter prendere un aereo per tornare nella campagna londinese, dove è rimasta al riparo dal Covid negli ultimi 5 mesi.
“Credo sia l’elemento sconosciuto di questo virus – semplicemente non sappiamo come possa influenzare un dato individuo – che lo rende così terrificante. Sono una persona molto schietta e pratica, e se devo rispondere a un’emergenza vado in quella zona”. Per l’appunto l’attrice una volta ha incontrato epidemiologi del CDC durante le ricerche per il suo ruolo nel film Contagion, inquietantemente premonitore, e questo lo ha resa la più preparata sul set per l’arrivo del virus.
“Le persone pensavano che fossi pazza perché andavo in giro per Philadelphia indossando mascherine da settimane, facevo la spesa e pulivo tutto con alcool isopropilico e indossavo guanti” racconta del periodo dove arrivavano le prime notizie sul virus da Wuhan e l’Europa. “Tutto d’un tratto è arrivato il 13 marzo e le persone dicevano ‘Cavolo, dove prendo una di quelle mascherine?”
La sua prudenza si è dimostrata predittiva. Racconta due due amici vicini hanno contratto il Covid-19.
“Uno era a Los Angeles ed è stato molto fortunato da rientrare in una sperimentazione di plasma ed è stato molto, molto meglio nel giro di 72 ore dal trattamento. E un’insegnante di dizione che vive a Londra lo ha avuto, è stato in ospedale per 11 settimane, è fuori ed ha fatto ogni test ai polmoni, test di pressione del sangue e non ha più niente ma non riesce a stare meglio, gli manca il respiro, è letargico e ancora non si sente bene.
In questa sera d’agosto, Winslet sembra una donna molto pragmatica. Indossa una maglietta bianca, un golf marrone sulle spalle e beve una tazza di breakfast the anche se l’ora di cena è passata da tempo. Il wi-fi non è stabile a casa sua, nel Sussex, quindi è seduta nel giardino di un vicino che è “nella bolla”, riecheggiando il nuovo modo di dire del lockdown dove le persone hanno un gruppo familiare e di amici affiatato e compatto con il quale socializzare. Se tutto va come previsto, ritornerà in Pennsylvania e al set di “Mare of Easttown” a settembre. C’è un grado di trepidazione nell’aria, non a causa del virus.
“Ora che devo tornare a lavoro mi dico, ‘Oh cavolo, ho scordato come si recita’. Torneremo a lavoro seguendo dei protocolli straordinari, il che è grandioso, ma quando sei un attore in un film o in una serie-tv, la distanza sociale ovviamente a volte non è possibile, a seconda delle scene.”
Prendiamo ad esempio l’ultimo film di Winslet, Ammonite, che sarà presentato in anteprima mondiale l’11 Settembre al Toronto Film Festival. La distanza sarebbe stata impossibile considerando le scene d’amore che condivide con la co-star Saoirse Ronan, scene così intime da far sembrare l’amore lesbico del film del 2015 Carol, candidato ai premi con Cate Blanchett e Rooney Mara, timido. Ambientato nell’Inghilterra del 1840, racconta dell’amore proibito tra la ricercatrice di fossili Mary Anning (Winslet), realmente esistita, e una timida donna sposata (Ronan).
“Io e Saoirse abbiamo coreografato le scene insieme”, spiega Winslet delle scene più esplicite. “Non è come mangiare un panino. Ma io e Saoirse ci sentivamo al sicuro. Francis naturalmente era molto nervoso. E gli ho detto ‘Senti, lascia fare a noi. E lo abbiamo fatto. Iniziamo da qui. Faremo così per i baci, i senim vai giù qui, poi fai questo, poi risali qui. Abbiamo contrassegnato ogni parte della scena in modo da essere ancorate in qualcosa che fosse supportato dalla narrazione. Non mi sono mai sentita così orgogliosa come delle scene d’amore di Ammonite. E di gran lunga, sono le scene in cui mi sono sentita meno consapevole di me stessa.”
Ronan, che definisce Winslert organizzata in modo soprannaturale, dice che “le sue interpretazioni sono incredibilmente umane.” Le due si conoscevano solo causalmente prima di Ammonite. “Ovviamente, è incredibilmente esperta, ma è anche una persona con la quale puoi sempre identificarti, e questo dice molto su tipo di persona che è. E’ nelle sue ossa.” dice Ronan.
Del film si è incominciato a parlare fin dalla primavera, quando è stato selezionato per l’anteprima mondiale a Cannes (che poi non si è tenuto a causa del Covid-19). Ad oggi, solo i programmatori dei festival hanno visto Ammonite, che esordirà in una stagione dei premi surreale all’anteprima di Toronto (a causa delle restrizioni, parteciperanno solo i locali, quindi Winslet sarà presente tramite videoconferenza alla premiere e quando accetterà il prestigioso Tribute Actor Award).
“Posso stare a piedi nudi e non devo mettermi un vestito. Quindi è favoloso. Posso avere il mio bicchiere di vino giusto al bordo dell’inquadratura, così”, dice ridendo e spostando di qualche centimetro la sua tazza di the.
Le aspettative sono molto alte su Ammonite, è il candidato principale di Neon, un anno dopo aver sconvolto la competizione dei grandi budget vincendo il miglior film agli Oscar con Parasite.
“E’ chiaramente il nostro film di punta questo autunno e abbiamo sempre voluto partecipare alla stagione dei premi con film valido in multiple categorie.” Dice il CEo di Neon, Tom Quinn. “Kate sta scoprendo nnuovi livelli su cosa può fare come attrice e in questo ruolo ci ha tolto il respiro”.
E’ un’asticella molto alta considerando che Winslet potrebbe essere l’attrice quarantenne più decorata, famosa per lavorare mentre altri lavorano per il loro brand. Evita la stampa e i circuiti della stagione dei premi, feste e anteprime di test (“Non faccio campagne” dice Winslet). Oltre al Premio Oscar per The Reader, ha ricevuto altre 6 nomination (per Ragione e Sentimento, Titanic, Iris, Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind, Little Children, Steve Jobs) e anche un Emmy (per Mildred Pierce). Ah sì, ha vinto anche un Grammy, per l’audiolibro Listen to the storyteller. Anche se Winslet sembra sul punto di un’ottava nomination per Ammonite, la madre di 3 bambini non la prende troppo sul serio.
“Era la sesta volta in cui avrei potuto perdere, giusto?” dice della sua vittoria per The Reader nel 2009. “Ce l’ho a casa. E’ favoloso. I bambini si divertono. E’ la materia dei sogni. E quel piccolo sogno è diventato realtà per me quella notte, e poi semplicemente vai avanti. Torni a lavorare duramente. Alla fine è solo un cavolo di Oscar.”
KATE WINSLET: THE NEWSWEEK INTERVIEW
Kate Winslet discusses “The Dressmaker,” the commercial failure of “Steve Jobs” and why she wants to be unrecognizable.
BY ZACH SCHONFELD
“I’m back, you bastards.”
That’s the first line Kate Winslet speaks in The Dressmaker, a melodramatic, revenge-obsessed adaptation of Rosalie Ham’s 2000 novel. And it’s true: Kate Winslet is back. Not that the remarkably skilled British actress ever quite went away—she has appeared in 40 films and counting as of 2016—but with The Dressmaker (in which she plays an accused murderess returning to her Australian town to care for her deranged mother) and Steve Jobs (for which she received an Oscar nod for her portrayal of Jobs’s bespectacled “work wife” Joanna Hoffman) she is determined to upend expectations of what a Kate Winslet performance might look like, to be “unrecognizable,” as some critics described her Jobs role.
“It’s the thing I’m actually proudest of hearing people say,” Winslet says. It’s a balmy Friday in September, and Winslet is sitting in a luxury hotel room in SoHo, where she’s come to talk about a movie she filmed two years ago in “the middle of absolutely nowhere,” Australia. (The Dressmaker, the film in question, has just been picked up by Amazon Studios for U.S. distribution.) Actually, she’s in New York to film an as-yet-untitled project with Woody Allen—she plays a waitress in 1950s Coney Island—but she won’t say a word about that. Nor is she very anxious to talk politics (“Don’t take me there”), though she has lent her voice to a wide range of social causes, from animal rights to body positivity.
The 40-year-old actress sipped tea and fretted over a stain where her daughter spilled toothpaste on her skirt as we discussed the finer points of co-star Liam Hemsworth (“a sweet, humble, very dear person”), Steve Jobs’s commercial flop and last year’s Oscars, where she lost but Titanic partner Leonardo DiCaprio finally won.
You traveled to Australia to film this movie in the desert. You must have really wanted to take on the role.
I loved the character. I loved the script when I read it. I was completely taken by her first line of the movie: “I’m back, you bastards!” It’s just such a brilliant line. When Teddy jumps into the silo, I still almost can’t believe that [director] Jocelyn Moorhouse really kept that in the film. It was very ballsy filmmaking, I thought…. It just so happened that it was a time in my life, and with my little family, that it was possible to go so far away.
Did the villainous side of the character appeal to you?
I never really saw it as a villainous side. I almost resisted her becoming this kind of femme fatale, because that’s very clichéd. It’s also quite easy to do, in terms of the look and the tone. I felt it was necessary [to find] a real person within that. I think the mother-daughter relationship really lends itself to keeping her real and grounded. She is someone’s daughter, after all.
Are you fond of those femme fatale movies? Film noir?
Not crazily so. I’m not a massive movie buff, to be honest. I mean, I’m in films. People often think that I must have a movie knowledge that’s inside out and back to front and very sophisticated. Not really.
You watch new films, though.
I watch new films, yeah. But I’m not an avid, crazy moviegoer. I don’t really have the time, if I’m completely honest.
What’s the best film you’ve seen this year?
I haven’t seen many films this year. Let me think, though. I absolutely loved—um, oh God—it won the Oscar for best picture. What’s the title of the movie?
Were you rooting for The Revenant?
I was rooting for my friend.
For Leo [DiCaprio]?
Of course. It was fun. It’s never been more fun, actually, rooting for somebody. Because I felt like the world was rooting for him.
How grueling was it filming in the middle of nowhere?
It wasn’t that grueling. It’s not ideal; wearing couture dresses in the heat and the dust and keeping everything from getting filthy dirty as the character was quite challenging. They’re tough conditions, but I’ve had much tougher conditions than that.
What was tougher?
Oh, well, Titanic. Without question. But it’s definitely a very extreme environment, that’s for sure. And different to any of the environments that I’m exposed to in England.
You had to learn to sew for the movie. Was that challenging?
It was just really fun. It’s always lovely to get to learn a new skill. When I didMildred Pierce, I had to learn how to hack up a chicken very, very well, which I can still do very, very well.
And you’re a vegetarian.
No, I’m not.
Were you once?
Nope. That’s a little—
A myth. I don’t eat much meat. But no, I’m not a vegetarian. But yeah, learning to sew—it was really great, learning to use that machine. I didn’t want them to have to have a hand double. I wanted to do all of it. It wouldn’t have felt right, I think, playing Tilly without having some of that knowledge.
There is a glamorous side of the film, which is your love story with Liam Hemsworth.
It was really, really wonderful working with him. And he was so perfect for Teddy, because he’s got that kind of wholesome, good-guy quality, which he really does possess. And you know, his parents came to visit the set. It was lovely.
I read that your daughter was jealous of your love scenes with Liam. Is that true?
Yeah. She very much had a kind of [mimicking teenage girl] “Ugh! OK, that’s not fair. Mom, that’s not fair.”
Does she have opinions about the movies that you’re in?
Yeah. Both my kids—both my older two—they love films. And they form quite good opinions about films as well. My daughter loves Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Absolutely loves it.
Have any of your performances made them uncomfortable?
No, because they haven’t seen everything. They know they can’t see everything.
What won’t you let them see?
Well, they can’t see The Reader. Definitely, not until they’re much older. They both saw [1994 thriller] Heavenly Creatures. I sat down and watched it with them about a year ago. Which was amazing. I think my daughter—it was really quite overwhelming because she actually looks a lot like I did then right now. She’s about to turn 16. So she’s like, “Oh my God! It looks like me! Oh my God, mum.” I was like, “Wow, I really do.” They loved the film. I think the fact that it was my first film and it’s still extremely clear to me the experience that I had and what it meant to me and how much it changed me as an actress and a person. They’ve heard all of those stories for years. They’ve heard me telling those stories, so to see it actually put everything into context for them.
Did you find the Australian accent challenging in The Dressmaker?
Any accent takes time and practice. It’s not the most challenging accent I’ve ever had to do. I have played Australian before—I did a film with Harvey Keitel called Holy Smoke! when I was 22. The difficulty for me was doing scenes with Kerry Fox, who’s from New Zealand and does have quite a thick New Zealand accent. I had to make sure I wasn’t picking up her dialect.
You did a particularly unusual accent in Steve Jobs.
That was the hardest one I’ve ever done. For sure. That drove me fucking crazy.
Your performance in that film, a lot of critics described it as being “unrecognizable” for you. Do you take that as a compliment?
Yes. I do. It’s the thing I’m actually proudest of hearing people say. I don’t read any press. I don’t read reviews or anything like that. But I was well aware of the fact that I didn’t look anything like myself.
Or sound anything like yourself.
That was the plan. That was my intention. And I’m really proud that people said that. When you’re an actor, all you want is to completely disappear into that person.
I thought it was great, but the film didn’t perform that well financially. Were you disappointed by that?
I think everyone was surprised because it had a really great opening weekend. But who knows? Who knows why it didn’t? I’m proud to be a part of it.
Do you have a theory about why it didn’t perform better?
No, I don’t. It’s not really for me to say. Actually, I do have some thoughts about it. But I don’t think I should share them. Because they’re separate to the construct of the story. But I’m very, very proud to be a part of that film. It’s one of the things I’m proudest to be in.
The dialogue was particularly stunning. Did you find it difficult to nail all the Aaron Sorkin dialogue?
You just have to rehearse and rehearse and rehearse and get it down. Because if you don’t say it exactly as it is, the rhythm is off. The thing about Aaron’s work is that the rhythm is so specific. You could feel it. I’d be like, “Agh, I said a couple of words wrong.” You can feel it—the second you, like, flip a word or something, you can really feel that the whole thing starts to shake slightly. It was just delicious saying those words. It really was. It was really, really fantastic.
Do you think Aaron Sorkin would be capable of scripting a movie about the U.S. election?
[Laughs] Oh, hell yeah.
Who would play Trump?
Oh God, don’t take me there. Don’t take me there.
Have you been following the election closely?
That you’re willing to share?
No. Not really. Nice try [laughs].
You moved from New York to the U.K. a few years ago. What do you miss about New York?
You know, the smells. I think the smells. The pace of it. The coffee. The skyline. All those classic things. Whole Foods.
I understand you’re working on a film now with Woody Allen. Has filming begun for that?
Yes, actually. I’ve only done a day. It was just yesterday.
What can you tell me about it?
Nothing at all?
No. I’m not allowed.
Is that why you’re in New York right now?
Yeah. I’m literally not allowed to talk about it. Which is quite strange for me, actually. But no, I’m not allowed to.
Did you read the letter that Ronan Farrow wrote about Woody Allen in the spring?
I did, yeah.
Do you have any thoughts about his allegations?
You know, I do. I do. And I think it would be extremely dangerous to publicly comment or give my thoughts about what has happened within that family. So I think I won’t, if that’s OK.
by Skip Hollandsworth
Ah, Kate: actress, mother and, let’s be honest, glamazon.
At least so say Glamour readers, who have voted her to the very top of the 50 Most Glam list a whopping three years running. “Kate is sophistication and class all the way,” posted jaellis on glamour.com. And from knwilson: “Why do I feel like I know her on a personal level? I can’t get enough!” So what does the Oscar winner think of the flattery? “I mean, come on!” she says, laughing. “Sophia Loren is glamorous. I don’t know how to do my hair.”
But that’s exactly why we all love her. Red carpet aside, the world can sense a real woman in there. Ever since her star-making love scenes in Titanic, Winslet, 35, has enjoyed defusing the mythology of Hollywood glamour, talking openly about her implant-free breasts and her refusal to starve herself. She also takes movie roles that are complicated—and often not particularly pretty. Consider her last two performances, in 2008: There was Revolutionary Road’s anguished, raging housewife, and Hanna Schmitz, the illiterate former concentration camp guard in The Reader, for which she won her best actress Oscar. This month Winslet again proves her mettle, as star of the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce. Playing a Depression-era single mother, she appears in every single scene of the five-hour series and is, by turns, repressed, restless, selfish, self-destructive and admirably determined. Who says glamour is all surface?
As for life away from the camera, Winslet, who is mother to Mia, 10, and Joe, 7, is the portrait of English reserve, revealing almost nothing to the media. But she recently had to deal with her own very public drama: In March 2010 she and her husband of nearly seven years, director Sam Mendes, announced their separation. So how is life now? Over coffee at a tiny Manhattan café, Winslet opened up.
GLAMOUR: Here you are, playing a character who is described in James M. Cain’s novel as “fat and getting a little shapeless,” a woman who has “lost everything she had worked for.” For God’s sake, what’s the deal with your love of playing these angst-ridden women?
KATE WINSLET: [Laughs.] It’s my chance to challenge myself to the fullest, which is one of the great joys about this job…. I love it when a character requires me to look less than my red-carpet best. It’s more fun playing a character that requires you to look like dog s—t.
GLAMOUR: Dog what?
KATE WINSLET: I’ve never understood the notion that actors and actresses should look great on-screen just because they’re on-screen. That doesn’t make sense to me.
GLAMOUR: Which is ironic, because you have been voted Most Glamorous three years in a row by Glamour magazine’s readers.
KATE WINSLET: That is incredibly flattering, but it’s just so far from how I view myself. I mean, you are lucky my hair is even dry right now!
GLAMOUR: Well, then, do you have a chef?
KATE WINSLET: [Laughs.] I do! Her name is Kate! I love to cook; I cook every day. Chicken features a lot in our lives. Chicken “bits and bobs,” as my son calls it, which is basically roasted drumsticks.
GLAMOUR: Do you have a personal trainer?
KATE WINSLET: [Continues laughing.] No. I just do my own stuff at home with the help of DVDs. A little bit of Pilates. And just recently I started running, but I’m not very good.
GLAMOUR: During your last interview for Glamour six years ago, you were asked what you were going to be like in five years. And you jokingly replied that you’d be doing liposuction and Botox. Have you changed your mind about not trying those cosmetic things?
KATE WINSLET: My face is still moving, right? No, I have never tried any of that stuff…. I don’t have parts of my body that I hate or would like to trade for somebody else’s or wish I could surgically adjust into some fantasy version of what they are.
GLAMOUR: I read that you were literally called “blubber” when you were a teenager because you were overweight.
KATE WINSLET: Yeah. Not when I was a teenager, actually—between the ages of 8 and 11. Looking back on it, I really wasn’t that heavy. I was just stockier than the other sporty, whippy-looking kids.
GLAMOUR: You stood 5’6” and weighed 200 pounds?
KATE WINSLET: When I was 15, yes.
GLAMOUR: Were you tormented? Because today you embrace your body in a way that women love—but did you feel that way back then?
KATE WINSLET: Well, that’s an enormous compliment. You know, I will tell you that when I was heavy, people would say to me—and it was such a backhanded comment—they would say, “You’ve got such a beautiful face,” in the way of, like, “Oh, isn’t it a shame that from the neck down you’re questionable.”
GLAMOUR: [Laughter.] When you won your Oscar for The Reader, did you do what so many people do after they win—did you wake up a couple of days later and say, “Now what?”
KATE WINSLET: No. No. No. I’m really, really proud to have won—to walk away with the biggest red ribbon on school sports day that you could be given. I was the kid who never won the races. I never jumped the highest. I wasn’t on the list of the high-achieving. That wasn’t me, so winning the Oscar was like winning all the prizes in one single night that I never won as a kid. For me, it was an internal-fist-pumping moment of yes.
GLAMOUR: Has your ambition changed?
KATE WINSLET: I have just wanted to be an actress. That’s always been my goal. I didn’t want to be famous. I wanted to play incredibly challenging, multifaceted characters. Because we are all a puzzle.
GLAMOUR: Which brings us back to the puzzle of Mildred Pierce. Here comes the obligatory question: Were there difficult things in your life that you drew from to play Mildred?
KATE WINSLET: To answer the question I know you are trying to ask me—“Did I take on this role because of what was specifically going on in my own life at the time?”—the answer is no. When I committed to the role, those things were not going on in my life.
GLAMOUR: I will admit that in episode one, when your neighbor sarcastically describes single motherhood as “the great American institution,” I couldn’t help but wonder if the concept of marriage is now less enjoyable to you.
KATE WINSLET: I am a big believer in marriage.
GLAMOUR: Is the idea of getting married again still appealing?
KATE WINSLET: That’s a question I definitely can’t answer…but of course I believe in marriage. Commitment to one other person in life is glorious.
GLAMOUR: Let me ask you about your kids. What is the challenge of raising them as they become more and more conscious of your public life?
KATE WINSLET: The challenge is making sure that they’re never treated different just because I sometimes am. I always want them to be regular kids who are grateful and respectful of other human beings. I want them to know that when we fly first-class, that they are lucky. The highest compliment I could ever receive about my kids—and I can say that this does happen frequently—is when the in-flight crew say to me, “Your children are wonderful. They are so well-behaved.” Every time I am told that, I could weep.
GLAMOUR: I assume you’re worried about what they are going to learn when they start surfing the Internet.
KATE WINSLET: I am nervous about the day that Mia can google [my name]. That’s the reason I am so careful not to talk about the question that people always ask of me: “So what actually happened between you and Sam?” That explanation will never come out of my mouth. Never.
GLAMOUR: You mean, not in public?
KATE WINSLET: Right, because when my children want to know what actually happened, I want to be the first person they have that conversation with. I don’t want them to read something and believe it, when it probably isn’t true anyway.
GLAMOUR: Are you uncomfortable being a celebrity?
KATE WINSLET: It’s bizarre. I am a person. I am not a soap opera. There is never going to be a next [tabloid] installment about my life because my own stuff is my own stuff.
GLAMOUR: There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be doing an interview again five years from now when you are still being named the Most Glam Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine.
KATE WINSLET: That I so doubt.
GLAMOUR: Well, what do you think your life will be like in five years, when you are 40?
KATE WINSLET: I don’t want to know. As long as my kids are OK, I think it is really good for me not to have the answers.
“THERE WAS A REAL FEARLESSNESS IN HER,” SAYS KATE WINSLET OF THE ICONIC ACTRESS, DAME ELIZABETH TAYLOR
“Which in old Hollywood perhaps didn’t feel quite as prevalent. Now, actors and actresses can bend the rules a lot. Back then, there did seem to be a rule book, and there was some expectation in terms of how glamorous women should look. There’s a sort of coolness and aloofness to the way [Elizabeth Taylor] would look in posed photographs. In candid snapshots she was really quite soft, and she would really screw up her face. I do that as well.”
Beauty standards, and antistandards, are on Winslet’s mind today. I’ve met her for coffee at a Chelsea café; she’s sleek and animated, a smart and chic city mom (and currently the face of St. John), wearing leggings, a blazer, and gold ballet flats. She is a professional, and she has little patience for the voracious tabloids that dominate English newsstands—particularly when it comes to her family. “A friend of mine had said they’d seen a picture of me and my children in some magazine or other,” she recalls. “And you could see both of the children’s faces very clearly. I said, ‘That’s not right, this is the U.K., you’re supposed to blur out the children’s faces.’” The experience led her down the dark path of Googling herself, “Which I have never done, because I can’t imagine anything more disgusting. And up popped this whole article: ‘I’m sick of Kate Winslet’s lies about weight loss and Botox.’ Please look at my face. Please study it. Look! Look!”
Appearances aside, the Oscar-winning star of The Reader—she’s had four nominations and is only 35—has never shied from putting herself out there, whether it’s furrowing her brow for a reporter or appearing girlishly psychotic (her debut, Heavenly Creatures), casually nude (Titanic and Little Children, among many others), or emotionally raw (in nearly every performance, the latest being HBO’s adaptation of Mildred Pierce). Now, with that long-awaited Oscar on the mantle—and after a challenging year in which she separated from the director Sam Mendes and faced the ensuing press scrutiny—she has come to feel another kinship with Taylor. “She was very strong in her head and in her heart, not just in the exterior, and I suppose I am,” says Winslet. “To me, she hid vulnerability fairly successfully, and I do that too. We all have vulnerable sides. I think for a long time I pretended I didn’t have one, and I definitely do. The last couple of years, I really had to pay attention to that. The great thing about acting is you can fling it all into the mix of the part.”
As for the latest catapults: Winslet has two big movies coming out this year, and she’s coming off great reviews for Mildred Pierce, the five-hour HBO adaptation of the classic ’40s novel and film. (Winslet still hasn’t seen the 1945 Joan Crawford original, claiming it would have put too much pressure on her.) The story—of a single mother who falls for the wrong man and sacrifices everything for her driven, ruthless daughter only to be betrayed by her—had personal resonance for Winslet, who grew up in a family of stage performers and could relate to both maternal support and youthful drive. “As a child, I was extremely self-sufficient,” she says. “At the age of 9, I knew I wanted to be an actress. I had that sort of determination that I can imagine, in a 9- or 10-year-old girl, for a parent must have been fairly disconcerting. ‘That’s what I’m going to do, you do know that?’ I didn’t know how on Earth I was going to pull any of that off, but I was just sure of it.”
Mildred also included another buzzy nude scene, which Winslet shared with Guy Pearce. “I hate it!” Winslet laughs on the subject of disrobing on-screen. “Listen, make no mistake, I just get on it. I just go in and say, ‘Oh fuck, let’s do it,’ and boom. If you complain about it or procrastinate, it’s not going to go away. It’s a profoundly bizarre thing to do. As actors, you talk about it all the time. You can be literally tangled in sheets, and you turn to the other actor and say, ‘What the fuck are we doing?’ Dear Mum, at work today, I had so-and-so’s left nutsack pressed against my cheek. It’s sort of unethical if you think about it in those terms.” In the past, she’s vowed she won’t do more nude scenes, “Which definitely makes me the hypocrite of the decade,” she says. “I’m just going to stop saying it.”
Her next project is Contagion, a Steven Soderbergh thriller about the breakout of a global pandemic. It features an ensemble cast including Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Winslet plays an intelligence officer; she researched the part in military labs and at the Centers for Disease Control. “Everything I learned was terrifying,” she says. “Literally everything. There wasn’t one single thing that didn’t scare the living daylights out of me. And what’s interesting about these people is they don’t shake hands. I’m telling you, you will start questioning whether you want to shake hands with people. It’s definitely going to freak people out.”
After that, she’ll star in Carnage, alongside Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, and Christoph Waltz. Shot in Paris, it’s Roman Polanski’s adaptation of the lauded Broadway play God of Carnage, about two sets of parents who lock horns when one of their children bullies the other. “At first I thought it was almost wrong to put those characters on celluloid, because it had been done so brilliantly [on Broadway],” says Winslet. “I was really intimidated. We all were. One of the actors asked me, ‘How was Marcia Gay Harden? She was amazing, wasn’t she?’ And I would say, ‘Yes,’ and she’d say ‘Fuck, fuck, don’t tell me that. Tell me she sucked!’ ‘Well, she didn’t suck.’ ‘We’re screwed.’ We would say that all the time.” The Broadway production incorporated, among other things, a climactic vomiting scene. It’s been retained for the film version; Winslet gets to do the vomiting. “Projectile,” she clarifies, having just come from a looping session.
That work done, she’s taking some time off at her new home in the English countryside. “To tell you the truth, I’m at odds about being famous,” she says. “It’s very difficult to say that and not make it sound like I’m complaining or being ungrateful for what I have. But the truth is, gone are the days where you can just do your job and have your life. And when I’m not doing my job, I want not to be doing it. I don’t want to be in the public eye in those moments. I want to be able to give my children as normal a life as possible. They need to take the bus, the subway, muck around on the playground without having five paparazzi take their picture. I don’t want those memories for them. I didn’t sign up for that.”
Has she thought about an escape? “I haven’t,” says Winslet. “I don’t want to be running and hiding. That’s not me, that’s not who I am. I like being in the city. I like the diversity that my children are exposed to every day. I love the way their brains work. Joe [her son] turns to me the other day and says, ‘One day, I will have a girlfriend. But I might have a boyfriend. If I’m gay.’ He’s 7! And I said, ‘You might have a girlfriend or a boyfriend, darling.’ And he said, ‘Which would you prefer?’ And I said, ‘My love, that would be entirely up to you, and it doesn’t make any difference to me.’ But that he knows! It’s a real privilege. Talk about the best education.”
Among Winslet’s future plans: to play a man on-screen and do theater. But her Oscar recognition has not inspired particular confidence that she can take on any role. “I hope I’m shitting myself over the characters I play for the rest of my life,” she says. “Because the day I go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s going to be a piece of piss,’ why fucking bother? If you do that, you do not learn. I hope I’m always learning something. So I won an Oscar. It’s amazing. I’ve got that for the rest of my life for a performance I’m proud of. It nearly killed me. I’m really proud of the film. That’s it. Moving on.”
Very Elizabeth Taylor indeed.
Kate Winslet in New York, May 2011
Contagion is out in September 2011 from Warner Bros.
Carnage is out in November 2011 from Sony Pictures Classics
KATE WINSLET: INFALLIBILE KATE
BY SIMONA COPPA
Kate Winslet, la vera regina della 68esima Mostra del cinema di Venezia, non è una donna dal sorriso facile. Ascolta le domande dell’intervista e ti guarda negli occhi, seria e attenta. Non recita mai. Lo fa già magistralmente nei tre film presentati al Lido: Carnage, di Roman Polanski, Contagion, di Steven Soderbergh, e Mildred Pierce, la miniserie tv che verrà trasmessa su Sky Cinema 1 in ottobre.
La giovane protagonista un po’ robusta del Titanic è scomparsa: all’epoca aveva 22 anni, oggi ne ha 35, un peso forma invidiabile, due divorzi alle spalle (da Jim Threapleton e dal regista Sam Mendes), due figli (Mia, 10 anni, e Joe, 7) e la strenua convinzione che «le donne si devono liberare dalla schiavitù della bellezza e dell’età che avanza», al punto di fondare una lega anti botox e chirurgia plastica con altre celebri colleghe, tra cui Emma Thompson e Rachel Weisz.
La incontriamo in occasione della presentazione del film in concorso, Carnage, tratto dalla pièce di Yasmina Reza, che sa più di teatro che di cinema: «L’abbiamo girato in sei settimane, sempre nella stessa casa: alla fine eravamo una famiglia», spiega l’attrice, che ha vinto l’Oscar per The reader e due Golden Globe (Revolutionary road e ancora The reader).
Carnage racconta di due coppie di genitori, Kate Winslet e Christoph Waltz (l’indimenticabile nazista di Bastardi senza gloria) e Jodie Foster e John C. Reilly, che s’incontrano per mediare un incidente accaduto al parco giochi: il figlio 11enne di Winslet-Waltz ha picchiato il figlio degli altri due rompendogli due denti (ma forse la madre Jodie Foster esagera). Tutto comincia all’insegna del politically correct e finisce con un «i giovani sposi non sanno che i figli rovineranno per sempre la loro vita».
A lei, Kate, è mai capitato di gestire qualche intemperanza dei suoi bambini?
«Per fortuna no, non mi è ancora successo che facciano la lotta e picchino i compagni con un bastone, come nel film! Spero che continuino a essere “regolari”: sono bambini come tutti gli altri e noi, attori famosi, siamo genitori come chiunque. Parliamo, li mettiamo in guardia dai pericoli, insegniamo loro il rispetto. Poi qualche marachella a scuola può capitare, ma entro certi limiti».
Com’è stato recitare con Roman Polanski?
«Roman ha le idee chiare su tutto ed è di una precisione incredibile. Però ha lasciato a tutti e quattro gli attori la possibilità di suggerire qualche piccolo cambiamento, di contribuire e interpretare nel vero senso della parola».
Nel film lei è Nancy, consulente finanziaria, sposata a un avvocato che vive con il cellulare in mano. Mentre Jodie Foster è una casalinga, sedicente scrittrice, appassionata dei grandi temi della Terra e con la fissa dell’Africa.
Avrebbe voluto scambiare il suo ruolo con lei?
«Non ci ho mai pensato, sono entrambi personaggi fantastici. Difficile scegliere, meglio che l’abbia fatto Polanski per noi. Ogni ruolo aveva mille sfaccettature».
C’è una scena esilarante: lei che vomita sui libri, sul tavolino, sul pavimento, sul divano di Penelope (Jodie Foster). Mi domando come sia stato sul set…
«Se possibile, ancora più divertente che sullo schermo. La ricetta del vomito è un capolavoro di Roman: ha personalmente messo a punto tutti gli ingredienti. E c’è voluto un escamotage tecnico per realizzare la scena: tra un ciak e l’altro, infatti, dovevo trattenere in bocca il vomito, quindi mi hanno messo un tubicino nascosto dietro al collo».
Entrambe le coppie hanno dei matrimoni non proprio felici… Lei che cosa dice?
«Sul matrimonio? No comment».
Marie Claire(Aprile 2009)
Critically acclaimed – check. Fabulously rich – check. Happy family – check. Perfume endorsement – check. What more could any actress wish for? An Oscar, of course. In her first major post-awards interview, Kate Winslet opens up to Harvey Marcus about the private torments that have driven her to the top.
I TELL HER THAT I THINK I HAD A PANIC ATTACK LAST NIGHT, HAVING WOKEN UP AT 3AM WITH A HEAD FULL OF FEARS.
Kate Winslet is here primarily to talk about her role as Lancome’s face of Tresor, yet she listens intently and, when she speaks, her empathy is almost maternal. ‘I went to the Revolutionary Road premiere,’ she says, ‘and I was so knackered that in the middle of the night I think I had a panic attack. I’ve never had that before.’ This exchange is taking place in the penthouse suite of Downtown’s SoHo Grand Hotel, and I’m not entirely unaware of the irony; the two of us discussing the depths of despair while located so high against the backdrop of New York’s morning skyline. She’s not giving this up for show. I think Kate Winslet actually cares how I’ve felt for the past six hours or so, and it probably says more about her than anything else you’re about to read. ‘I really thought, “What’s going on?”,’ she remembers. ‘But it was just tiredness… just tiredness.’
After five Oscar nominations, dating back to 1995, and her Sense and Sensibility shortlisting when still only 19, someone finally said to Kate Winslet, ‘And the Oscar goes to…’ She won. Best Actress for The Reader. She wanted it so badly, and she’s not ashamed to admit as much. ‘There’s nothing bloody wrong with wanting it at all. And anyone who says, “Oh, I don’t know, oh, I’m on the fence… it’s absolute crap. Of course they want it, deep down. Of course they do.’
There were tears when she won, but not nearly as many, I feel, as she deserved to allow herself. In a recent website survey, Marie Claire readers voted Winslet their most inspiring woman. They weren’t, I’m pretty sure, among those who unfathomably sneered at her Golden Globes acceptance speech. She is, quite rightly, unapologetic for her reaction to picking up Best Actress (Revolutionary Road) and Best Supporting Actress (The Reader). ‘Look, it’s amazing,’ she recalls. ‘I’d never won a Golden Globe before and I’d been nominated since I was 19, you know. And then to get two! I am who I am. I’m too emotional to lose and I’m too emotional to win – I’m not very good at it.’
I wonder if the tears, the outspoken desire for success, went against some quaint idea of what it means to be British, and what piqued them, the Daily Mail readers, so much was the fact that someone perceived to be so British could behave, well, could behave so like them, the Americans. ‘Yeah,’ she says, simply. She should, by all rights, be lauded for her achievements. After all, she came from nothing. Really. Born in Reading, she has two sisters, Beth and Anna, and a brother, Joss. Both their parents were actors, but of the struggling variety, and often the family found it hard to pay the bills. ‘Oh my God,’ she recalls. ‘We were supported through the majority of my schooling by an organisations called the Actors’ Charitable Trust.’ Her mother, Sally Ann, spent more time serving pints in a local pub than delivering lines; her father, Roger, almost lost his foot in a boating accident when she was 11. ‘They operated on him for 18 hours. From then on he was a disabled actor, so the little work that he was getting – like an episode of Casualty, Crimewatch – even that started getting less and less.’
I say I don’t understand how she’s not regarded as some kind of working-class hero and she’s quick to respond: ‘Because I speak nice.’ But the working-class background? ‘People don’t believe that. People literally think I’m lying.’ She then recounts a story of an audition that took place when she was 16; the experience plainly still hurts. On hearing her accent, the director refused to believe she was from Reading. She remembers his exact words: ‘He went, “I hope you’re not as dishonest in your work as you are about your own life,” I was shocked. My dad was very much a struggling actor and spent more of his life as a postman, as a member of a tarmac firm, as a van driver. He’d sell Christmas trees. Anything. That was my dad. We had these dreadful second-hand cars that would always die a death, or we’d go on holiday to Cornwall, come back and it would have been nicked. It’s like a Joe Orton farce, my family.’
They don’t go, ‘Kate Winslet, working-class hero, do they?’
‘No, they don’t,’ she laughs. ‘”Do it! Do it for me!” Honestly, it was hand-me-down shoes and 10p pocket money on a Saturday that didn’t go up until I was 11.’
It’s well documented how she suffered throughout her childhood and into her teenage years for being overweight. ‘I was bullied for being chubby. Where are they now!’ she half jokes. Her nickname was Blubber and the other pupils would lock her in the art cupboard. She started picking up small parts from the age of 13, but that only made her stand out more. In 1991 she earned a role in Dark Season, a kids’ sci-fi show penned by a young Russell T Davies of Dr Who fame. She was 15, and it was then, having returned to school after 12 weeks of shooting, that she realised, ‘I did not belong any more.’
But Winslet was having the last laugh. Her career was taking off and, romantically, she’d found her first love, Stephen Tredre, an actor 12 years her senior. They met on the set of Dark Season and would be together for four-and-a-half-years. On screen, she began earning the kind of acting plaudits she would become accustomed to. In 1994 came Heavenly Creatures, a movie she credits with giving her the confidence to succeed. It was while filming in New Zealand that Winslet fell for assistant film director Jim Threapleton. They married in 1998, a year after Titanic became the highest-grossing film of all time, and had a daughter, Mia, in 2000. (When they divorced, in 2001, the press famously sided with Threapleton.)
Today, Winslet looks back on that time and describes the pace at which she was experiencing life as ‘inhuman’. She was hit especially hard by the death of Stephen Tredre, who lost his battle with bone cancer in 1997. ‘To think back now…’ she’s talking specifically about Tredre, and her voice falters. ‘I don’t know how I… it’s just awful. And I am the age now that he was when he died. So it’s a big shock. If you lose somebody like that, you never really get over it; you just learn to manage it and live with it. I’m not particularly religious or spiritual, but I do feel him around a little bit, going, “You’re all right. Don’t worry.” Which is amazing. ‘But yeah,’ she recalls, ‘that was a very, very difficult time. To have gone through so much then. Because Stephen died, I did Titanic, I met Jim. All of these things happened in quick succession between the ages of 19 and 22. No wonder I blew up like a balloon.
Remember those days? I think it was the Golden Globe year for Titanic, and I was on a red carpet and somebody showed me a picture and I was like, “Fuck, I was enormous.” I don’t particularly remember sitting at home crying and eating endless packets of HobNobs. I don’t remember doing that at all. Honestly, I think it was a stress thing or something. I don’t know.’ She agrees that period ‘screwed with [her] head’. ‘Looking back,’ she admits, ‘it probably did. In short, sharp bursts. But I’ve always been quite good at coping. I’ve never taken drugs, never drunk excessively. I’ve somehow managed not to become that person and I think it’s because of my family.’
These days, Kate Winslet and her husband, director Sam Mendes, together with their son Joe, five, and Winslet’s daughter Mia, eight, divide their time between homes in New York and Windsor. Of her marriage, she says, ‘We’re just there for each other’, but when it comes to running the household, she confesses: ‘I really rule the roost, I absolutely steer the ship. Constantly making checklists; you know, library books have to go in on Friday, make sure that one day a week they’re [the children] not having bread for lunch.’
Recently, the couple have been considering relocating back to England on a permanent basis. ‘Mum would hate this if she read it, but our parents are getting on now. Sam said to me not long ago that we really need to try to find a way to be more consistently in England. I said, “Well, at the point our parents really need us to be around, of course we’ll be there.”
And he said, “Darling, that’s now.”’
Reading older interview with Kate Winslet, dating back to the post-Titanic years, you’re struck by the number of times the writer comments upon how ‘down-to-earth’ and ‘open’ she is, not forgetting her capacity swear like a trooper. You don’t swear as much now, I say. ‘I look back and think, “Oh my God.” Fuck, bollocks, shit – it all came out a million times. Just too much. Probably nerves. I still swear now, of course, but I’ve got kids.’
As for her candid approach to interviews: ‘I never want to give everything away. It’s a funny time now with this obsession with celebrity. It makes me so insane. I’m really, really happy that I’m not a younger actor or actress working now because they have to run before they can walk. It’s really, really tough. When I think about somebody like Keira Knightley, whom I don’t particularly know, I see somebody who is working hard, really tring to challenge herself and make smart choices in spite of people criticising her size and performances. That kind of pressure I don’t feel existed to that entent.
‘”She’s fat, she’s thin, she’s married, she’s divorced.’” I had all of that, and bouncing back from that criticism is fucking hard. But they just go for the personal now in a way I think can be really crushing.’
One aspect of her personality she defiantly refuses to change is that of being an outspoken and unofficial advocate for real-sized women the world over. ‘I’m happy about that,’ she smiles, ‘I really am. I don’t feel the need to keep waving the flag in the way I did during part of my twenties, but I do think it’s important for young women to know that magazine covers are retouched. People don’t really look like that. In films I might look glamorous, but I’ve been in hair and make-up for two hours; someone’s been lighting a scene for three hours. With the nudity in The Reader, for example, even I was like, “Damn, I look good.” And that was the lighting – it was a bit of body make-up. I don’t believe in pretending those things don’t go on.’
Maybe it’s because the woman sat opposite me today, in her neat Stella McCartney suit topped off with blonde tresses that should Hollywood siren, looks so damn fabulous that I don’t’ feel too bad about asking my final question.
Kate, do you still see yourself as the fat kid at school? ‘Yeah,’ she replies. ‘I was the girl that people would always say, “Ah, it’s such a shame, because you’ve got such a pretty face”. I was sort of more one of the boys than I was one of the girls. Maybe that’s why I had such a strong connection with Leo [DiCaprio], because he always saw me as one of the lads. That was a great thing, because there was never any flirty weirdness. Like, it’s laughable, even the idea of that.’
I say it’s hard levelling that Kate Winslet with the one sitting here this minute – I’m not fawning, promise – looking as fantastic as you do. ‘Oh, I had, “No one will ever fancy me!”.’ She answers. ‘I had that well into my teens. Even now I do not consider myself to be some kind of great, sexy beauty. Absolutely not. At all. I don’t mind the way I’m ageing. That’s going according to plan. That’s all right [laughs]. No reason to panic just yet. I think I look my age, and that’s fine. I don’t think I look younger than 33 and I don’t think I look particularly older than 33. I think I’m sort of holding it together.’
Kate Winslet is Lancome’s face of Tresor.
KATE WINSLET ON BEING THE FACE OF A FRAGRANCE
Why endorse a fragrance?
‘It didn’t feel I was ust being asked to be the face of Tresor. They talked a lot about my message to women – about being real and comfortable in your skin.’
What’s the appeal?
‘It has a gentle and romantic quality. I’m not a fan of overbearing scents.’
You’ve said that your mum always wore Tresor when you were growing up.
‘It was the one thing she would ask for at Christmas and the one thing my dad would get for her, and would, by the way, have to save up for.’
Has your beauty regime changed as you’ve grown older?
‘I never used to have any skin problems, then I turned 30 and started having some lower-face skin issues. Hormonal changes, whatever. You just have to take care of your skin now. I drink a lot of water. And a really good under-eye cream is a must. There’s an amazing one by Lancome – High Resolution Anti-Wrinkle Eye Cream. I never used to use eye cream or anti-wrinkle products, but now I do. But really I just try to keep as clean as possible. I do my best.’
di Khrista Smith
Due anni fa, a 31 anni, Kate Winslet è diventata l’attrice più giovane ad aver ricevuto cinque nomination all’Oscar. Questa volta, uno dei suoi due nuovi film – Revolutionary Road, che la riunisce con Leonardo Di Caprio, o The Reader – potrebbe metterle la statuetta nelle sue mani. Winslet parla del suo passato da ragazza grassa, del giudizio delle mamme all’asilo dei suoi figli, e dell’essere diretta assieme a Di Caprio da suo marito, Sam Mendes.
Vestita casual con una t-shirt grigia, pantaloni neri e scarpe senza tacco, Kate Winslet è appena scesa dal loft della Manhattan downtown che divide con suo marito, il regista cinematografico e teatrale Sam Mendes, e i loro due figli. Ammette di aver fumato una sigaretta, il suo unico vizio conosciuto. Winslet, 33, si fa le proprie sigarette. Ha preso l’abitudine sul set di Ragione e sentimento, quando aveva 19 anni. “Non fumo vicino ai miei figli,” – fa notare velocemente. “Come se questo migliorasse in qualche modo il fatto che fumo, perché ovviamente non lo fa. Ma non fumo in casa. Voglio dire, ho fumato stamani, perché non ci sono stata. Caffè e sigarette: bingo!” – fa una pausa. “Non sono sicura che lo voglia scrivere questo.” dice. E poi ride.
Per qualcuno il cui curriculum include 5 nomination all’oscar – a 31 anni è diventata la più giovane ad aver raggiunto un tale primato – Winslet esibisce una fresca assenza di presunzione. Stai con lei cinque giorni o cinque minuti e avrai la stessa donna: senza filtri, franca, a volte sboccata, anche se il suo accento britannico e la sua intonazione musicale fanno suonare i suoi discorsi (persino il modo in cui usa la parola “caz..” – e la usa parecchio, come virgola, punto, e punto esclamativo) come delle poesie.
Ma nessuna star del cinema – specialmente una star del cinema donna conosciuta per la sua figura e che per giunta è la protagonista del più grande blockbuster della storia – può essere completamente inconsapevole. Winslet è ben a conoscenza di essere soggetto di intenso scrutinio sia nella sua vita professionale che in quella privata. “Sai perché ho paura del giudizio delle persone? Perché so che giudicano. Lo so che lo fanno.” Parla di quando cammina verso la scuola con i suoi figli – Mia, 8 anni, dal suo primo matrimonio (con Jim Threapleton, un assistente alla regia che ha conosciuto sul set di Ideus Kinky nel 1997) e Joe, 5 anni, da Mendes- e cattura gli sguardi degli altri genitori. “Sai, queste madri leggeranno l’articolo e sono tutte assolutamente grandiose, ma so che quando entro in una classe la mattina, anche se è solo per un secondo, ad un certo punto vengo squadrata. E alcune di loro mi diranno addirittura, ‘Ok, qual è il segreto della tua pelle?’ E io dico ‘Oh mio Dio, non c’è nessun segreto. Sono truccata. E, tra l’altro, da quando ho compiuto 30 anni, ho un problema di acne sul mento. Sono come tutti gli altri, semplicemente so come coprirlo. E se posso farti vedere come, sarò più che contenta.”
Il suo loft è rilassato, metaforicamente parlando, come lei. I soffitti sono alti, eppure le camere sono confortevoli. Un tavolo tondo e largo con delle sedie perfettamente abbinate sembra essere il centro delle cose e ogni mobile nella cucina a vista è ricoperto dei disegni dei bambini. Lei e Mendes, regista che ha vinto l’oscar nel 2000 con il suo primo film, American Beauty, stanno insieme da sette anni. Si sono conosciuti quando lui la voleva nel cast di due rappresentazioni che stava dirigendo al teatro Donmar Warehouse di Londra (dove è stato direttore artistico dal 1992 al 2002). Winslet sapeva di non avere spazio per farle, ma come la mette lei “Non puoi dire ‘no’ a Sam Mendes, giusto?”. Era presa dopo il primo pranzo. “Non volevo fare gli spettacoli. Ma volevo assolutamente il suo numero di telefono.” E’ stata la sua buon amica Emma Thompson che ha poi orchestrato il match. Ha organizzato un barbecue casuale e si è assicurata che si incontrassero. I due si sono sposati nel 2003 nelle Antille, con 3 amici e la figlia Mia.
Quando Winslet e Mendes non lavorano, dividono il loro tempo tra New York e la casa di campagna che hanno a Londra, a Cotswolds. Ma gli ultimi due anni sono stati particolarmente pieni per loro. Hanno passato la maggior parte del 2007 a pianificare e girare Revolutionary Road, un film diretto da Mendes che rappresenta la prima collaborazione della coppia e riunisce inoltre Winslet a Leonardo Di Caprio per la loro prima volta dopo Titanic. Poi, quest’ultimo gennaio, con Revolutionary Road in post-produzione, Winslet ha firmato per The Reader, dove recita con Ralph Fiennes. Nicole Kidman doveva essere la protagonista ma ha lasciato il film a causa della sua gravidanza. Ironicamente, Winslet era stata originariamente considerata per la parte ma coincideva con il suo impegno con Revolutionary Road. Entrambi i film hanno eleganti pedigree letterari, per non parlare di possibili Oscar, ma entrambi usciranno a due settimane di distanza questo dicembre, creando una possibile battaglia Winslet-versus-Winslet per la nomination da Miglior Attrice.
Revolutionary Road era da tempo programmato per il 26 dicembre. Preoccupato di non avere abbastanza tempo per montare The Reader, le cui riprese sono finite a Luglio, il regista, Stephen Daldry, sperava di far uscire il film l’anno prossimo, ma il produttore Harvey Weistein (la sua Weinstein Company distribuisce il film) ha insistito per farlo uscire quest’anno, alimentando una brutta litigata tra lui e Scott Rudin, un altro produttore del film (produce anche Revolutionary Road).
Alla fine i due si sono decisi per l’uscita del 12 dicembre, anche se Rudin ha preferito togliere il proprio nome dal film. (a seconda del giornale, Weistein ha spostato il film per ragioni economiche, o per gli Oscar, o per entrambi). Winslet, che non è stata coinvolta nelle macchinazioni, riconosce che le uscite ravvicinate le mettono un po’ di pressione, ma preferisce vedere il bicchiere mezzo pieno: “Come ho fatto a essere tanto fortunata da avere due bellissimi ruoli nello stesso anno? E’ davvero raro e memorabile, e non prendo questa posizione con leggerezza. Potrebbe non risuccedermi mai, lo so bene. Sai, la verità è: me lo godrò fino in fondo.”
The reader, il primo film di Daldry da The hours, è basato sul controverso romanzo del 1995 di Bernard Schlink, che racconta l’ossessione di un giovane ragazzo per una donna più vecchia nella seconda guerra mondiale; la sceneggiatura è di David Hare, che ha anche adattato The Hours (la storia si dipana in quarant anni, Winslet è per la maggior parte del tempo invecchiata). The Reader è stato girato in Germania per cinque mesi, il tempo più lungo in cui Winslet è stata lontana dai figli, anche se ci sono state frequentissime visite da entrambi le parti dell’Atlantico.
Girato a New York e in Connecticut, Revolutionary Road era la produzione più familiare-amichevole. E’ stato adattato dal romanzo cult di Richard Yates del 1961. Se Titanic parlava della scintilla dell’attrazione romantica (almeno prima dello scontro con l’iceberg), Revolutionary Road narra di un rapporto più maturo, complesso e difficile. La storia si evolve intorno a Frank e April Wheeler, una coppia sposata con due bambini piccoli, che combattono contro la dissoluzione dei loro sogni, entrambi come individui e come coppia. E’ un territorio familiare per Mendes dopo American Beauty, e anche per Winslet dopo Little Children. Ha letto lo script, di Justin Haythe, ne è stata commossa, e ha pensato ‘Non sarebbe grandioso se Sam lo dirigesse?’ Quando lui ha firmato – aveva già lavorato con Haythe – Winslet dice, il pensiero successivo è stato ‘Come prendiamo Leo?’
Winslet e Di Caprio sono diventati amici mentre giravano Titanic e sono rimasti in contatto. Lei ha pensato che fosse perfetto per il ruolo del marito di April. “Ho parlato della sceneggiatura a Leo perché abbiamo sempre avuto conversazioni sulle cose interessanti che leggevamo, e l’abbiamo sempre fatto nel corso degli anni. Quando tutto è diventato più concreto con il coinvolgimento di Sam, io e Leo ne abbiamo parlato seriamente e da lì tutto è successo velocemente: l’ha letto, l’ha amato, ha detto ‘sì’. E, non scherzo, dopo tre mesi eravamo sul set.”
La riunione della coppia di Hollywood più iconica dai tempi di Borgart e Bergman regala al film un aspetto immancabilmente commerciale, una cosa certamente benvoluta nel caso di un romanzo non così conosciuto. “Leo ed io abbiamo sempre saputo che se fossimo tornati insieme ci sarebbe stato un senso di attesa nei nostri confronti”, dice Winslet. “Doveva essere il progetto giusto. Ci vedevamo bene nel recitare questa coppia sposata. La solida amicizia che abbiamo era una cosa che potevamo usare a nostro favore. Ci conosciamo da così tanto, abbiamo un rapporto speciale. Proveniamo dallo stesso mondo. Entrambi siamo stati fortunati perché abbiamo cominciato a lavorare da giovani e a imparare il lavoro. Siamo una specie di attore ben educata, e siamo stati così fortunati da lavorare entrambi con registi incredibili e attori che ci hanno insegnato tanto. Voglio dire..è stato spettacolare.”
“Sapevamo entrambi che se fossimo tornati a lavorare insieme non avremmo potuto tornare nel solito territorio di Titanic”, dice Di Caprio, via e-mail. “I personaggi in Revolutionary Road sono distanti da ciò che abbiamo fatto prima, e sapevamo di poterci spingere a vicenda come attori per ottenere interpretazioni interessanti.” Se interrogato su come Winslet si avvicina al ruolo, Di Caprio osserva: “La sua sceneggiatura è piena di note, con differenti post-it colorati, ogni pagina ha referenze dettagliate per come fondersi nel ruolo. Lei tratta i suoi personaggi come un detective investiga in una scena del crimine.” Poi aggiunge, senza se e senza ma: “Kate è la migliore attrice della sua generazione.”
Da parte sua, Mendes doveva immergersi in una sorta di triangolo. “L’istinto di Leo e Kate, un capirsi al volo quasi senza parole, ci ha salvato da settimane di lavoro”, dice il regista.”Li ho incoraggiati e volevo che andassero in fondo alle cose insieme. Volevo che fossero l’unità del film, non dovevamo esserlo io e Kate. Per me quasi tutto riguardava Leo: volevo che sentisse che ad essere dalla stessa parte fossero loro due, piuttosto che io e Kate. Perché era Leo la persona nella posizione più complicata in molti sensi, perché doveva fare il marito della moglie del regista. E molto presto, durante le prove, ho deciso di trattare Kate come una qualsiasi altra attrice protagonista della sua statura. E dovevo farlo 24 ore al giorno perché altrimenti sarebbe stato confusionario. Perché parlarle da marito invece che da regista sarebbe stato molto, molto confusionario per lei, e anche per me.”
Mendes è appassionato quando parla della sua attrice: “Non avevo capito quanto è dedita al suo lavoro fino a che non ho lavorato con lei. Ho visto molti aspetti di lei tranne quello professionale e quanto è incredibilmente concentrata. Credo che ci siano molte persone di talento e molte meno con il “dono”. E credo che lei abbia un dono genuino. Non so dirti da dove proviene, e credo che non lo sappia anche lei – penso che probabilmente sia meglio così’ – ma quando apre quelle strane stanze segrete per esplorare le persone che interpreta, è un po’ triste per quelli di noi che non hanno quella specie di dono puro.”
Dopo aver accettato il ruolo di The Reader, Winslet ha avuto solo tre mesi per prepararsi – un periodo corto rispetto al solito, per lei, e anche di più in questo caso. “E’ una parte incredibilmente complicata” dice Stephen Daldry, il regista. “Non solo in termini del raggio di età che ha il personaggio, che è enorme, e non solo perché è un personaggio straordinario, ma anche perché interpreta un film dove la maggior parte degli attori sono tedeschi che parlano inglese, e lei è un’inglese che parla con l’accento tedesco, e l’argomento degli accenti è cruciale per far sì che tutti siano nello stesso mondo. Quello che ha dovuto fare in due mesi è stato come scalare una montagna.”
Ovviamente, anche nelle migliori delle circostanze, la preparazione può solo avvicinare l’attore. Ma c’è sempre da lavorare quando ci si trova di fronte alla macchina da presa. Dice Winslet (che ha vomitato prima di girare alcune delle scene più dolorose di Revolutionary Road), “So che per fare il mio lavoro nella maniera più vera –che per me è tutto – non te ne deve importare niente di cosa pensano le persone. Devi essere pronta ad apparire stupida e a camminare nuda di fronte ad un gruppo di persone che non hai mai conosciuto e che potresti non rivedere mai. Ed è una cosa paurosa.”
Nata a Reading, in Inghilterra, da una famiglia di attori, Winslet è la seconda di quattro figli. Incredibilmente, Mendes è nato 10 anni prima nello stesso ospedale della città. “E’ proprio all’angolo della strada dove abitano adesso i miei genitori, nella casa di mia nonna.” Winslet dice, e poi ride. “Siamo nati nello stesso ospedale caz**! Ogni volta che ci passiamo, quando vado a trovare i miei genitori, mi dico ‘ok oggi non lo racconto’. E Sam sente che mi trattengo, e dice ‘Dai su, dillo.’ E io subito ‘Mia, Joe..siamo nati lì!’ Ogni volta devo raccontare la storia.”
A 16 anni, dopo una paio di anni di scuola di recitazione, ha fatto la prima audizione per un film. Era per Creature del cielo, di Peter Jackson. Ha ottenuto la parte, una ragazza coinvolta in una ossessiva relazione con un’amica che finisce con uccidere la propria madre. Nei tre anni seguenti Winslet ha interpretato Ragione e Sentimento di Ang Lee (1995), Jude di Michael Winterbottom (1996) e Hamlet di Kenneth Branagh (1996, come Ofelia) – una corsa che è culminata con Titanic di James Cameron. A soli 22 anni, era già stata nominata per due premi Oscar – miglior attrice non protagonista per Ragione & Sentimento e miglior attrice per Titanic. Le successive tre nomine: un’altra non protagonista per Iris, e altre due come miglior attrice per Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind e Little Children.
Avere ottenuto tante nomination così giovane, Winslet non lo prende per dovuto. (altre attrici del club delle cinque nomine include Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Susan Sarandon, Glenn Close, e Cate Blanchett.) “Mi ricordo di quando qualcuno mi ha detto del record e mi sono consentita un momento di gioia” Winslet dice, ridendo. “Da sola nell’appartamento, sai, correndo e gridando e urlando ‘si, caz**!’ Questo non doveva succedere a qualcuno come me. Non sono una figlia d’arte. Non ho un insegnamento classico. Non provengo da una casa elegante, no. I soldi che mia madre prendeva dallo stato per me e per miei fratelli, li usava per la scuola di recitazione. E anche mia nonna contribuiva, e quando ho cominciato a lavorare, in televisione e cose così, anche io mettevo i miei soldi lì. Voglio dire, ho lavorato sodo, e per me avere queste nomination…non succede così, sai? Non succede.”
Felice e grata per ciascuna nomina, Winslet dice di avere sempre avuto la sensazione di non vincere. Quest’anno spera non solo di essere nominata, ma, confessa, di portarsi a casa il premio. “Lo voglio? Ci puoi scommettere che lo voglio, caz**! [in inglese: ci puoi scommettere il tuo “fottuto sedere” – un modo di dire] Credo che le persone deducano che non m’importa, o che non lo voglio, o che non ne ho bisogno, o chissà. E’ difficile essere lì per cinque volte, sono umana, sai? Ma non vado a casa a piangere, perché siamo tutti adulti.”
Nel passato, l’attrice ha rappresentato una notevole eccezione alla regola di Hollywood sull’ossessione per il peso, la sua figura piena ha celebrato la prova che non tutte le attrici protagoniste debbano essere magre per avere successo. Quando era adolescente, il peso di Winslet oscillava drammaticamente. Ma adesso il peso giovanile è andato, e dopo due figli, il suo corpo si è stabilizzato, dando vita a bellissime curve. (non si professa una patita della palestra. “Tutti possono andarci 20 minuti, specialmente se dopo ti aspetta un bicchiere di Chardonnay”.)
“Questo ti suonerà molto strano, ma non ho mai avuto il desiderio di esser famosa. Non ho mai avuto grandi ambizioni, mai…ero grassa. Non conoscevo attrici grasse. Semplicemente non mi vedevo in quel mondo, e sono molto sincera. Sai, se sei stato volta un bambino grasso, sarai sempre un bambino grasso. Perché pensi sempre di essere un po’ sbagliata o un po’ diversa dagli altri. E a volte mi sento ancora così. Spesso vedo in città donne che indossano bellissimi jeans e tacchi alti e belle magliette e penso, dovrei sforzarmi di più. Dovrei apparire così. Ma poi penso, non possono essere felici in quei tacchi alti.”
La felicità per Winslet, al di fuori del lavoro, sembra provenire dai più semplici piaceri. “Ho bisogno di essere seguita”, dice. “Non parlo di anelli di diamante e bei ristoranti e cose eleganti – anzi, queste cose mi mettono a disagio. Non ci sono cresciuta e non mi rappresentano. Ma ho bisogno di qualcuno che mi dica, ‘ti preparo la vasca per il bagno?’ o ‘Andiamo al pub, solo noi.’ Voglio dire, le cose che più mi rendono felice al mondo sono i picnic casuali, sia con i miei figli che con il mio partner. I pranzi di famiglia, e poter andare al supermercato – se posso fare queste cose…beh, allora sto bene.”
by Richard Benson
A summer’s day in 2007, on a film-set in suburban Connecticut, an hour outside Manhattan. Surrounded by a film crew, Kate Winslet is about to act a sex scene with Leonardo DiCaprio. Directing the scene is Sam Mendes – who also happens to be Winslet’s husband. It is the first time they have worked together, and she has been worrying about the scene since they began filming several weeks ago.
Winslet wanted to play this part – April Wheeler in a film of Richard Yates’s 1961 suburban-hell novel, Revolutionary Road – so much that she spent two years persuading Mendes, and then DiCaprio, to do the film. Being driven to the set this morning, she kept thinking, would Leo be put off by Sam? Or would he not care? They are old friends, after all. OK, but if Leo’s relaxed, will Sam feel threatened?
She is still thinking about it as they begin the scene. She asks DiCaprio how he feels. ‘Come on, Kate,’ he says. ‘We’re all grown-ups!’
Mendes is watching them impassively, and says, ‘OK, Leo, press your fingers right into her back, hard!’ Winslet thinks, ‘This is too weird,’ but then DiCaprio digs in his fingers, and she grabs him, and she realises: they are not bothered. The only anxious one is her. But is Sam really OK? ‘Grab her bum, Leo!’ Please let this be over soon, she thinks.
A year and a half later, Winslet is sitting on a large, grey sofa in Mendes’s warehouse-conversion office in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, a short walk away from the loft where they live with their two children, Mia, eight (from Winslet’s first marriage), and Joe, five. She wears suede pumps, skinny jeans, a puff-sleeve top and outsize woollen scarf, all black; her hair is in a ponytail, her make-up minimal. She looks slimmer than you would expect, although in the much-discussed flesh it is her features you notice. They have that strangely proportioned look of actors and models that means off-camera everything looks half a size too big.
She asks Carrie, a young woman who works in the office, to go out for Starbucks lattes. Today is the day after Barack Obama’s election victory – ‘incredibly exciting times,’ as Winslet says, in a voice slightly lowered and abraded by roll-up cigarettes.
‘Sam and I have been explaining to Mia that it wasn’t very long ago that black people weren’t even allowed to vote, and now the president-elect is a black man. Putting it in that context makes sense for a kid. Mia was really blown away by that.’
She sounds strange when she says ‘blown away’, a Disneyland phrase in her London theatreland accent, but then she keeps saying ‘absolutely’ and ‘incredibly’ when we first start talking, so it might be nervousness. She gets very nervous talking to British journalists, she says, because of ‘how tricky the tabloids can be. When I was younger I used to not think about it. I couldn’t articulate what I felt a lot of the time, so I used to say “f***” and “bugger” a lot, and I think that’s how they categorised me: the girl whose weight went up and down, who wore biker boots and smoked rollies, and said “f***” and “bugger” a lot. But I am grown up now, and it’s very important to me to say what I feel.’
Winslet has been nominated for five Oscars (for Sense and Sensibility, Titanic, Iris, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Little Children), but has never won. She makes no secret – just ample, self-deprecating jokes – of her desire to get one. When she appeared in her friend Ricky Gervais’s Extras in 2005, she played herself playing a nun in a Holocaust movie, and explained that a Holocaust movie, like acting ‘a mental’, guaranteed Oscars. It is somewhat ironic that this winter Winslet stars in two films that are tipped to win: in Revolutionary Road as a wife whose husband threatens to send her to a psychiatrist, and in The Reader as a German woman in a 1960s war crimes trial.
In Revolutionary Road, Winslet plays a woman losing her sense of self in a curdling marriage. It is, she says, about ‘the reality and brutality of a marriage, and how if you are unhappy within yourself, regardless of how much you love the person you’re married to, it might result in the demise of your marriage and your life’. Playing opposite DiCaprio for the first time since Titanic, she acts out a long, slow breakdown so convincingly that some early reviewers found it painful to watch – the agonising solitude of suburban unhappiness. By contrast, her character in The Reader, Hanna Schmitz, is suffering her life suddenly being exposed to the public.
The Reader is Stephen Daldry’s film of the 1995 novel, by the German author Bernhard Schlink, that became an international phenomenon because of its articulation of the baby boomer generation’s feelings about the Holocaust. Examining themes of guilt, innocence and language, it tells the story of a relationship between Michael Berg and Hanna Schmitz that begins in the 1950s as a love affair when he is 15 and she 36 and, progressing through an examination of her role in the German war effort, follows them into middle and old age. It is hard to describe the scale and import of the film. Winslet and other actors had to immerse themselves in public records of Nazi atrocities. Many extras were people who had actually attended war trials. The cast includes the best of German acting talent, attracted by the monumental significance of the work. Winslet, playing the final scenes in ageing prosthetics that took seven and a half hours in the make-up chair every morning, requiring a 3.30am start, delivers the best performance of her career.
‘There were just no similarities between us,’ she says of Schmitz, ‘and I couldn’t use anything of my own history in playing her. How much do I understand? How warm can I make her? It was a very difficult balance.’ Usually, she says, she can draw on her own experiences. ‘My baggage… I absolutely do draw on it. Usually in a subconscious way, although I am becoming more aware of it now.’
Born in Reading in 1975, Kate Elizabeth Winslet was the second eldest of four children, three girls and one boy. The family is often described as ‘theatrical’, but this is misleading. Her mother Sally Bridge’s parents had set up the Reading Repertory Theatre Company – Kate’s RP accent comes via Sally from her grandmother, who was in Noël Coward’s class at Italia Conte – and a maternal uncle acted in the West End. Sally herself was a trained nanny, who was working as a matron at Reading’s Blue Coat School for boys when she met Roger, and later worked in a deli. Roger was a circus clown, before training at the Bristol Old Vic to be an actor. Throughout Kate’s childhood he combined acting work with stints as a labourer. Now in his late sixties, he is currently touring as the lead singer of a rock band, Bidgie Reef & the Gas.
The Winslets lived in a three-bedroom house where there was never any money, but lots of noise, fun, food and sharing: ‘Very much a working-class upbringing. I’m from a gaggle of people who do turns at the open mike, or sing along with pub pianists.’ Theatre, then, but in the people’s tradition. She has memories of sitting at the kitchen table testing her father on his lines for a part in Casualty, and the little sisters testing each other on parts for productions at school or the local youth theatre, Foundations. From a young age, Kate and her sisters, Anna and Beth, lived for shows: acting in them, going to London to see them (their favourite: Starlight Express – they saw it five times), getting Sally to make costumes, obsessing over Minipops on television, just enjoying the smell of make-up and the hysteria of the dressing-room.
Other memories that stand out are the October half-terms spent in Cornwall: ‘We went on big holidays with other families, all dogs and harmonicas and barbecues on the beach, and if anyone said, “Look at that sea!”, even if there were no towels and it was blowing a bloody gale, everyone would go in. Women running in bras and petticoats, holding cameras above their heads taking pictures, then everyone coming out… I love that feeling of being vigorously towelled down by your mum after you’ve been in the sea, knowing you’re going back to a baked potato with masses of grated cheese.’ She pauses, smiles thoughtfully at this reminiscence, and pushes a tail of blond hair back behind her right ear. ‘Or chilli con carne. Anyway. That was the sort of childhood I had.’
Sally loved being a mother and was good with children, and like many people with such mothers, you sense that Winslet is torn between the life that stardom has given her and a wish that her children could have the same childhood that she had. She concedes that having children is ‘obviously the most wonderful thing in the world, but also the most knackering’. And she is ‘rubbish at finding time for myself. If I do, I end up feeling guilty. Even if I have a facial I feel indulgent and guilty, because I feel like I should have been doing alphabet charts to stick on the kids’ walls.’ She begins rolling a cigarette. ‘I realise now,’ she adds, ‘that going to work is the one thing I do for me. The experience of acting is very special to me. I love it. I really do enjoy being able to disappear into a private world.’
Aged 11, Winslet persuaded her reluctant parents to send her to Redroofs Theatre School in nearby Maidenhead. She liked it, but didn’t fit in. At her state primary she had been picked on and nicknamed Blubber for being overweight; at stage school, it was for being too close to the teachers. She was neither ‘one of the girls who ran around in lipstick and perfume and did high kicks in the classroom’, nor ‘a suck-up or creep’ (‘I really, really wasn’t!’). But she worked hard and was ambitious; she was head girl for two years. When a girl was upset she would come to cry on Winslet’s shoulder, but a few days later the same girl would join the whole class in turning on her. When she returned from filming the ITV drama Anglo Saxon Attitudes in 1990, all the girls had arranged their desks in a semi-circle around hers, which had been shoved into a corner and engraved with the word bitch.
Victims of bullying tend to become chronic people-pleasers in adulthood, and I wonder if it had that affect on her. ‘A good girl for the grown-ups?’ she answers quickly. ‘Yes. For a very long time, well into my adult years, I couldn’t deal with confrontation at all. I didn’t know how to be honest with people, and would always be apologising. I would do anything I could to avoid conflict of any kind.
I still do to an extent.’ It occurs to me later that this may explain all the self-deprecating jokes about her body, and the eager insistence on being ‘normal’. Whatever the cause, it is effective; I couldn’t find anyone who has worked with her – journalists, PRs, directors, actors – who has a negative word to say. ‘She’s got an astonishing emotional range,’ Daldry says. ‘Loves rehearsing. Loves an investigation. And on set, she is one of the most collaborative and helpful people you could wish to work with.’
Winslet retains much of her family’s raw joie de vivre, which is surprising, because we still tend to see her through English-rose-tinted spectacles. She will talk for hours about the minutiae of sweets (‘my downfall! My favourites are Fruit Salad’). Ditto television talent shows (all-time favourite: Fame Academy). She brings the whole family to London premieres, where they take turns to keep an eye on their father. At the party after the Finding Neverland premiere in 2004, she recounts with gleeful mock-horror, he got drunk, spotted a live microphone on stage, and clambered up to lead a singsong with a crowd that included Mackenzie Crook, Dustin Hoffman and Johnny Depp.
At 15, Winslet was a lead in Dark Season, a BBC children’s science-fiction series written by Russell T Davies. On set she met and fell in love with a co-star, 27-year-old Stephen Tredre. As her career gathered momentum, she left school after her GCSEs (‘I still feel a bit thick sometimes because of that’), and moved into a north London flat with him, aged 17. Two years later she was cast as Juliet Hulme, one of two friends in an obsessive relationship that develops into a murder conspiracy (and based on a true story), in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, and everything changed. Suddenly she was one of the most sought-after young actresses in the world, and after several high-profile leads was cast as Rose in James Cameron’s Titanic.
But things were not as they seemed. Tredre was fighting bone cancer. In the spring of 1997 he took the decision to end the relationship so that she would be spared the pain of watching him die. He died in December 1997, as Titanic was opening; she missed the London premiere to attend his funeral.
So just as she was becoming a global superstar, the man she had loved for five years, who had been with her in the transition from a young girl from Reading to a world-famous actress, disappeared. By her own admission, she has never got over his death. ‘You don’t, you learn to live with it. I look back on it and…’ She takes deep breath, her big eyes brimming with tears. ‘Sorry, I still get upset when I talk about it. See?’ She smiles an ironic little smile. ‘My baggage. I absolutely have it.
‘Stephen let me go, and that as an act of love from one human being to another was overwhelming. When I look back, I wish he hadn’t. I wish I had just been there. To the bitter end. He was gone very quickly and – I still go over those moments in my head.’
In fact, even now, every time she and Mendes take a break away somewhere, she will have ‘a big emotional day’ about Tredre, in which Mendes, who is ‘brilliant’ about it, will go over everything with her. ‘I talk about Stephen as if I still love him,’ she says. ‘But I do. I hope I always will.’
Her post-Titanic story is well known. Further blockbuster roles were shunned for smaller productions (Hideous Kinky, Quills, Holy Smoke!, Enigma, The Life of David Gale). She was married at 23, just short of a year after Tredre’s death, to Jim Threapleton, an assistant director whom she met on the set of Hideous Kinky in Morocco. Their daughter, Mia Honey, was born in 2000; their subsequent break-up and tabloid accusations of selfishness and bad mothering came a year later (‘It was awful, because my hormones were still all over the place. It was like being back in the playground being called Blubber’). They divorced in 2001; both parties are bound by a legal agreement not to discuss it. She began her relationship with Sam Mendes shortly after meeting him to discuss her playing parts in his productions of Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya at the Donmar Warehouse, moved to New York in 2003, remarried and gave birth to Joe in the following year.
To say that her feelings about the 1997-2003 period are mixed is an understatement. Even at the time, she felt that there was too much happening – and too much pressure to deliver as an actress – to discover who she was, but not knowing that made it hard to cope. Now, she seems to think a lot about self-definition, and in our interview occasionally breaks off to consider how she would best sum herself up.
In the entertainment industry there is a theory that celebrity allows you to continue acting the age you were when you first attained it. It explains the boyishness of Take That, the tongue-tied-ness of footballers, the number of cosmetic surgeons in Los Angeles. This is not quite true of Winslet – she takes motherhood too seriously for that – but there is about her a sense of a girl interrupted. She has always felt emotionally different from her peers, and puts this down to having, between 15 and 23, problems she was not ‘emotionally equipped’ to deal with. She has an older friend – many of her friends are older – who has a 22-year-old daughter. Kate loves to hear about the daughter’s life, and to think about herself at that age. Recently her friend told her the girl was doing work experience in a hairdressers, ‘and I thought, how amazing – work experience in a hairdressers. What a laugh! Because I didn’t have a laugh… well, I did, and I always make sure I do, but at the same time…’
Work aside, one has the impression that the turning point was her relationship with Mendes. Her conversation, whether about domestic or work life, is peppered with references to him, and several times she mentions his emotional support following shoots. When, for example, she called him from Germany to say she felt drained after filming The Reader, ‘he said, “Just come home and we’ll wrap you up in a blanket, and I’ll pour you a glass of wine, and you don’t have to do anything. We’ll just hang out and watch films, it doesn’t matter.” It’s great having someone who understands like that.’
Working together on Revolutionary Road hasn’t affected their relationship, although they ‘panicked about it, beforehand. You know: “What if we have a row at home and have to go to work the next day?” But if we have a disagreement, we are quite good at getting through it quickly, and being very honest and married about it.’ The best thing, she says, was spending so much time together although, she hastily adds, ‘we were not all “husband-and-wife” on set. Just the odd hug if we needed one.’
In fact, it sounds as if it was she rather than he who set the limits: Mendes was expecting to have lunch with her on set, but she insisted on staying in her trailer during breaks, as is her usual practice. At home, where Mendes usually disengages from work, she couldn’t resist talking to him about her character. ‘I would never usually discuss parts with Sam, but having the director in the house with me was like gold dust. He’s brilliant at switching off, but when I’m acting, I don’t switch off. I think I do, and even when I’m with the kids, they think I have too, but somehow I’m still thinking about it.’
Carrie comes in to say it is two o’clock – half an hour before Winslet has to collect the children from school. Today, though, her new nanny is picking them up (‘I usually do it, and it’s weird getting used to having her to do things like that occasionally. It’s great having an extra pair of hands’) and so we talk a little longer. She says she feels like a different person from the time before she met Mendes – like ‘a grown-up’. As for the future: ‘I’m not very good at planning ahead,’ she says, ‘so I almost never know what I’m doing next. If I’m working on a film, I find it hard to read potential scripts properly.
‘I wonder if I ever had any specific ambitions in the first place,’ she adds thoughtfully, her mind flitting back to childhood shows in Reading. ‘It’s funny, because I am ambitious, but I’ve only ever wanted to do the best I can. I would have been quite happy to be a jobbing actor, you know. It was never about being famous or the best.’
By Dotson Rader
For millions of people, Kate Winslet will forever be the woman standing on the bow of the Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio, her arms spread in exultation. But even as she was starring in one of the big screen’s greatest love stories—and Titanic was becoming the most popular movie in history—Winslet was suffering through a personal romantic tragedy that would change her life.
“Looking back, I see what I was dealing with when Titanic came out,” Winslet says. “I had a lot of pain, and I was confused about who I was.”
Today, Kate Winslet is one of our finest actresses and one of the youngest ever to capture four Oscar nominations. This fall, she’s won acclaim (and talk of yet another Oscar nod) for her performance in the suburban drama Little Children. Her next film, The Holiday, a romantic comedy with Jude Law and Cameron Diaz, opens in early December.
Winslet, 31, lives in downtown Manhattan on a tree-lined street near the Hudson River with her husband, director Sam Mendes, 41, daughter Mia, 6, and son Joe, 2. During an afternoon we spend together near her home, she is surprisingly forthcoming. And while talking about the present is easy, she also is willing to discuss a more difficult time.
Before Titanic, motherhood and Mendes, there was another man she loved—Stephen Tredre. “He was the most important person in my life, next to my family,” Winslet admits. “I’ve never told anyone all this stuff before. I have no desire to hide any part of myself.”
They met in London when Kate was 15—the shy, overweight middle daughter in a family of provincial actors. Stephen Tredre was 28. A television writer and actor, he was her first love.
“I was very shy,” she says. “I was vulnerable.” In school, she was nicknamed “blubber” for being heavy. “Other girls teased me terribly. I was bullied. I’d just put my head down and get on with it. That was my means of survival. Stephen made me feel secure and embraced.”
By 16, Kate had dropped out of school and was working at a deli in Hampstead. Encouraged by Stephen, she auditioned for her first film, Heavenly Creatures, and unexpectedly won the leading role.
“Stephen was very inspiring,” she says. “He’d wake up in the morning, open the bedroom curtains and say to me, ‘Oh, what a gorgeous day! Let’s go out!’ He had this extraordinary zest for life. My life revolved around him.”
Shortly before Winslet began filming Sense and Sensibility in 1994, Stephen was diagnosed with bone cancer. He became very ill during the film’s production.
“There was no point to his suffering. No rhyme or reason to it,” she says. “He lived healthfully. It always seemed impossible that this man could ever die. He had a tumor in his leg removed and lots of chemotherapy. I was there.
“I’d take the sleeper train up from Devon, where we shot the film, and just be at the hospital with him,” she adds. “When Stephen had gotten better and his cancer was in remission, we broke up. I don’t know why.
“I was so young, when I look back on it. Only 19. How could I have left a person who was so unwell? I thought Stephen was going to be all right.” They stayed apart for about a year. “After we separated, he got ill again,” she continues. “Stephen and I talked every day. This was not somebody I’d turn my back on.”
Tredre died the opening week of Titanic. Winslet missed the film’s Los Angeles premiere to attend his funeral. “It was unbelievably heartbreaking,” she says. “All I have left is that we remained very close until the end.”
Kate looks somber. After a moment, she takes her cell phone to check on her children. She is slender and appears younger than she is, wearing a beige silk blouse, fitted jeans and black sneakers. Her hair, long and blond, hangs loose. She is warm and engaging—stunningly beautiful.
After she’s assured that the kids are OK, I ask if it’s true that the fame Titanic brought, coming on the heels of that loss, nearly undid her. “I didn’t know how to deal with it,” Kate admits. “I sensed that great life changes were impending. I had to hang on by the seat of my pants and not get drawn into public events and endless red carpets.”
She turned down Hollywood movies to make Hideous Kinky, an independent film. On the set, she met James Threapleton, the film’s third assistant director. A year later, they wed and had a daughter, Mia.
“I thought I wanted to be with Jim,” she says. “I was dealing with the pain of having lost Stephen and Titanic coming out. Jim was just a regular guy, and that had a big impact on me.”
The marriage was over three years later. In 2000, while separated from Jim, she met American Beauty director Sam Mendes. “We had this exciting meeting,” she recalls. “I walked away dazzled, thinking, ‘What the hell was that?’ It was this overwhelming feeling—this hope you always have that you will meet a man exactly like him. I knew this was the person I was meant to be with. I was terrified. I didn’t tell anyone I had this feeling, not even my mum. I had no idea if Sam felt anything for me.”
Before Winslet, Mendes had been involved with other actresses, including Rachel Weisz. Well-born and Cambridge-educated, he had never married.
“We met again, quite by accident, months later at a barbecue in London that a friend was having,” Winslet says. “Sam made it clear that he wanted me to act on my feelings. He felt the same way I did.”
Within weeks, they were seriously dating. Their affair made Winslet the object of unrestrained British press attacks for allegedly “trading up” to a better class of man. “It was shattering,” she says of the controversy surrounding her divorce, “but it was nothing compared to losing Stephen.
“I believe in fate,” she continues. “I know it sounds corny, but it was like Sam and I were from the same tribe. We were meant to meet: Both of us from Reading, both born in the same tiny hospital, Dellwood. Then suddenly, years later, this totally gorgeous, sexy, talented man is in my life? That’s fate.
“I love being married to Sam,” she tells me, “and I love motherhood more than anything. It’s like it’s the whole reason for my existence now. Sam’s a wonderful dad. We have a beautiful, healthy son.”
She smiles big. “Oh, lucky, lucky us, to be so genuinely happy.”