Since Kate Winslet was first nominated for her supporting role in Sense And Sensibility in 1995, she has been up for Oscars five more times, finally winning a statuette for 2008’s The Reader. But take a look at her four other Oscar-nominated turns — 1997’s Titanic, 2001’s Iris, 2004’s Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and 2006’s Little Children — and you will find no discernible thread linking these performances. Each is truly unique and thoroughly Winslet, much like her current Golden Globe-nominated role in Jason Reitman’s Labor Day, in which she plays Adele, an agoraphobic single mom caught up in an unexpected and dangerous relationship with con on the run Frank (Josh Brolin). In some ways, the film is an old-fashioned romance like that “other” love story she did that was set aboard a sinking ship, and it once again proves Winslet is an actress who likes working without a net.
AwardsLine: How is Labor Day different from your last few roles?
Kate Winslet: I’m often drawn to characters that are more obviously one thing. They’re passionate, and there is always an element of strength because I think every person possesses that in some way, even if they’ve experienced hardship in their lives. I could see the challenge for me with (Adele) was that I didn’t want her to be just one thing. I didn’t want her to be just the shaky-handed person who didn’t like going outside. She is a woman who has a gigantic heart, and, certainly in her past, it beat much fuller and faster. I felt very strongly that through Frank and falling in love with him some of those sides of her would come back to life a little bit.
AwardsLine: The movie is a fair adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s book. Were you able to use the book a lot?
Winslet: Yes, I love the book. And I love doing films that are adaptations of novels. I always get so much out of them. I find throughout the course of shooting that I will sometimes go even further than the book. I know from working on The Reader, for example, that I can tell you right now what happens on page 109 of that book. I just become so familiar with the story and the noise the people make, the way a door opens, or the way the floorboards creak. Using (Maynard’s book) was more for myself — and not about creating (Adele’s) backstory — to know who she once was. I knew I had to attach to some understanding of the substance of her past, when she was falling in love with Henry’s father and when Henry was born. It was those things that I felt I needed to have inside me, even though in the flashbacks (in the movie) you see very little of that.
AwardsLine: Let’s talk about the pivotal pie-making scene. Did you have to learn how to bake pies before filming that one?
Winslet: I was in (HBO’s 2011 miniseries) Mildred Pierce, so I knew pies. I did pies. Also, I do cook so I had to be quite hands off. We had a big pie-making workshop, which was very important to Joyce Maynard. She wanted to show us how she made her pies because it’s how she wrote it in the book and ultimately that’s how Josh learned. I couldn’t comment on what Josh was doing—I had to let it happen. For someone who can be a little controlling in the kitchen, it was a bit of a challenge. I have to hand it to Josh, he really did want to make sure he was good at pie making, and he was. He baked at least five pies a week throughout the entire shoot. He’d get up really early and bake at 5 in the morning, and he would bring them to work. A pie would appear on the table — there was another one of Josh’s pies. Toward the end of the shoot, it was like, “Dude, you really need to stop now.” But he bakes an amazing pie.
AwardsLine: In many ways, this movie is a return to great, old-fashioned romantic drama, in particular that ending.
Winslet: I love the ending and how unexpected it feels. There’s that little bit of happiness. Jason could have chosen to cut that ending, but it is in the book, and it is very beautiful. I’ve had a few people who said it was a little far-fetched to have the relationship between (Adele and Frank) happen in a very short amount of time. But I’m living proof here with a massive pregnant belly that you can meet someone, and your whole world can change in a week. That had happened to me. So I’ve never had a problem with that side of (the movie), and to have that ending means that it was very real.
AwardsLine: Are you being really choosy about what you want to do next?
Winslet: I do like being busy. I’m not the kind of person who just sits around and goes to a spa when I’m not working. I worked until I was 20 weeks pregnant, doing two things that were back to back, which is unheard of and which I’d never actually done before. I did a film with Matthias Schoenaerts called A Little Chaos, directed by Alan Rickman. The film is set during Louie XIV’s reign when he’s about to move into the Palace of Versailles, and it’s a love story. I hadn’t been back in a corset for a long time, and I hadn’t played an English person for a very long time. I really loved that. Then I went straight from that to Divergent, which is part one of a trilogy. I play an evil person, which is fantastic.