Kate Winslet Online
Jan 16
Ali Articles, Dressmaker, Heavenly Creatures Comments Off on Why Kate Winslet keeps New Zealand close to her heart

The New Zealand Herald did this fun interview with Kate in honor of the release of her film The Dressmaker and Kate talks about how New Zealand is close to her heart.

“Hello Joanna,” a voice says cheerily down the line. “It’s Kate Winslet.”

Sure, of course it is. It’s not that I wasn’t expecting this call, but usually there’s a bit more prelude involved. A publicist will call you, sometimes more than once, to confirm you’re ready for the interview before you’re placed on hold – often for upwards of 10 minutes – and the call is finally connected. Sometimes the publicist will stay on the line, coughing surreptitiously when you deviate too far from the approved subject matter – in this case, Winslet’s new film, The Dressmaker.

But there’s none of that today. Winslet is direct and forthright. She dials her own numbers.

More amusingly, she’s calling via Skype, trilling with delight that it’s actually worked. She and technology don’t always get on (ironic for a woman who is about to star in the new Steve Jobs biopic).

“I’m supposed to be making all these calls to Australia and New Zealand and I thought, ‘F***! That’s going to cost me a fortune’,” she exclaims. So Skype it is.

Direct. Forthright. And a touch frugal.

As she is driving to a photo shoot in central London, the call drops out repeatedly as the car passes in and out of data coverage. Yet Winslet remains determined to forge ahead with her cost-saving strategy. By the end of our interview, she has called me no less than six times.

It is strangely – and rather endearingly – normal. Not what you might expect from a celebrity of Winslet’s stature. But then, Winslet doesn’t consider herself a celebrity. In fact, she’s often surprised that people are interested in her at all.

She was papped on Auckland’s Piha Beach during summer, with photos of her in a black one-piece sent around the world. She wasn’t annoyed by the encounter so much as surprised. She had, she says, rather forgotten she was famous.

“It’s funny, because I don’t really live a film star lifestyle. We try very, very hard to be normal.

“When you’re in Piha and I’ve got the baby on my back, I totally forget. I’m always rather shocked, it’s like ‘Oh! We’re in the paper?'”

It would sound disingenuous coming from just about anyone else, but with Winslet you really do feel it’s true.

Or perhaps I’ve just fallen for her charms as she gushes over my “lovely New Zealand accent”.

“Oh God, listen to it … It’s just lovely. I love the sound of it. I’ve got family in New Zealand so it’s always lovely to hear a Kiwi accent. I’ve been used to it my whole life.”

It was that family that sparked her Christmas visit here last year and saw her travel throughout the North Island – from the Bay of Islands down to Sir Peter Jackson’s home base in Wellington.

There, she spent a day with the director reliving memories of their time together on the set of Heavenly Creatures and watching behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot. The pair locked themselves away and reminisced about the seminal experience.

“Everything that I know, I learned on that film,” says Winslet. “People assumed I knew what I was doing but I hadn’t got a f***ing clue. I’d never been on a film set before in my life. It was the first role I’d ever auditioned for.

“When I turned up, I had to go along with this thing that everyone thought I knew what I was doing. They also hoped, in some way, I’d be able to hold the hand of Melanie Lynskey, who had been a speaking flower in a school play once and that was about it. So the two of us really learned on the job.”

She remembers every moment of her time on set and every exchange between her and Jackson. As they sat watching old footage together, more than 20 years on, she could quote every line and conversation before it played on screen.

“[Peter] was like, ‘Holy shit, how can you remember that?’ But I remember everything. It was such a profound experience.

“We were watching this footage with tears in our eyes because it was such a profound time and a very, very special film, which we are still incredibly proud of. We actually sat and watched it together, Peter and I. We both watched it and went, ‘Damn, it’s a really good film’.”

It’s been more than 21 years, 35 film roles and six Oscar nominations since she played Juliet Hulme, yet she carries the experience with her always, she says, on to every stage and film set. She carried it to the set of The Dressmaker, taking on the role of the cool and calculating Tilly Dunnage.

Based on the novel by Rosalie Ham and directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse (How To Make An American Quilt), The Dressmaker is the story of social outcast Tilly, who returns to the desolate Outback town she grew up in to find answers and reap revenge.

As Winslet says, Tilly is “full of piss and vinegar”. As is her mother Molly, played by the wonderful Judy Davis.

“The idea of being in the same room as her was just irresistible,” says Winslet of her Australian co-star. “I’ve always admired her. When I met her for the first time, I walked into the room and squealed and clapped.”

Set in the 1950s, the film oozes glamour as Tilly uses her talents as a couturier to transform the town’s wallflowers into bona fide pin-up girls. Winslet herself looks flawless, poured into form-fitting gowns with perfectly coiffed hair.

It is, arguably, one of the best films to have come out of Australia this century. And, with a pitch-perfect Ocker accent on show, Winslet’s friend Oscar could well come knocking again.

All of which played a part in her decision to take on the role. But more than that was the chance for an adventure, to pack up her life and head to the other side of the world.

Like any working mother, Winslet’s life and career choices are dictated by the logistics of motherhood.

With three children (Mia, aged 15, Joe, 11 and Bear, who turns 2 in December), sometimes just reading a script can prove too challenging.

But The Dressmaker came at the perfect time. Not only did Winslet sit down to read both the script and the novel, she realised she was perfectly placed to say yes to the Outback adventure.

“I thought, ‘Actually, I’m in a period of my life where I know I can make this work.’ The baby is still quite portable, the other children are of an age where I can figure it out for them.’ It just made me feel, ‘Okay, great, wow, it’s time for an adventure’.”

So she and husband Ned Rocknroll packed up baby Bear and headed Downunder.

“It felt like back-to-basics. Back to being in my mid-20s when I could just go and shoot [Australian film] Holy Smoke. Before restrictions came into my world. Before kids having to go to school, which mean I’m limited by a production’s location.”

In the past 10 years, every film she’s made has been shot in America or Europe, until this one.

If she was wooed by the thought of adventure and a line-up of leading female talent, Winslet had one reservation about making the film: the fellow actor who was cast as her love interest – Liam Hemsworth.

At 25, he is 15 years her junior, yet cast to play the same age as her. But of more concern to Winslet was whether he could actually act.

“Like everybody else, all I knew was the fact he was [once] engaged to be married to Miley Cyrus – and to be honest, not a huge amount more than that.

And that he was in The Hunger Games, which was hugely exciting for my teenage daughter.”

Moorhouse, however, was emphatic. Hems-worth was the perfect man to play Teddy.

Still, that didn’t mean Winslet would make it easy for the so-called heart-throb, who arrived on set several weeks after the rest of the cast due to a scheduling conflict.

“By the time he got there, we had all been working very hard for weeks. I definitely dragged him into the core of it all and really said to him, ‘Look, this is what we’re doing’.”

Winslet’s forthright if nothing else. “It was really a tonic for him to be with us. I felt like he was away from the chaos. Suddenly he was called upon to be a real actor with a real group of actors and bring it.”

And bring it he did, making the most of the experience and constantly seeking feedback and advice from his more experienced co-stars.

“He was very appreciative,” says Winslet.

“I know that for sure. He was very vocal about how much he got from the experience, which was firstly very unexpected but secondly, incredibly endearing.”

By the end of filming, Winslet was completely won over.

“He really is an adorable, good person and I’m happy that I can say that because it would be terrible if I just had a bad story to tell you. I don’t have to make this stuff up. I can really say that and mean it.”

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