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Kate Winslet Explains Why She Avoided Blockbusters After the Massive Success of ‘Titanic’

Kate Winslet Explains Why She Avoided Blockbusters After the Massive Success of 'Titanic'

READ MORE: Kate Winslet’s 8 Best Performances

“I think of myself as a character actress,” Kate Winslet mused last night during the New York Film Festival’s intimate “An Evening With Kate Winslet” event, which featured Winslet engaged in a wide-ranging half-hour chat with NYFF’s director of programming Kent Jones. Winslet and Jones covered a startling breadth of topics in the time allotted, including how Winslet got into her very demanding role in the NYFF premiere “Steve Jobs,” the lucky side of her career and why she avoided the blockbuster route after her early success with “Titanic.”

Throughout the evening, Winslet emphasized just how much she loves acting — for her, it’s still akin to “playing dress-up” — and was open to getting reflective on how the choices she made as an emerging talent still guide her today. Below, read some highlights from Winslet’s (and NYFF’s) big night.

How Winslet purposely disappeared into her “Steve Jobs” role

“I said to Danny Boyle when I had my first meeting with him, I said, ‘No fuss, I have to disappear into this part. I just mustn’t look like anything like myself at all. It would be very, very cool if we could have people wondering who that is.’ It’s a trick, it’s a great trick. That’s what acting is supposed to be like and feel like. If you can pull it off, and you can actually convince an audience that you really are somebody else, then that’s a great, great feeling.”

How she found the truth of her character

“In reality, there were several very strong women in Steve’s working life. She’s a composite character. I was so delighted that he chose her, because I had a such a good time with her, spending time with her and talking with her and sharing her stories…We were always very careful, Joanna and I, when we spoke to talk about the character very much in the third person…She was absolutely one of his key people, but she said there’s no way that she, in reality, could have been his ‘work wife,’ because there’s no one more absent-minded and disorganized than she is.”

“She was very generous with her stories. She always would say to me, ‘It’s your character, Joanna the character.’ I think also for her, there was something quite emotional about it, too, because she had such affection for Steve, such huge amounts of respect for him, admired him so greatly and misses him.”

The lucky break of “Heavenly Creatures”

“That was the biggest stroke of luck of all for me, because not only was I asked to play an extraordinary part in a true story in a film script written by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, [but] then Peter directed it and people actually liked the film. It became that movie that people still talk about. That was a stroke of luck…I had those lucky breaks straight away. It was very fortuitous circumstances. And I learned so much.”

“The funny thing about us English actors is that, over here in America, you guys all think that we’ve been classically trained and that we speak perfectly because we’ve all been trained for three years to do that with marbles in our mouths or something, and honestly, I grew up in a tiny, tiny terraced house in a family of impoverished actors, real sort of wandering players…It was really very much a fun, lovely childhood on a shoestring…I just thought, ‘Well, that seems like a hell of a great gig to me, I’m up for the impoverished actor life, let’s go.’ When I did have an audition for a film, which happened to be ‘Heavenly Creatures,’ it was the first ever film audition I’d had, I really just couldn’t believe it. I mean, we didn’t get a VCR until I was 15. I couldn’t believe it.”

The quiet craziness and total brilliance of Michel Gondry

“Michel is extraordinary. He is quite quiet. He keeps a lot in his head, and he finds it quite hard, I think, to — not communicate that, because he does communicate it, but his ideas are so wacky that I think that it’s very hard for people to believe that it’s going to work. I never had that problem, I would just go, ‘Great, that sounds fantastic! So I come in this door, and then I go out that trap door, that hidden one there, I change costumes and wigs and I come back this door again, I’m up for that, let’s go!’…He’s so genius like that.”

“He would do shot lists — his shot list would be on a napkin. I kept one, actually. There’s one, this napkin, and I made him sign it, because it was so extraordinary. It was sort of a picture of me, with half a face that had crumpled off, and then sort of another object in the corner that looked a little like a fetus in a box. And I said, ‘What’s this?’ and he said, ‘It’s the scene, it’s the scene, that we do today,’ and I said, ‘No, it’s really not the scene!’ ‘No no no no no no no, it’s the scene!’ ‘Okay, it’s the scene! Okay, Michel, whatever you say!'”

Why she refused to go the blockbuster route after “Titanic”

“It did throw me. Call me naive, but I had no idea, I really didn’t, I had no idea that was going to happen with that film and to my life. It’s a funny old thing, because I look back, and I just remember thinking, ‘I don’t really know how to do this being famous thing and I’m not sure I really like it and I’m not sure I’m ready for it either.’ In a funny way, I also didn’t feel particularly that I had earned it. It was a funny thing. I was still learning. I was only 21, and I still had so much to learn, I was learning everything on the job.”

“I just knew that if I allowed myself to really catapult myself into the world, if I really went with it, that I think it would have made me unhappy possibly. Which sounds like such a strange thing to say, because it makes me also sound slightly ungrateful or something. I just knew that I had to keep acting, and I knew that it was most important of all that I continued to work hard and work on myself as an actress and to love it and to nurture those things.”

“I was in a position where I could choose at that point, and chose to do some smaller films, because I wanted to stay grounded and I wanted to learn and I wanted to stretch myself and to play characters. I also didn’t want to burn out. I didn’t want this huge moment to happen and for me to kind of fizzle out as the moment fizzled out. I wanted to stay strong and true and keep chipping away at it. I think it was the right thing.”

“Steve Jobs” opens in limited release on October 9, with further expansion to follow.

READ MORE: Watch: How Kate Winslet Warms Up ‘Steve Jobs’ (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

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