One of the most anticipated world premieres out of the 2020 Toronto Film Festival was Francis Lee’s “Ammonite,” starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan as women who form a romantic bond in 1840s England. The performances in the film have put both actresses in the upcoming Oscar race. In an interview with Variety, Ronan revealed she consulted with her gay friends before tackling “Ammonite” and asked them for advice about the role. Ronan’s character, Charlotte Murchison, is grieving the loss of her child when she meets Winslet’s Mary Anning, who is hired by Charlotte’s husband to care for her. Their romantic connection helps Charlotte power through her grief.
Ronan’s friends told her they “didn’t really feel like there were many movies that actually represented the lesbian experience” aside from Sebastian Lelio’s 2017 romance drama “Disobedience,” starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. Ronan said that her friends spoke to her about “the intimacies” of a gay relationship, adding, “Not just the sexual side of it, but just the relationships as a whole.”
Winslet handpicked Ronan to star opposite her in the film, which was filming after Ronan’s Oscar-nominated turn in “Little Women.” That “Ammonite” presented a two-hander after the ensemble-driven “Little Women” was alluring for the actress.
“I had just come out of the experience of ‘Little Women,’ which is very sort of full of life, and very busy in every scene,” she said. “And there were a lot of cast members in every scene that we would do, and lots of talking, and it was very sort of like kinetic. And I think just from an acting point of view it really interested me to play someone that was much more restrained.”
Lee gave Winslet and Ronan the freedom to choreograph their own love scenes. Winslet said in August ahead of the drama’s festival debut that her intimate scenes with Ronan represent some of her proudest work because of the trust Lee gave them.
“I just think Saoirse and I, we just felt really safe,” Winslet said. “Francis was naturally very nervous. And I just said to him, ‘Listen, let us work it out.’ And we did. ‘We’ll start here. We’ll do this with the kissing, boobs, you go down there, then you do this, then you climb up here.’ I mean, we marked out the beats of the scene so that we were anchored in something that just supported the narrative. I felt the proudest I’ve ever felt doing a love scene on ‘Ammonite.’ And I felt by far the least self-conscious.”
Neon is releasing “Ammonite” in theaters November 13.