In a recent BAFTA Guru interview, Kate Winslet spoke about several lessons she learned over the course of her career. The English actress has built a celebrated and eclectic resume for over 20 years now. In return, she has received a whopping seven Academy Award nominations, winning one for her portrayal as a former concentration camp guard in The Reader.
The star recollected a lesson she learned from her father the day before she auditioned for what would come to be her film debut. Driving to get the script of Heavenly Creatures, a 17-year-old Kate excitedly said, “‘Oh my God, Dad! It’s an audition for a film! Wow! Do you think like I might get it?’ And he just looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, you will.'” This assurance struck the aspiring actress. She continued, “I remember thinking, ‘That’s it, isn’t it? I’ve got to absolutely believe that I’m going to get this part…And I do remember thinking, ‘Okay, I’m going to go in there and I’m going to somehow give them no option but to give me this part.’ And of course a part of that is remaining incredibly calm.” So she consciously tried to appear “not too desperate.” Indeed, Winslet landed the part of the obsessive, fantasy-gripped Juliet Hulme. Kate insists she was lucky to land such a good part so early in her career especially because critics took note of her performance and her name became immediately known in the industry.
The following year, she received much praise for her portrayal as the plucky Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, but it was her role as the passionate socialite Rose DeWitt Bukater in the epic romance Titanic that thrust her into stardom.
In her many roles, Winslet has made a point of accepting everyone in the cast and crew. She admits, “Actors can be quite weird. They all have their sort of ticks and ways, and it’s such a privilege to see how odd everyone is. But at the same time, it can really affect your day and how you’re playing a role if you allow yourself to be caught up in someone else’s stuff or process.” Also, to feel like she’s part of a team, she goes out of her way to learn the names of all the crew members and makes a point to “really join in.”
Winslet’s biggest challenge on set is to stay focussed. She says, “You can rehearse, and you can plan everything, and you can think you have a framework that you want to stick with or a few ideas that you want to remember to keep in your back pocket. And sometimes the craziness of an on-set environment can be so intense that you can find yourself forgetting all of those things that you planned.” In response, she makes sure to find quiet places to check in with her thoughts amidst the hustle and bustle.
After preparing for a role, Kate insists, “It’s so important to let the preparation go because you can get stuck in this little sort of tunnel of your own.” She makes a point to “leave so many sort of blank spaces for other people to fill by way of the director, and the other actors, and the things that they think, and also what they are bringing to the project through the roles that they’re playing.”
As far as advice to aspiring actors, she says:
“I think what I would honestly say to people just starting out, you know, it is difficult. It is definitely a hard job to do. And you do have to keep working at it. You do have to keep practicing things. You have to allow yourself to make mistakes. Make them. Rehearse in your bedroom. Try not to look in the mirror too much because then you rehearse a scene in front of a mirror and you like the way you said something or done something and all you will do is keep picturing yourself doing it the way you liked rather than being completely present in the moment…And if [acting] is the thing that you really believe you want to do with your life you will get there.”