It’s been 20 years since Kate Winslet made her breakthrough performance opposite Alan Rickman in “Sense and Sensibility.” The two prolific actors are back together for another period drama, but forgo Jane Austen for 17th century France in Focus World’s “A Little Chaos.”
“It was absolutely wonderful to reunite with him after such a long time,” Winslet, 39, told Variety at the film’s New York premiere on Wednesday at the Museum of Modern Art hosted by the Peggy Siegal Company. “I’ve grown quite a lot as a person and hopefully as an actor since [we were last together on screen].
In the film, Rickman, who directed and co-wrote the movie’s screenplay, plays King Louis XIV and Winslet stars as a gardener chosen to build one of the main gardens at the King’s new palace at Versailles.
“To be able to bring a level of collaboration into this experience was quite different. I wasn’t coping as well on ‘Sense and Sensibility’ because I was so young,” she said. “I was only 19 years old and really I didn’t have a huge amount of confidence as an actor at that point. And so it was really wonderful to feel more equal.”
Rickman, 69, was also delighted to shoot a movie with Winslet again. “She’s glorious to work with. She’s got a mind, a heart, a soul and a sense of humor,” he said. “What more do you want? She’s a collaborator and a great artist. She made directing the film an enjoyable experience.”
“A Little Chaos” — opening June 26 — marks Rickman’s second behind-the-camera job. He made his directorial debut in 1997 with “The Winter Guest,” which starred Emma Thompson. The veteran actor admits returning to the director’s chair was just as daunting as the first time.
“The trouble with the job of directing is talking about it in hindsight. You think, ‘Why did I ever do that? Why didn’t someone put me in a loony bin?'” he quipped. “At the time, you are just going moment to moment, and crisis to crisis, and funding nightmare to funding nightmare. But it’s also very fulfilling to because you are surrounded by brilliant people.”
A challenge for Winslet was fitting into her costumes. The Oscar winner was pregnant with her son Bear Blaze when filming began in the spring of 2013.
“We were in the early stages so I didn’t really have much of a bump at all, but I had huge, huge breasts and at a certain point there really isn’t any place to put them,” she said. “So they either go down or they up, but then you’re like, ‘Do we have any space in my armpits for these things?’ So [it was] definitely a little uncomfortable, but very necessary.”
Despite the cumbersome wardrobe, Winslet was instantly drawn to the film’s storyline and appreciated her character’s strong personality. She also admired her character’s expertise at gardening, a skill she lacks in real life. “I love growing herbs in a small box on my windowsill, but I’m not really good,” she revealed. “Every year comes around and I say to myself, ‘This year I’m going to learn to garden’ and I feel like I’ve been saying that for a decade. But this year I am going to learn!”
After the screening, the film’s producer Gail Egan, music composer Peter Gregson and cinematographer Ellen Kuras joined Winslet and Rickman at the Monkey Bar for the after-party. Winslet mingled with the intimate crowd and stationed herself in a booth. She munched on French fries while socializing with three older women. Meanwhile, Rickman roamed the restaurant’s dinning room and happily chatted with guests that included theater legend Patti LuPone, Regis Philbin and his wife Joy, and former NBC anchor Ann Curry.