Kate Winslet is tackling two more feisty female roles in Steve Jobs and The Dressmaker. The actress tells Kate Whiting how finally scooping an Oscar was the ultimate revenge against school bullies and how, despite keeping real life as ‘normal’ as possible, she loves the glamour of the red carpet
If Hollywood wanted to cast Superwoman, Kate Winslet would effortlessly fit the bill.
The actress, who’s just turned 40, is currently promoting not one but two films, bringing her total this year to four, with another one slated for release in February.
She’s also bringing up daughter Mia, 15, and sons 11-year-old Joe, and Bear, who turns two in December.
So, how does she do it and still manage to look so fabulous?
“I don’t know!” exclaims Winslet, dressed head-to-toe in black with a tuxedo jacket and three gold necklaces, blonde hair swept back into a casual pony.
“Honestly, I sometimes say, ‘How am I doing this? How are we coping? OK, we’re good, we’re still here, OK, let’s go, let’s go!’ It’s a lot of forward-planning. A LOT of forward-planning...”
Being happy in her personal life helps too.
“I have a wonderful, very present husband that really makes a huge difference, because then I don’t have to feel guilt if I’m in London for a whole entire day, as I am today - he’s there,” she says of husband of three years, Ned Rocknroll (she was previously married to directors Jim Threapleton and Sam Mendes).
She’s actually relishing doing interviews, as it means she gets to take the weight off her feet.
“It’s a real treat,” she says with a laugh. “You know what it’s like when you find yourself going, ‘Oh wow, I’m sitting down!’ I never sit down, this is like a moment, you know?”
Her latest roles couldn’t be more different. Opening within a week of each other, Steve Jobs sees her playing the late Apple Inc. co-founder’s Polish-Armenian right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman, while in The Dressmaker she puts on an Australian accent as couture seamstress Tilly Dunnage, who’s returned to her small-town home to seek revenge.
The last time two Winslet films came out in the same calendar month in the UK (The Reader and Revolutionary Road) was January 2009. and the following month, she finally won an Oscar (after five previous nods), for her portrayal of a former Nazi guard in The Reader.
With awards season around the corner, she could be a contender for the Danny Boyle-directed Steve Jobs, given that everything Boyle touches turns to gold.
“He’s such a lovely man,” Winslet says of the film-maker. “He’s got incredible energy, everybody adores him, and that really makes a huge difference to your day.”
Written in three parts, by Oscar-winning The Social Network scriptwriter Aaron Sorkin, the film explores Jobs’ (Michael Fassbender) personality through three product launches in 1984, 1988 and 1998. Hoffman is one of the few people to tolerate his outbursts - and so dense and wordy was the script, Boyle built in rehearsal time.
“I do remember reading it and going, ‘Wow, this is really impossible, we’re going to have to learn this like a play’, I knew we wouldn’t be able to leave anything to chance,” she says.
“I knew it would be a unique experience, very different from anything I’d done before. The rehearsal process itself was so crucial, to make mistakes and figure out what we didn’t want to do. By the time we got onto set to film it, we’d done it 100 times.”
The director credits Winslet with being “the enabler” in the process (“She helped Michael in the way Joanna Hoffman helped Steve, and she would help me. She would constantly solve problems on set. She’s a bit of a film-maker on the quiet, she understands all the business”).
Winslet baulks at the idea of directing, though.
“I think I would find it really stressful,” she concedes, adding that she’s full of admiration for Jocelyn Moorhouse, who helmed The Dressmaker. “She has four children of her own and somehow she seems perfectly calm, together and never seems flustered. I’m not sure that I could remain that calm if I was a director.”
While Winslet plays second fiddle to Fassbender’s Steve Jobs, she’s very much the lead in Fifties-set The Dressmaker. Shot on location in Australia, and starring Judy Davis as Tilly’s mother ‘Mad Molly’, and Liam Hemsworth as the strapping love interest, the film’s a black comedy about one woman’s mission to discover the truth about her past.
Bullied at school and sent away from her single mother at 10 for her part in a death, Tilly returns as a glamorous, world-wise vixen, who turns heads in her stunning creations and soon has the small-minded women (and men) of Dungatar in her thrall.
When she arrives home, Tilly finds her mother bed-bound in a filthy house and sets about restoring her to health. The Reading-born actress says she’s fascinated by how her relationships with her own mother and daughter are constantly evolving.
“[We’re all] getting older and you learn to enjoy all the shifts and changes in relationships. Also, playing a different role as a mother now that my daughter is that little bit older, and playing a different role as a daughter now that my mother is a little bit older, it’s a wonderful, evolving thing.”
One of her biggest challenges as a mother recently has been social media - ironically, for someone who plays Apple’s marketing executive, she admits she’s not at all tech-savvy.
“I enjoy being terrible because it means I never have to get a computer, I don’t have one. We have no social media in our home,” she adds. “My daughter has only just been given an iPhone, [but] there are big restrictions on that, she has to hand it in at night and it’s switched off.
“Children do have to have a childhood, and I do worry that exposure to social media and all these devices could get in the way of children just knowing how to climb a tree.”
Chatting today, it’s hard to think that as a child at theatre school, Winslet was bullied for being “chubby”, having “the wrong shoes” and “bad hair”, as she’s previously revealed.
Winning her Oscar, she admits, was the perfect revenge.
“You can’t imagine...” she whispers. “I think bullying can take on different forms, it can come in very aggressive physical forms or just in the way of horrible isolation, intimidation and saying very unkind, cruel things, and that was the case for me.
“So yeah, it was a pretty satisfying moment; to be in the position I’m in now and to have won an Academy Award, and to stand tall and proud, and have achieved something great.”
Hollywood also has a reputation for making actresses insecure about their looks, but Winslet’s never let that get to her, and has spoken out against being airbrushed.
As she heads into her 40s, she’s not feeling the pressure to look ever-beautiful.
“I actually don’t really care! It’s nice to feel pulled together in the moments when I need to be, like on a red carpet, and I really enjoy those moments, because I don’t sit at home getting manicures and massages and having people cook for me,” Winslet confides.
“So actually, I do still find those occasions really quite glamorous and exciting, and a real treat.”
:: The Dressmaker is released in cinemas on Friday, November 20
:: Steve Jobs is in cinemas now