Before meeting Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron was at the top of the list in terms of beautiful Hollywood actresses I had met in person and that is saying something considering Winslet has two children and a body that would never let you know it. However, if you want to see that body in action you are going to have to check out her less cheerful film this year Little Children, but if you are in the mood for a fantastic holiday laugh you have got to check her out in The Holiday this Friday.
Winslet sat down to talk with a group of us “journalist” types at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles a few weeks ago and was very open to talking about her new found acting capabilities in a romantic comedy, a genre she had never explored before. Probably best known for her turn as Rose DeWitt Bukater in the mega blockbuster Titanic and several more niche films since then, she returns to the mainstream in a movie you are sure to enjoy. That is if you have a heart.
Sit back and enjoy my interview with one of Hollywood’s Brit beauties.
Does doing a movie like this bring out your romantic side?
Kate Winslet (KW): I suppose it does, watching it it does. The experience of making it, it’s very difficult to get any kind of overview on what the film is actually going to be like. It was wonderful working with Jack and those little romantic moments between the two of us were just incredibly sweet and enjoyable and also nice for me. This is a whole new genre, I’ve never made a film like this before and I really embraced it and enjoyed every moment of working with Jack and working with Eli and playing this sweet, lovely, charming, grounded, honest woman. It was such a pleasure.
What about working with Rufus Sewell, your ex-boyfriend?
KW: No comment. [laughing] No, it was completely fine. I hadn’t seen him for a very long time, but we’ve remained friends, it was really not a big deal. It was pure coincidence, but I was thrilled at the suggestion because he is a wonderful actor and I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect for Jasper.
How was it with this being your first sort of “chick flick”?
KW: I don’t feel like this is a “chick flick,” it’s really weird and that’s not me trying to sell the movie in a whole ‘nother way, but I don’t. It’s really about relationships and it’s about two separate relationships that happen with women and men, and it happens to have more men in the film than women, which was something Nancy pointed out to me a couple of days ago.
It is a whole new genre to me, the romantic comedy, I have never done a romantic comedy before and I was so excited to do something new and also nervous. The worry of “can I be funny?” It’s a terrible thing to be concerned about and Jude and I would speak on the telephone a lot before we started shooting, “Oh my god they’re going to fire us, we’re going to be recast. What if we don’t make them laugh?” We were very nervous about the whole thing, but also I hadn’t played a contemporary English woman in a film either before. I’ve done a lot of period English films, but never a contemporary person, I’ve done it as an American, but this was new to me and actually I did not like the feeling initially. I thought, “What do you mean I can’t hide behind something? What do you mean I don’t have a wig or an accent or a strange costume?” It was me and my hair and my voice and clothes that I would choose to wear and there was something oddly intimidating about that and it took a little bit of getting used to.
Harder than you thought?
KW: Oh it was definitely harder than I thought. Making films is such a joy, but it is always tough. I certainly didn’t go into it thinking this was going to be so much easier because I haven’t got an accent or because it’s comedy. I definitely didn’t think that because it had its own specific set of challenges, but at the same time it definitely took me a little while to get over my own sort of fear about playing that part. There’s always that level of fear about playing any character but I was surprised about how nervous I was about playing an English woman.
Were you able to relate to any of the characters in The Holiday?
KW: I relate to all of the characters, both the men and the women, to be honest with you. The subject of love is endless, it’s absolutely endless. It can be the most glorious thing in the world and it can be the most shattering thing when you’re in a situation like the one Iris is in, when you’re in a situation when you love someone who doesn’t love you back. In a way I sort of relate to all of them, that’s what Nancy Meyers does so brilliantly, she constructs these stories that have characters in them that we feel as if we know. We feel as if we’ve been that person or we’ve been friends with that person.
This is quite a year for you with this and of course Little Children. How serious do you take the Oscar buzz that is being generated based on some of the Little Children reviews?
KW: First thing I would say is that I haven’t read any of the reviews so I am blissfully unaware and I don’t tend to read reviews, it’s just a part of how I go about life. It means a lot to me and I do take it very seriously, I’m an actress and I am trying to do the best job I possibly can and when you get that kind of pat on the back and the acknowledgement from the industry â€“ I mean it is the biggest award ceremony in the world and historically so to. That’s huge. I’m very proud to have been nominated before and when you really put your heart and soul into something as I did with Little Children, and The Holiday is no exception, but Little Children was a very difficult part for me to play and it was a difficult film to make in the sense that the subject was tough and just the story, it was hard. So of course I take it seriously, I am human.
How do good reviews and success compare to when other movies of yours, such as All the King’s Men, don’t have the same kind of luck?
KW: I’m always quite relaxed about how films are received because to me it’s about the work and about the moment and the making of the film and what that feels like. Also, how I feel about the film when I see it and I just feel proud of all of these things. I also genuinely don’t know how All the King’s Men did at the box-office or how it was reviewed, I promise you I don’t know. I don’t look at that information and I feel as if I did start absorbing that information then I suddenly would be taken out of myself and I wouldn’t just be concentrating on my job anymore. The truth is I honestly don’t know how to respond to that because I genuinely don’t know.
With Little Children, do you think you could have played the character of Sarah without having been a parent?
KW: That’s funny because I have been asked that question in the past about other characters, for example the woman I played in Hideous Kinky has two children and also in Jude and in Finding Neverland, in every case, in all of those films, I have said, “Absolutely, yes I could not have played this part if I hadn’t been a parent.”
The truth is with Sarah I don’t know how much of a difference it made. It definitely helped in the sense that I knew the kind of parent that Sarah ultimately wanted to be and I knew about the joys of parenting and how life changing it can be and how inspiring it can be and how much happiness it can give you on a daily basis and so it gave me a very profound understanding of what she was missing out on. In terms of actual parenting skills that were useful, then no, because she has very little when it comes to that. I was able to see the mistakes she was making as a parent, just in the sense that she’s a woman who chooses to see the presence of her child as an obstacle. Her child is somebody that gets in the way of her being herself, but the problem with Sarah is that she has lost all motivation to be herself and she’s forgotten who that person used to be. So she’s so lost on all counts, it was bloody hard I’ll tell you. It’s not easy playing a person that is a less than perfect parent, it wasn’t comfortable at all, but at the same time she doesn’t hit her child, she doesn’t yell at her, she’s not cruel â€“ she just doesn’t know how to show her love for this child. She doesn’t know how to be fully responsible for this child and those are her weaknesses.
I really truly did have a great relationship with Sadie Goldstein who plays Lucy because I knew that she had to love me and I had to love her and she had to trust me. I had to explain to her in the moments when I wasn’t looking her in the eye and I was a little offhand with her it was just all a big pat of the great big game we were playing. So she totally got it and whenever she would do something that was totally wonderful without realizing that she was doing it I was the first one to pick her up and I would almost be like the hysterical over-the-top parent, just paying her way too much attention. I would go, “Wow, you’re so brilliant. Woo hoo.” She was absolutely wonderful that child, absolutely wonderful.
You come from a family of actors was there ever a thought of doing something else, and what inspired you?
KW: I promise you it was just a kind of in-the-blood thing, it was absolutely never any question in my mind that that was what I wanted to be, but I never thought I was going to be in films. That was not what acting was about in my family, acting was about struggle and doing theater and even getting an episode in a TV series, that was getting a big job. The fact that I have ended up being in movies is something that I’m constantly amazed by and find myself questioning. It wasn’t something that I really knew anything about when I was a child, but I always knew that I wanted to do it. My parents were very encouraging and in the right ways, the practical ways. They didn’t say to me, “Oh you’re so wonderful darling, you’re going to be a huge star.” No, they absolutely didn’t. They said, “Okay, well, work hard and we’ll see. Do your best because your best is good enough,” and that is what I say to my daughter and son in everything. I think it is tremendously important to instill that kind of confidence in a child.
How surprised are you with your career?
KW: Very surprised and very grateful. Genuinely grateful and appreciative that I get to do the thing I love to do and play so many different parts. That’s the tremendous privilege is that it’s such a challenge and remains to be entirely inspiring to me because of the different characters that I’ve been allowed to play, certainly in the last few years since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it really opened up a whole other doorway of opportunity and I still feel that I am experiencing the benefits of that film in particular. I think people saws me in a more contemporary light.
Would you like to go back to romantic comedies again?
KW: I loved it, I would absolutely love to. It’s a very different way of working. It’s very different and yet it’s just as much hard work. I loved it, I really had a great time and it was so nice to walk away from the experience of shooting this film with a real spring in my step and not feeling as if I was bleeding out of every pore in my body and I had been put through the emotional rollercoaster ride of playing somebody like Sarah. I didn’t feel I had to patch myself back together as much as you sometimes do. It was a truly wonderful experience.
Did Jack Black surprise you at all?
KW: When I read the script I could not think of another person, I couldn’t think of anyone that would play Miles better than Jack. It was just Jack, it was so obvious, and we were so lucky that he wanted to come and do it and I was really excited to work with him.
I am a huge Jack Black fan, he’s a brilliant actor and an incredible comedian, but he has something very humble about him too, he’s not a showoff. I also thought you could tell he was very hard working and the only thing I was genuinely surprised by was that I think I thought Jack was going to operate much more like a comic or a comedian, but he doesn’t he operates like an actor. He reminded me so much of many actors that I’ve worked with, very sweet, very supportive and really hard working. He has this sensitive side to him too, he’s very thoughtful and really kind and I was just delighted to experience those things and thrilled to see him use them in playing this part. I do feel we haven’t seen Jack do something like this and I think he does it brilliantly. He doesn’t fall into the false sentiment, it’s a very genuine performance and of course he colors it with all his Jack Black-ness, which I think we are all very grateful for.
You have four Oscar nominations, but now wins yet, while it is a huge honor do you still strive for the win?
KW: It isn’t something that I feel like I am aiming for, it isn’t a goal of mine. I just feel so incredibly lucky that I’ve had that acknowledgement and that experience. It’s just something that if you’re really, really lucky you get that pat on the back and I’ve had that pat on the back and it’s incredible and it feels amazing. The truth is, every time I have been nominated and I’ve attended the Academy Awards I have instinctively known I wasn’t going to win. So it’s been nice because I have just been able to go along and really just enjoy the whole experience.
I mean, I am aware there is buzz around Little Children, but who knows? It may slide off the map, you just don’t know, and because I don’t read reviews and because I am so unaware of what people are saying I genuinely don’t have a sense of how much staying power it’s going to have. But listen, of course it would mean everything if it went all the way.
The Holiday hit theaters on December 8. For more on the film click here.