Kate Winslet’s two haunting film experiences
An actress in survival mode.
Lost in the mountains after a plane crash, Kate Winslet has to survive in a very hostile environment against the elements in La Montagne entre nous (in cinemas on 8 November). She is also in the new Woody Allen film, Wonder Wheel, due for release in January. She talks about shooting these two films, and both the fear and pleasure she finds in these kinds of challenges.
Kate Winslet has two films coming this year, and making them has haunted her nights. After filming “The Mountain Between Us” in which she and Idris Elba play strangers stranded on an icy, desolate mountain range when their plane crashes, “I would have panic dreams about my children being trapped under ice,” she said, nightmares that are just now subsiding.
2. And for different reasons, she also lost sleep shooting Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel,” set in 1950s Coney Island (due 31 Jan), in which Winslet is caught in an unfulfilling marriage and a dead-end job as a waitress in a clown house.
3.“The Mountain Between Us” is directed by Hany Abu-Assad and shot in the mountains of Western Canada. “We would fly up in helicopters to work every day,” she said. “We were very, very high up” — about 10,000 feet — “and very, very cold” — 36 degrees below zero. To Winslet, that was the appeal. “There’s a certain sense of satisfaction after having had three children and being 41 years old, and actually feeling probably fitter and stronger than ever,” she said. “It was like, I can put some of that physical strength to good use.” 4. Q. Why pick an endurance test like “Mountain Between Us”? A. I’m much more taken by an extreme set of circumstances than an easy, comfortable route. I like a challenge, and it’s been a long time since I’ve done a film that required such a level of physical exertion and stamina and commitment — and also overcoming a certain degree of fear every single day. Plus, I’m a much more cold than hot sort of person. If a script says, “It’s a sweltering hot day on a beach in Tahiti,” I’m less interested.
5. Q. What was scary about this? A. We would go into work and there would be six different scenarios, based on whether the helicopters could fly that day, based on the weather — howling gale, a blizzard. It would take me 45 minutes to dress in the morning, clever layers under those costumes, so we didn’t look like Michelin men. And then I would have
heat packs stuck to me — three on my arms, a couple across my chest. They give g out really fast when you’re at altitude. A couple of moments, we would lose the feelings in our toes and have to stop for half an hour, and someone would put t their gloves on our r feet. We were in n full survival mode. e.
6. Q. Still, I bet a lot t of people would be e thrilled to be stranded on a mountain with Idris Elba. A. Hell yeah! [Laughs] I could think of worse people to be trapped with. I was really grabbed by the huge challenge [of] putting two actors on screen for the entire length of a movie. I remember thinking, “Oh my God, we’ve got to keep this in interesting, othe erwise we’re d doomed.” I think it was really go good that we di didn’t know each ot other — we disco covered a lot ab about the other per person. We got qui quite good at reading what the other pers person was thinking a and needing — hot p packs and hidden candy c supplies.
7. Q. Do you prefer playing strong people facing a vulnerable moment, or vulnerable people finding strength? A. I like characters who are completely unafraid of showing all their flaws. I think often people associate me with strong characters who are daring and reckless. But it’s very interesting to play a character who actually is vulnerable. I’m a very open book. I don’t believe in hiding emotion. The character in “The Reader” [the 2008 film for which Winslet won an Oscar] is totally closed off and that was very hard for me, largely because it was so opposite who I am. There’s nothing more exciting than reading a script and going, “How am I supposed to play this part?” [Laughs] When I read the Woody Allen script, I thought, “Oh my God, I can’t do this.” I read the script sitting on the staircase in my house, and didn’t move until I finished reading. I just sat on the staircase for an hour, in complete shock and panic. But that’s the best feeling, because sheer terror sometimes is the greatest challenge of all.
8. Q. What was the catalyst to get you from sheer terror to playing the part? A. Here’s the catalyst — probably wasn’t going to get another go-round with Woody Allen, so it’s now or never. The only reason I wouldn’t have done it would have been fear, and that is no way to live a life, man.
9. Q. You’ve been acting since your teens. When you were starting out, did you think much about career longevity? A. I very much thought about that, probably do still. You’re only as good as your last movie. When I started, I couldn’t believe I was really being cast until four or five movies in, and even then I couldn’t quite believe it. I was very much aware of watching young actresses come and go. I just have always felt that you have to dig deep and work hard. And I see it as real work. I don’t leave anything to chance. In terms of longevity, I always hope to be invited back, because I love it.