Saoirse Ronan chats with USA TODAY’s Patrick Ryan about “Ammonite” co-star Kate Winslet and promoting the new film from home.
Like many actors, Kate Winslet has trouble watching herself onscreen.
Take 2008’s “The Reader,” for which she won her first best-actress Oscar playing a former Nazi guard. The “Titanic” star reveals she never saw a finished version of the film.
“It was so hard, and I so wanted it to be good, and I was so terrified that people might hate what I had done,” Winslet says. “When something is really important to me, I almost can’t watch it. I’m a little bit like this with ‘Ammonite.’ I’m 45 and I’ve been doing this for 27 years now, and I still get really scared.”
Set in 19th-century England, “Ammonite” (now available to rent on demand and digital platforms including Amazon Prime) imagines a passionate love affair between real-life paleontologist Mary Anning (Winslet) and a sheltered society woman (Saoirse Ronan). The film presented new acting challenges for Winslet, whose character is mostly silent and braves the elements to find fossils.
The actress, who is in the running for an eighth Oscar nomination this awards season, talks to USA TODAY about reuniting with “Titanic” director James Cameron on “Avatar 2” (out Dec. 16, 2022) and her 20-year-old daughter Mia Threapleton’s acting career.
‘I’m being way too method’: Kate Winslet talks self-imposed isolation for lesbian romance ‘Ammonite’
In 1840s England, fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and a young woman (Saoirse Ronan) develop an intense relationship.
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Question: “Ammonite” just played Rome Film Festival last month, alongside your daughter’s new thriller, “Shadows.” How does it feel to have her following in your footsteps as an actor?
Kate Winslet: That’s a fantastic feeling. She’s very natural, in ways I wasn’t when I was her age. I’ve known for a long time Mia was going to tell me, “OK, I really want to do this.” I’ve always tried to say: “That’s absolutely fine, but know you’ve got to work for it. You might not get the jobs, and when they come your way, it might take years.” And of course she’s blessed with a different surname, so they had absolutely no idea who her mother was when she was cast. So for my daughter to know that for the rest of her life, that’s almost more important than anything else. I’m enormously proud of her.
Q: Have you introduced your kids to any of your movies during lockdown?
Winslet: They’re obsessed with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” I wanted to watch it with them and they watched it without me, which is so annoying. And we’re planning on watching “Revolutionary Road” (with Leonardo DiCaprio), probably over Christmas break.
Q: That’s one of my favorites.
Winslet: I think that’s Leo’s greatest work, I really do. That and “(What’s Eating) Gilbert Grape.” But knowing Leo the way I know him, I know how much heart and soul and pain and vulnerability went into “Revolutionary Road,” because I was there every day. I’m just so proud of him.
Q: I’m not sure I should admit this, but I just watched “Titanic” for the first time a couple of months ago.
Winslet: Oh, my God, I love you as much as I love the people I meet on airplanes who haven’t got a clue who I am. (Laughs.) What did you think?
Q: I mean, I lost it at the scene where Rose (Winslet) jumps out of the lifeboat and runs to kiss Jack (DiCaprio). I was just crying for the rest of the movie.
Winslet: Aww. We complained so much about the jumping out of the bloody lifeboat scene. We had to do it so many times! And the scene where they kiss up on the deck? We had to shoot that on about seven different occasions: some with green screens, some with blue screens, some with the real sea in the background, some with the real sunset in the background, that we didn’t quite get because something went wrong. Honestly, I have so many hilarious stories from that film.
Q: After all those traumatic water scenes in “Titanic,” were you reluctant about getting back in the water with James Cameron for “Avatar 2”?
Winslet: No, I couldn’t wait actually. I’m a real water baby, I love scuba diving. But breath-holding is very different, so I knew I would have to learn a whole new thing and I just absolutely loved it. So much of the water work was done with Cirque du Soleil water performers, so I spent masses of time developing great friendships with these unbelievable superhuman artists with impossible bodies. And then there’s me squeezing my sausage-y self into this freediving wetsuit. (Laughs.)
Q: And you broke Tom Cruise’s underwater filming record! (Cruise held his breath underwater for six minutes shooting 2015’s “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.” Winslet held hers for seven minutes and 14 seconds filming “Avatar 2.”)
Winslet: Someone just told me, I didn’t know that! I impressed myself. I thought I had died, because you come up from a breath hold and you’re like (gasping), “Have I died? Have I died?” You go into this weird headspace of, “This could be what death feels like. Maybe I’m dead.” Because you close your eyes, you slow your heart rate down, you don’t move. I’m staring at the bottom of a 25-feet-(deep) tank, so even your vision goes a bit weird. I was like, “Yeah, I’m definitely dead.” And then finally when I realized, “Oh, I am in fact about to die,” I came up and couldn’t believe it was 7 minutes 14.
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