Amaz­ing Kate:

why ac­tress Kate Winslet is more in de­mand than ever

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS - The Moun­tain Be­tween Us opens at NZ cin­e­mas on Oc­to­ber 12. AWW

Kate Winslet can’t seem to steer clear of a chal­lenge. For the epic fi­nal scenes for Ti­tanic – the film that would come to de­fine her ca­reer – she spent hours in freez­ing wa­ter, day af­ter day, and at one point dur­ing the pro­longed shoot even suc­cumbed to pneu­mo­nia.

Hol­ly­wood stu­dio bosses weren’t pre­pared for how far she would go for her most re­cent role, how­ever.

Kate stars along­side Idris Elba in The Moun­tain Be­tween Us, a story about two strangers who sur­vive a plane crash in re­mote moun­tains and then must sur­vive the wilder­ness.

The ac­tress was un­per­turbed about com­ing face to face with a moun­tain lion for one of the film’s cli­mac­tic scenes.

It was due to take place in­side the plane wreck­age but stu­dio bosses called it off, judg­ing it far too dan­ger­ous. In­stead, the moun­tain lion scene shows the an­i­mals prowl­ing around the fuse­lage at the crash site while Kate’s char­ac­ter hides in­side. “They never let the lion into the plane

while I was in there,” says Kate. “I was up for it. But the stu­dio was like: ‘No! It is not going to hap­pen.’”

She ad­mits her hus­band of four years, Ned Rock­n­roll, the nephew of bil­lion­aire en­tre­pre­neur Sir Richard Bran­son, was also less than im­pressed af­ter she showed him the call sheet for the next day’s film­ing.

“It had a warn­ing which read, ‘Cougars on set to­day. No­body wear red. No loud noises. No food or drink on set.’ He thought it was a joke,” says Kate.

It’s so very Kate Winslet that where other ac­tors would baulk at film­ing with wild an­i­mals – or at least de­mand a hefty amount of dan­ger money – she would in­stead con­sider it a thrill.

Re­garded as one of the great­est ac­tresses of her gen­er­a­tion, she has been de­scribed by nu­mer­ous di­rec­tors as fear­less, and her sense of naughty fun is legendary.

But she took bold­ness to a new level for The Moun­tain Be­tween Us, which was filmed in the snowy wilds of Bri­tish Columbia – where tem­per­a­tures fell to mi­nus 38°C on the cold­est day and the threat of avalanches is ever present. De­spite the treach­er­ous ter­rain and the freez­ing cli­mate, Kate de­manded she do all of her own stunt work for the film, which meant plung­ing into a frozen lake sev­eral times for one scene.

She ad­mits her Ti­tanic ex­pe­ri­ence pre­pared her well for that one.

“I did Ti­tanic. Falls through ice? No prob­lem. Plane crash? Boat sinks? No big­gie. There are so many out­takes where I’m like, ‘Ice, any­one? This brings back mem­o­ries!’

“There was a Ti­tanic mem­ory at least once a day.”

The James Cameron film that made her a star may be 20 years old but it is still very much part of Kate’s life. She calls co-star Leonardo DiCaprio her “clos­est friend in the world”. The pair reg­u­larly spend time to­gether and re­cently hol­i­dayed at Leonardo’s French es­tate, af­ter Kate ap­peared as a guest at a gala for her friend’s en­vi­ron­men­tal foun­da­tion a few weeks ear­lier.

“I’m not going to tell you what we talk about, but yeah, we’re very, very close and some­times we do quote the odd Ti­tanic line back and forth to each other, be­cause only we can, and we find it re­ally funny,” she says.

Kate ad­mits Leonardo was con­cerned for her be­fore she be­gan film­ing for The Moun­tain Be­tween Us, know­ing what both of them had en­dured for Ti­tanic.

“[We] did speak be­fore film­ing and he did sort of say to me, ‘Oh my God, you are crazy! It’s going to be freez­ing cold. Do you hon­estly know what you are send­ing your­self up for?’

“I would send him lit­tle pho­tos of me say­ing, ‘Think­ing of you,’ as I am ly­ing in the freez­ing snow-cov­ered ice, and he would just send back slightly wor­ried emo­jis,” she says.

The cou­ple’s chem­istry is what made Ti­tanic the phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess it was, but it seems Rose and Jack may have some com­pe­ti­tion. The Moun­tain Be­tween Us di­rec­tor, Hany Abu-As­sad, has re­ferred to the chem­istry be­tween Kate and Idris Elba in his film as “ex­tra­or­di­nary”, re­veal­ing he cast Idris af­ter an­other ac­tor had asked if the film could be on a stu­dio sound stage rather than the harsh Cana­dian moun­tain ter­rain.

“I didn’t want a wimp,” says Abu-As­sad. “I wanted a man. So I cast Idris. And then we got Kate, who is fear­less. They go well to­gether.”

Mar­riage and chil­dren

Not one for sit­ting still, Kate has worked on seven movies over the past two years. That’s in ad­di­tion to rais­ing her tod­dler son, Bear, with third hus­band Ned who she wed in 2012,>>

and her two other chil­dren, Mia (16) with first hus­band, Jim Threaple­ton, and Joe (13) with her sec­ond hus­band, Sam Men­des.

Much has been made of the fact that Kate, at just 41, is al­ready on to her third mar­riage. But the ac­tress has main­tained a dig­ni­fied si­lence through­out the ups and downs of her per­sonal life, de­ter­mined to fo­cus only on her chil­dren’s well­be­ing.

“There’s no way that I’m going to al­low my chil­dren to be f***ed up be­cause my mar­riages haven’t worked out,” she says. “I so wish that wasn’t the case, that that hadn’t hap­pened in my life, but it has. So I will make the best of it.”

She has found hap­pi­ness with Ned, a busi­ness­man with Bran­son’s Vir­gin Galac­tic space ini­tia­tive, say­ing their re­la­tion­ship is strength­ened by his sense of hu­mour.

“We’ve all got our health and we all laugh a lot,” she told an in­ter­viewer last year. “In my per­sonal life, I re­ally can’t say why, but I’ve never felt more con­fi­dent and happy.”

The cou­ple met while they were both hol­i­day­ing on an is­land owned by Ned’s un­cle Sir Richard Bran­son. Kate had flown to the is­land hop­ing for some pri­vate time with her chil­dren fol­low­ing her di­vorce from Sam Men­des, but she couldn’t es­cape the head­lines af­ter fire broke out at Bran­son’s home where she was stay­ing, along with 16 other guests.

Kate and her chil­dren es­caped, but she fa­mously helped Bran­son’s 90-year-old mother to safety through the smoke and flames.

She and Ned be­gan dat­ing soon af­ter and a year later they tied the knot in a se­cret cer­e­mony, wel­com­ing baby Bear Blaze in De­cem­ber 2013.

Kate ex­plained her baby’s un­usual moniker on an episode of The Ellen Show shortly af­ter his birth, re­veal­ing that his first name is taken from that of a child­hood friend.

“He was nick­named Bear and I just had al­ways re­ally loved it. He was a great fig­ure in my life and I had al­ways re­mem­bered him, so that’s where it came from. Bear’s sec­ond name is Blaze be­cause my hus­band and I met in a house fire, ba­si­cally.”

Child­hood dreams

In many ways, it seems sur­pris­ing that Kate has only just en­tered her 40s.

Not be­cause of her ap­pear­ance – in fact she has never looked bet­ter – but be­cause she has had such a cel­e­brated ca­reer and been such a con­stant on our screens, it’s a won­der she’s not decades older.

Born in Read­ing, south-east Eng­land, on Oc­to­ber 5, 1975, the daugh­ter of a bar­maid and a swim­ming pool con­trac­tor, Kate spent her child­hood dream­ing of be­com­ing an ac­tor.

“It was re­ally very much a fun, lovely child­hood on a shoe­string,” she re­calls of grow­ing up with her two sis­ters and brother.

Fame evenu­tally came, at 17, in the form of Heavenly Crea­tures. It was the first film she had ever au­di­tioned for and Kiwi di­rec­tor Peter Jackson was struck by her.

He cast her as a teenage mur­der­ess in the 1994 hit film, a per­for­mance that made Hol­ly­wood take note of the young English star.

More than two decades later, Kate still counts Heavenly Crea­tures

– based on the Parker-Hulme mur­der in Christchurch in 1954 – as one of the great­est gifts of her ca­reer.

“That was the big­gest stroke of luck for me. Be­cause not only was I asked to play an ex­tra­or­di­nary part in a true story in a film script writ­ten by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, but then Peter di­rected it and peo­ple ac­tu­ally liked the film. It be­came that movie that peo­ple still talk about. That was a stroke of luck… And I learned so much.”

In 1997 came her big break. Gwyneth Pal­trow, Wi­nona Ry­der and Clare Danes had all turned down the role of Rose DeWitt Bukater, the first-class pas­sen­ger on the Ti­tanic, be­fore Kate finally au­di­tioned for the role.

James Cameron was un­sure about of­fer­ing her the part, so Kate set about con­vinc­ing him, send­ing him a sin­gle rose with a card signed “From Your Rose”, and lob­by­ing him by phone. Her per­sis­tence paid off, and she landed her first Os­car nom­i­na­tion.

She ad­mits she didn’t know how to cope with the suc­cess of Ti­tanic, which re­mains one of the high­est-gross­ing films of all time.

“It did throw me,” says Kate. “Call me naive, but I had no idea. I re­ally didn’t. I had no idea that was going to hap­pen with that film and to my life. It’s a funny old thing, be­cause I look back, and I just re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘I don’t re­ally know how to do this fa­mous thing and I’m not sure I re­ally like it and I’m not sure I’m ready for it ei­ther.’

“In a funny way, I also didn’t feel that I had earned it. I was only 21, and I still had so much to learn, I was learn­ing ev­ery­thing on the job.”

The big prob­lem, too, was how do you fol­low a role like Rose and a movie like Ti­tanic?

Kate de­cided to steer away from block­buster films – de­spite be­ing of­fered her pick of Hol­ly­wood roles – in­stead pre­fer­ring to work on “in­die” projects such as Hideous Kinky (where she met her first hus­band, di­rec­tor Jim Threaple­ton) and Holy Smoke. “I was in a po­si­tion where I could choose, and I chose to do some smaller films, be­cause I wanted to stay grounded. I wanted to stretch my­self,” she says. “I also didn’t want to burn out. I didn’t want this huge mo­ment to hap­pen and for me to kind of fiz­zle out. I wanted to stay strong and true and keep chip­ping away at it. I think it was the right thing.”

In­deed, it was. Three more Os­car nom­i­na­tions fol­lowed (Iris, Eter­nal Sun­shine of the Spot­less Mind, and Lit­tle Chil­dren) be­fore even­tu­ally she won for her role in The Reader, in 2009.

Her un­sur­passed abil­ity to tackle nu­anced, com­plex fe­male roles has earned her a top spot on the best ac­tress list time and again, and over two decades she’s built an im­pres­sive, eclec­tic re­sumé.

Her next role – in Woody Allen’s Won­der Wheel, which opens in New Zealand in De­cem­ber – sees her take on an­other strong fe­male role.

She plays Ginny, a wait­ress in a clam restau­rant on

Coney Is­land in Brook­lyn dur­ing the 1950s, who be­comes friendly with the life­guard (Justin Tim­ber­lake).

It’s Kate’s first time work­ing with Woody Allen but she is al­ready re­ceiv­ing unadul­ter­ated praise.

The film pre­miered at the New York Film Fes­ti­val in July and fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Kent Jones was won over.

“At the cen­tre of it all is Kate Winslet’s ab­so­lutely re­mark­able per­for­mance – pre­cious few ac­tors are that tal­ented, or fear­less,” he says.

It sounds like Kate can make more room in her bath­room – the spot where she fa­mously keeps her Os­car so that guests can en­joy it – for an­other golden statue…

I didn’t want this huge mo­ment to hap­pen and for me to fiz­zle out.

TOP: The ac­tress with her third hus­band Ned Rock­n­roll. ABOVE: With her “clos­est friend” Leonardo DiCaprio. LEFT: Kate Winslet in glam­our mode for the 2016 Screen Ac­tors Guild Awards.

FROM TOP: Kate Winslet and Idris Elba en­dured harsh con­di­tions to film The Moun­tain Be­tween Us; Kate in the 2015 movie, The Dress­maker; with Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1997 block­buster Ti­tanic; and along­side New Zealand ac­tress Me­lanie Lynskey in Heavenly Crea­tures, the 1994 movie di­rected by Peter Jackson, which brought both of the young stars to in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion.

Won­der Wheel.

LEFT: Woody Allen and Kate Winslet on the set of his lat­est film,

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