Although only 29, Kate Winslet is no stranger to awards season hoopla with three Oscar noms already to her credit.
This year she continued to draw critical attention for a pair of disparate performances: candy-tressed, wild child Clementine Kruczynski of meta-love story “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and as tragic Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the Edwardian weeper “Finding Neverland.”
Winslet and co-star Jim Carrey play against type in “Eternal Sunshine,” and the casting upended the actress’ own expectations.
“This was not the type of thing I was being offered around that time,” she recalls. “I was just thrilled that there was something (director Michel Gondry) had seen in me in spite of the corsets that he thought was going work for Clementine.”
Ironically, Winslet realized the best way to prepare as the impulsive Clementine was to remain unprepared. To keep a sense of quickness about her, Winslet took up kickboxing (“I was not very good at all and I remain terrible”) encouraged by Gondry’s suggestion of improvisation.
“As frustrating as that became for production people, I loved it. I loved going to work and thinking, ‘What’s going to happen today?’ ” she remembers. “I wanted to be prepared for anything he would throw at me and meet his every request. In not preparing, I was more able to do that because I never had a fixed idea of who she was. We never had a creative argument, along the lines of ‘Well, I don’t think she would do that.’ The reality of Clementine was she would have tried anything once.”
Pic was filmed during a particularly hard New York winter (“I remember a lot of thermal underwear”) but thesp praises Gondry for keeping the mood light.
“You didn’t sense any kind of studio pressure, or pressure to be the best or to make the most unique movie,” she says. “Every idea was completely encouraged. Even if he thought they were sometimes crap, we never knew it. It really felt like we were making a home movie together.”
As for taking on the role of the mother of four in “Finding Neverland,” Winslet was again drawn to the script, as well as the idea of reteaming with children.
“I felt that there was so much of Sylvia in me anyway, because I am a mother. Half of her, I felt I instinctively knew how to play,” she says.
Also appealing was the story’s focus on one man’s love for an entire family, thus setting it apart from conventional romance.
“What I felt was so charming was that it doesn’t give you the clinch of a kiss,” explains Winslet. “I thought it was brave, too, on the part of the writers to keep that stuff out of it, because it’s easy to write in a kiss — it’s one line of dialogue. Typical me, I love that it wasn’t obvious in those ways.”