Kate Winslet on her love for Reading
PUBLISHED: 06:24 07 January 2020
Megastar Kate Winslet, who hails from Reading, is coming to our screens in the new film Ammonite, in which she stars as the famous fossil hunter Mary Anning. Here she chats about her upbringing in Berkshire and her glittering career
When you have been adored, applauded and awarded all over the movie world it might seem a bit tame to be coming home to Reading - but not to Kate Winslet, who still loves her roots in Berkshire. "I'm Kate from Reading," she said with pride. "I never forget my roots, why would I? My grandparents founded the Rep Theatre in Reading, my mum and dad, although actors, lived and had jobs in Reading and I was born there and grew up there. Of course I still see it as home."
You don't get airs and graces with Kate Winslet, she is what she is and is always her own person. "I come from a theatrical family, which includes my grandparents on my mother's side, so there wasn't much hope for me really, was there?" she said. "Not that many people thought I would make it as an actress. It was my dream all along - and it came true. We were not a posh family, we simply rented a house and, like most people, lived with a household budget. We were a close family, though, and supported each other. I have tried to make my own family like that."
When talking about her childhood, she even admits she was made fun of: "At school I used to get teased because I was a bit weighty. They used to laugh when I said I wanted to be an actress. Yes, I suppose I was bullied a bit, it happens," she said.
"My big moment came when I was 11 and got a part in a commercial advertising Sugar Puffs. It came about through the Redroofs Theatre School in Maidenhead, where I had been accepted as a student. They did some agency work as well and recommended me for the commercial. We all thought it was wonderful and a big breakthrough for me. It was wonderful to me but not the big breakthrough. That came much later.
"Even when I was talking to casting agents I was getting a lot of negativity. I wouldn't give up though and, if anything, it strengthened my self-belief. I think it's important that if you have a dream you must do everything you can to believe in it and not give up on doing your best to make it come true. You have to learn from the set-backs. I know I was not the very slim type that most people seemed to be looking for but I could act and I knew one day I would find roles that I would suit."
So when did Kate get her lucky break? Like many actors and actresses, she accepted a part-time job while trying to land the role that might change her life. "I was working in a deli in Reading, making sandwiches," she said. "I saw the script for Peter Jackson's Heavenly Bodies and I knew I just had to be in it. My dad told me that if I wanted it that much, then I would probably get it.
"I was actually in the deli just making someone a sandwich when the phone call came to tell me I had the part. I was totally stunned and I just couldn't stop crying so they sent me home.
"Things took off after that so I didn't go back to the deli but I quite enjoyed working there. I don't think I have ever been sent home from an acting role but I'll never forget being sent home from making sandwiches."
Kate has gone on to star in an impressive list of major films but the first one that springs to mind is, of course, Titanic. She said: "I am still asked about that and I don't mind because it was such an amazing movie and a privilege to be in it, working alongside Leonardo Di Caprio. We have been good friends ever since. He was the real star, of course, and loads of girls asked me what it was like to work so closely with him. In fact, I got more questions about him than about myself!
"He was lovely to work with and Titanic did turn out to be a huge success. The danger after such a massive film is that the rest of your career might be an anti-climax. I hope that hasn't happened. I work hard at everything I do, something else I was taught as a little girl."
Much has happened since she was in Titanic, including winning a Best Actress Oscar for the drama The Reader (in which she played a former concentration camp guard) and numerous other awards. But despite the stardom, Kate has hardly changed at all. "I am not into the Hollywood image thing," she said. "I am English and I love England. You have to have a home near the hub of the movie industry but I am really at home living in the English countryside."
She has a great sense of humour too and is perfectly comfortable laughing at her own expense, such as when she voiced Rita, a street-wise rat in Flushed Away. "I loved that, it was a scream," she said. "I had been portrayed as an 'English Rose' and here I was providing the voice for a rat! It was brilliant!"
Kate says although she has a glittering career, her life revolves around her children. "Whenever I am asked to work, I always look at the calendar to see how it fits in with the school terms," she said. "If it clashes with a holiday then I turn it down. I don't want to miss time with my children - it is time that you do not get back later on. I could tell you at any time what my children are doing - they are my focus. I come from a close family and I like to have my family close."
Kate does not just talk about it, she really is a hands-on mum who has been a regular on the school run, totally down to earth and happy to chat with other mums. "It is a funny thing when you become well-known because people don't expect to see you in the supermarket or picking up your kids," she said. "I remember once travelling on the Tube in London and a girl noticed me and was horrified that I was on the Tube and not sitting in the back of some chauffeur-driven limo. That's just not me - I'm Kate from Reading."
So what is Kate doing next? What isn't she doing next?! Her forthcoming releases take us well into 2021 with Avatar 2, but before that she has a great miscellany of film and TV work including a voice-over as Black Beauty. Also watch out for Ammonite, an intense drama set in 1840s England about the fossil hunter Mary Anning.
"I do like a variety of work, I don't just say 'yes' to everything," said Kate. "I am fortunate in that there are scripts of all kinds regularly coming through the letterbox and I do read them all. I am good for a few years yet - and then? Who knows. I still know how to make a sandwich."