Kate Winslet Web

The Oscar-winning actress spoke to Vanity Fair at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Kate Winslet has an Oscar, seven total Academy Award nominations, and enough heart-wrenching performances under her belt to easily qualify as one of the best living actresses. But even she has moments of massive professional insecurity—the latest of which came while filming Woody Allen’s upcoming period film Wonder Wheel.

“It was a really difficult part,” Winslet told Vanity Fair’s Krista Smith at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday. “I would spend every day just thinking, ‘I am sure I am getting this wrong.’ I was trying so hard not to be a cliché and was convinced that I was. I just wanted to do my best.”

The film is set in 1950s Coney Island, with Winslet playing a waitress in a clown house who lives above a shooting alley right in the center of an arcade.

“She isn’t really living the life she is imagining she would,” Winslet said of her character, married to a character played by Jim Belushi. “She has a son who is troubled to a certain degree. And my character embarks on an affair with a lifeguard played by Justin Timberlake. My character really believes it is worth throwing it all a way for this man, and believes that she could have another, better life. It all goes wrong when the lifeguard meets my stepdaughter, played by Juno Temple.”

Winslet had wanted to work with Allen ever since she dropped out of Match Point. Even having previously communicated with the director, though, Winslet was still freaked out by the script.

“I was actually shell-shocked because of the volume of the dialogue,” Winslet said. “I had never come across anything like it. Just the scope and the complexity of this woman was really overwhelming. I remember thinking, ‘I can’t.’ And my husband went, ‘What are you talking about? Come on. You are not going to get another go at this.’ I almost wanted to cry. I thought, ‘Do I have to do this?’”

When Winslet finally did get to set, her fear did not subside.

“Every day on the shoot felt like being on a fairground ride—like I was just clinging on for dear life. I didn’t sleep properly on the shoot because the adrenaline was firing so often. I was terrified I wouldn’t wake up. I questioned everything constantly: ‘I am going to be late. I am going to fail. I am not going to be prepared. I am going to fail. I am going to screw up.’ And Woody Allen has a way of working that is really specific in terms of his visual choices, so we would shoot gigantic scenes in one long shot—and not just the classic walk and talk, [but] long choreographed shots—cooking, smoking, talking, drinking.”

“With Justin, Jim, and Juno, we would just look at each other and go, ‘Is everyone O.K.? It’s going to be O.K.’ But as an acting challenge, it was completely immersive. I would wake up saying my hands were hurting, because my hands would be clenched in my sleep. I had divots in my hand. I didn’t really breathe properly, I don’t think, the entire shoot. I actually did throw my neck out doing a physical scene with Jim Belushi. I couldn’t really look to the left or look to the right, so you can’t drive.”

The doctor gave her a “neck collar” right before filming the drama’s final climactic scene, and that made Winslet even more worried about how Allen would react.

“He is a lot about about ailments and illnesses and skin conditions. I walked in and he just looked at me and went—[shifting into full Woody Allen impression], ‘Oh my god. What happened?’ I said, ‘No Woody, it will be fine.’ I somehow got through it. It was a total body experience playing this part. This was in some ways more physically demanding than being on a mountain with Idris Elba.”

Oh, that’s right. Did Winslet mention that she also spent months in the Canadian Rockies—negative temperatures included—for The Mountain Between Us, out in theaters October 6?

“I am lucky to be married to a man who is all about safety and has done quite a few extreme things,” Winslet said of her husband Ned Rocknroll. “He was the one giving me extra supplies. I would go up in the helicopter every day with my Ned-packed backpack—with my battery-operated heated scarf, my battery-operated gloves, my scarf, my flares, a head torch . . . you just never know what is going to happen. So he sort of prepared me for every eventuality.”

Knowing how terrifying the conditions were, why did Winslet take the role?

“I am nearly turning 42, and I have three kids, so there is something very empowering about saying I can do that [physically],” Winslet explained. “To work with someone like Idris, and be in these very extreme circumstances, and doing something supermom . . . I never would have imagined that I’d have this kind of opportunity, being a mom in my 40s.”

“It definitely toughed us up,” Winslet added, revealing that even the most routine activities were difficult in such frigid, below-zero conditions.

“What happens when you pee . . . you pee, and it freezes instantly as it leaves your body,” Winslet laughed, before providing sound effects. “It’s like clink, clink, clink. It’s hilarious.”

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