It has been quite the busy year for Kate Winslet, from an animated rat in Flushed Away to a mother dealing with her inner demons and fidelity in the acclaimed Little Children. Now, despite her ten year plus career, Winslet shows off her more comedically romantic side opposite Jack Black, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law in The Holiday. Presumably tired of doing a plethora of interviews for her recent films, it seemed that Winslet was not in a holiday mood arriving to do interviews for this one.
Beautifully attired in a simple black pants suit, she was coolly responsive but appropriately professional. Winslet conceded, matter-of-factly, that making The Holiday only brought out her romantic side as a viewer. “The experience of making it is very difficult to get any kind of overview on what the film is actually going to be like,” explained the 30-year old actress. “I mean it was wonderful working with Jack, with these little romantic moments between us having been incredibly sweet, enjoyable and also nice for me.”
Surprisingly, as the actress further adds, romantic comedy is a whole new cinematic world for the star of over 2 dozen films. “I’d never made a film like this before, really embraced it and enjoyed every moment of working with Jack and playing this sweet, lovely, charming, grounded and honest woman.”
The actress concedes that stepping into her first romantic comedy was tougher than she thought. “I mean making films is such a joy but it’s always tough. I certainly didn’t go into it thinking, oh this is going to be so much easier because I haven’t got an accent or its comedy, but I definitely didn’t think that because you know it had it’s own specific set of challenges. Yet at the same time it definitely took me a while to get over my own fear around playing that part and there’s always that level of fear around any character. But I suppose I was surprised about how nervous I was playing an English woman.”
In the Xmas-themed romantic comedy, two women troubled with guy-problems (Diaz and Winslet) swap homes in each other’s countries, where they each meet a local guy and fall in love. In the latter’s case, she is suffering from unrequited love with a pompous writer, plays with devilish charm by Rufus Sewell, who happens to be Winslet’s ex-boyfriend. Initially offering a wry “no comment” when asked about working with Sewell, she then says “it was completely fine. I mean I hadn’t seen him for a very, very long time, but you know we’d remained friends, so it was really not a big deal.”
She had nothing to do, it seems, with casting Sewell as her romantic antagonist, but the irony is deliciously apparent. “It was purely coincidence that he was in the film, but I was thrilled by the suggestion, because he’s a wonderful actor and I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect for Jasper,” Winslet adds with an almost sly grin. And Winslet is equally coy when asked if she could relate to this character. “I think I relate to all the characters, both men and the women to be honest with you, because the subject of love, is endless, and it can be the most glorious thing in the world. But at the same time, it can also be the most shattering thing when you’re in a situation like the one Iris is in when you love someone who doesn’t love you back.”
While The Holiday is the antithesis of much of Winslet’s previous film work, the same cannot be said of Little Children, which is receiving considerable Oscar buzz, not to mention rave reviews. Winslet’s performance in particular has stood out to critics for her portrayal of the red-bathing-suited housewife and mother Sarah Pierce, who feels isolated from the snootier mothers who gather at the local community park with their kids, from her husband (who’s become an Internet porn addict) and even from her own daughter, all of which leads to an affair with a neighbouring father and husband.
Winslet says that as far as the rave reviews concerned, she never reads reviews, so remains “blissfully unaware so it’s just a part of how I go about life.” Yet she is far more aware of the Oscar buzz surrounding her performance and says she takes it seriously. “I’m an actress trying to do the best job I possibly can and when you get that kind of pat on the back and acknowledgement from the industry, that’s huge, since it’s the biggest awards ceremony in the world. I’m very proud to have been nominated before and when you really put your heart and soul into something as I certainly did with Little Children, so of course I take it seriously, as I’m human after all.”
If she is nominated for Little Children, it will be her fifth nomination, but the actress is philosophical on the subject. “This isn’t something that I feel like I’m aiming for and it’s not 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 lucky, you get that pat on the back and I’ve had that pat on the back which is incredible and it feels amazing. But the truth is, every time I have been nominated and I’ve attended the Academy Awards I have instinctively known that I wasn’t going to win and so it’s been nice because I’ve just been able to go along and really just enjoy the whole experience.”
While Winslet and Little Children are already receiving those pats on the back, the same cannot be said for All the King’s Men, slammed by the critics and a commercial failure. Yet for the actress, what happens after a film is shot has little to do with the experience of making it. “I honestly I think that I’m always quite relaxed about how films are received, because to me it’s about the work, about the moment, the making of the film and what that feels like. I genuinely don’t know what All The Kings Men did in the Box Office or how it was reviewed and I promise you I don’t know because I don’t look at that information. 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.”
Winslet constantly refers to this profession of hers as a job, getting the next job, or the first job. Perhaps coming from a family of actors, presented Winslet with a work ethic. She always knew, instinctively, that this is what she would do, but fame and Hollywood were the farthest things from her mind. “There was absolutely in my mind never any question that this is what I wanted to be, but I never thought I was going to be in films, because that’s not what acting was about in my family, but about struggle and doing theatre. Even getting an episode of a TV series was a big job, and something that we would all celebrate. So the fact that I have ended up being in movies is something that I’m constantly amazed by and constantly questioning, because it wasn’t something that I really knew anything about when I was a child.”
So Winslet is genuinely surprised that she has become so successful. “And I’m also genuinely grateful and really appreciative that I get to do the thing I love to do and play so many different parts. That’s the tremendous privilege that it’s such a challenge and remains entirely inspiring to me because of the different characters that I’ve been allowed to play, certainly in the last four or five years since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind it kind of really opened up a whole other doorway of opportunity and I still feel that I’m experiencing the benefits of that film in particular because I think people saw me in a more contemporary light to put it completely plainly.” Asked if there is a character she yearns to play, Winslet offers a slight smile. “Yeah I mean there are, definitely, but I don’t want to tell you, because acting is about mystery as well.”