As she returns to the genre that put her on the map, Kate Winslet talks to Susan Griffin about the ‘liberation’ of approaching 40, why she hid her pregnancy while making A Little Chaos and the trouble with corsets
Kate Winslet is a woman in demand, but she’s couldn’t resist signing up for her latest role in A Little Chaos, given that the man behind the camera was an old friend.
I’ll be damned if anyone else is goig to be flinging themselves into that sluice gate, I’m doing it!
“When I was sent the script, it came with a handwritten note from Alan [Rickman], saying he thought he wanted to direct the film and he talked a little bit about why he loved it.
“I was so excited to read it, because we had this history of having worked together 20 years ago, when I was 19 and terrified of everything, in particular him,” explains a fast-talking Winslet, looking glamorous in black leather trousers and fitted jacket.
The pair appeared in 1995’s Sense And Sensibility together, a film that earned the actress her first of six Academy Award nominations (she’s won once, for 2008’s The Reader).
It wasn’t only the chance to reunite with Rickman that appealed to the 39-year-old star, however.
“It was also the idea of appearing in a period film again, which I haven’t done since Finding Neverland, which was filmed in 2002. I was tremendously excited,” she says.
Set in the late 17th century, A Little Chaos tells the story of Sabine De Barra (Winslet), a free-spirited landscape gardener who’s assigned by King Louis XIV’s landscape artist Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to build one of the main gardens at the Palace of Versailles.
“There was something really new and fresh about this character of Sabine, an almost bohemian spirit in quite a rigid time period.
“I’m always drawn to characters who feel a little bit different from their surroundings, and who have their own rule book. Sabine offered all that, and more, to me.”
And then, as mentioned, there was the script, written by Alison Deegan and honed by Rickman and screenwriter Jeremy Brock, which is a brilliant take on the interplay between men and women.
“It’s a very beautiful, very accessible love story,” notes the Reading-born actress.
“I think that people are often really intimidated about period films, in the same way I think people are intimidated by Shakespeare.
“But this is quite modern, and it doesn’t sound like we are from another time at all.
“I do always appreciate that, because I think films of this nature should be absolutely accessible to people, and enjoyable and fun. And this is funny and it’s sexy and extremely romantic. I couldn’t wait to get started.”
Even though Winslet, who’s married to Richard Branson’s nephew Ned Rocknroll (born Abel Smith but changed his name by deed poll), was pregnant with her third child at the time (she also has Mia, 14, from her marriage to Jim Threapleton and Joe, 11, from her marriage to Sam Mendes).
“I didn’t tell anybody I was pregnant. Actually, Alan knew because I felt I had to tell him, but I didn’t tell anybody [else]. First of all, it was the early stages of pregnancy, but also because I really knew that there would be so many things that they wouldn’t let me do. I thought, ‘For goodness sake, I’ll be damned if anyone else is going to be flinging themselves into that sluice gate, I’m doing it!’” she explains, laughing as she recalls one of the film’s more dramatic scenes.
“My poor husband did actually come to work that night and he was sort of hovering there with hot water bottles and blankets, and he was extremely worried about me. Of course, I had a great time.”
What wasn’t so fun was the mandatory corset – “because there is nothing you can do about the boobs”, Winslet exclaims, gesticulating wildly. “They just keep getting bigger and you just keep trying to squash them into another place, under your armpits, anywhere! It really is hilarious.”
The actress, who’s just wrapped on upcoming movie Steve Jobs with Michael Fassbender, appears to have mellowed these days, and reveals she’s in a content place. “I don’t feel I’m so much in the public eye as perhaps I once was 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago,” remarks Winslet, who famously appeared alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic.
“I think it has quietened down a lot for me now. I’m older, my life is what it is –that’s not really as interesting to people as say the more tabloid, juicy stuff of one’s 20s. And I think that as you get older, you learn to really not care.
“It’s one of the great things about approaching 40,” she adds. “You really do learn to exist within yourself. It’s been quite liberating for me, actually, to have come to that place in life.”
A Little Chaos is in cinemas now