Collider Interviews Kate Winslet and Nancy Meyers – ‘The Holiday’

     December 8, 2006

I sort of lied in the headline. Due to how many transcripts I’m trying to get up on the site something had to give, and that would be the transcribing of the Nancy Meyers interview. So if you want to hear Nancy speak about making The Holiday and what decisions she made in regards to casting and her creative process – then click here to listen to the audio.

But I did manage to take do the Kate Winslet portion and you can read it below or listen to the audio here.

This was my first time getting to participate in an interview with Kate, and just like the interviews that I posted with Jack Black and Cameron Diaz, it was done in roundtable form. And if you’re not familiar with a roundtable interview, it’s when they pile a bunch of journalists around someone and everyone takes turns asking questions. While it’s not a perfect system, as long as you are surrounded by people asking good questions, it’s good enough.Thankfully, this interview was filled with good questions and great answers,I think you’ll enjoy it.

Question: I was going to ask you, before we start Little Children has gotten great reviews, people have been talking about you for an Oscar nomination for this movie, and yet it seems like the public is leery of this movie because of the pedophile kind of thing. And I wonder if you think a movie where people don’t necessarily go see it, that’s not a popular hit even as an art film hurts its chances for recognition of the work done?

Kate Winslet: Well the first thing I’d like to say is that character… the character Ronnie, he’s a convicted sex offender and there’s a lot of mystery surrounding what he has supposedly done. He is accused of indecent exposure to a minor. Now that could have been a sixteen year-old girl or could have even been a sixteen year-old boy. It’s deliberately left untold so it doesn’t fall into something really grisly and sinister, you know. But also I would say that Jackie Earl Haley gives this just extraordinary performance and you feel nothing but complete sympathy for this man. But I don’t know, in terms of the proper answer to your question, you know, as an actor you can only hope that the work speaks for itself. That’s all you can hope, you know, as soon as… I really try and steer clear of the politics of box office figures and what’s in the top ten and what’s not, and what are the best reviewed and what isn’t. I mean, I have always just paid little attention to that because my job is to act and to do that as best as I can. And if my perception of what I do gets warped by all the other information, then I don’t think it’s healthy.

Question: That film and to a lesser extent this and several other very good movies coming out this season really use infidelity or cheating as a theme on trying to… how movies are addressing this these days. Do you have any thought on, like these two films you’re in? Or what it is as an overall subject for film?

Kate Winslet: Well I think relationships will be eternally fascinating to people, you know, and it just happened that I’m in two of these relationship pieces at the end of this year. But one thing I do wanna say about The Holiday is that it’s interesting now talking about it and having seen it twice is that it’s sort of not a “chick flick”, it’s very much a romantic comedy, I mean I do really feel this is a… it’s a great date movie precisely because it is about relationships and its about men and women’s struggle with their emotions and heartbreak and looking for the one and I think we’re all doing that, at some point in our lives are looking for that special person. It can be very, very hard to find in the struggle that you go through emotionally and trying to find that person is something that I think will always be fascinating to audiences.

What did you love about this character?

I think the thing I loved the most about Iris is that it was an opportunity for me to play somebody who was emotionally complex, because I do believe that she is. But at the same time she’s such a good person, she really is. She’s a very decent, honest, English girl, you know, she has quite traditional values and I’m like that myself also. And it was really a pleasure to play somebody who I was able to fully embrace and really adore I mean I genuinely adored playing this part.

There’s a scene with Eli Wallach where she’s awestruck in your time in Hollywood have you ever had any of those moments where you’ve connected with someone old Hollywood?

Most definitely… and I’d end up sounding like sort of a ditzy fan if I told you exactly who. No, but when you’re nineteen years-old and you’re standing on the red carpet with your parents at the Academy Awards, you’re basically star struck by every single person who walks by you. [Laughing] You know, my dad and I were kind of, blatantly sort of pointing out the next famous person to each other going, “WOW! Look who it is!” I mean it’s incredible, it’s an incredible experience and yeah, I mean of course I’ve absolutely been star struck in my life. I mean, it’s nice to be impressed by people I think. And I’ve been very inspired by so many actors and actresses and continue to be. It’s a wonderful privilege to get to meet some of those people sometimes.

So has there been anyone where you were, you know…

Whoopi Goldberg. Yeah, she said some very, very nice things to me when I was nineteen. I’m not telling you what she said though. [Laughing] That’ll be my secret. I’ve got to have some of them.

Why do you think that people do that unrequited love thing or hold the torch for someone they never should have?

The heart is an uncontrollable vessel, don’t you think? If I had the answer to that question, I’m sure that not quite so many people would go out and have their hearts broken in ways that they do. I mean, it’s just part of life, its part of life you know. And I know so many people who’ve fallen for the wrong man, so obviously, have been in love with the wrong person, actually men and women. In fact a journalist we met yesterday [looking around the room] I’m just checking to see if he’s (here) [Laughing]… a journalist we met yesterday came in and said, “I love this film so much because I was Iris for eight years.” And then told this extraordinary story, and he had the triumphant moment when she finally kicks Jasper out the door and it was just wonderful it was a man who said that. And I think that, unfortunately, having your heart broken seems to be very much part of life. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t had their heart broken at one point or another and sometimes more than once.

How have you dealt with heartbreak in the past? Are you more like your character or Cameron’s [Diaz]?

Well to be honest with you I think I experience kind of teenage heartbreak. You know, in my twenty’s not so much and so I could relate to Iris on that level because I definitely went through that stuff as a teenager, and who didn’t. I mean, I was always falling for the wrong guy and I was the girl who never got the guy, and certainly not the cute guy. So I was no stranger to heartbreak and rejection by the time I was eighteen, nineteen. But I don’t know when I was younger, probably a combination of both. I mean, I’ve always been quite emotional but at the same time, when something like that happens you have to find a way to move on I think. And that’s what I would do as a teenager, just kind of cry a lot and complain to your friends and dust yourself off and carry on with your life.

Would you say your kind of a drama queen when it comes to the break-up, when you were a teenager and you said ‘I’d cry and talk to my friends’?

I remember one specific instance when I was fifteen and I had just really fancied this guy who was – I think he was the same age as me, sixteen maybe – and he just wasn’t interested at all. And I do remember, Marianne Dashwood [her character from Sense and Sensibility] style, you know, kind of wandering in rain, crying, you know… [Laughing] hopelessly depressed and indulging in the emotion of it all and a couple of days, later I thought, ‘Oh God that was a waste of time’. [Laughter] And then I just got on with it again.

Jack Black is a pretty unconventional lead can you just talk about working with Jack’s particular energy?

Um, I was thrilled when Jack was cast because when I read the script I just couldn’t see anyone else playing Miles, he was so obviously perfect. You know, he’s a wonderful person, Jack… of course he’s funny and of course he made me laugh in every minute of every day but he’s a very grounded person and I think I was quite surprised by that. You know, often with comediennes they’re so hard to access and they exist in their own head a lot of the time, but Jack wasn’t like that at all, he was very much part of the team. And he does have a really sort of sensitive, soft side to his nature and I loved seeing that come through in this performance, because I feel like we haven’t seen that with him before. And I always like it when actors get the opportunity to, you know, show a whole other side of themselves. But it was great working with Jack, he was very professional. We worked in a very similar way in the sense in that we both really like to rehearse lines and scenes way ahead of time. We were often found in corners preparing the scene we were shooting the week after next. You have to be prepared and that was one thing I particularly found with comedy, is that so much of it is about timing, and delivering the line and the pauses for it in the right place. That if you have the lines under your belt way in advance, there’s so much more room to play and explore. Because then you’re in a position where you’re not reaching for your dialogue in any way, you know all that stuff, it’s just about bringing things alive. And it was great to have that with Jack because it meant that the chemistry was very free and easy and relaxed, actually. And the truth is, the chemistry that we sort of have on screen, that was what we were like, that’s just exactly what we were like at work.

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What was it like working with Eli Wallach?

Oh… It was incredible. I mean, it was completely incredible, the man is ninety years-old and I would just look at him everyday and I would say to him everyday, “I so hope I’m like you. I so hope I’m still acting and still doing a good job and on a movie set when I’m ninety years-old and not in a wheelchair somewhere… or worse, not here at all.” I mean, that’s… he’s just remarkable, he’s remarkable. And he would sit me down between takes and he say, “I’m gonna tell you another story.” And he would sit me down and he’d say, “Now the thing about Marilyn [Monroe]…” And I’d be like, oh [expressing excitement] and he’d just come out with these glorious anecdotes. Just fantastic stories of experiences that he has had that were directly useful in playing Iris, because she had that level of fascination with Arthur, and I just had it, I just had it. It was there everyday with Eli. He was so wonderful and he knows his lines, I mean he knows his lines and he’s as conscientious about getting his dialogue right and giving a good performance as anyone else was on the film set. And he has this incredible energy and Nancy [Meyers] would say to him all the time, she’d say, “Could you act a little more seventy?” [Laughter] He’s just he’s like a sixty year-old. He moves around much, kind of, freer than you would expect a person at the age of ninety to, he was just incredible… incredible.

There’s a great scene with the two of you where he say’s that you are a leading lady and you need to stop being the best friend. What do you think women can learn from watching that scene?

I think most women consider themselves to be the best friend. And it’s interesting because a lot of people have brought this up, and I’ve genuinely asked my girlfriends, you know, how do you feel… Oh God, I’m definitely best friend type. I mean, just… most people are. And I think that’s a self esteem thing you know it takes a seriously confident, self assured, self possessed individual to say, “Yes, I’m the leading lady of my own life.” But what I’d hope women would take away from that is that, you know, when it comes to matters of the heart you have to be very strong because it can be a pretty bumpy ride.

You don’t share much screen time with Cameron Diaz in this movie, but did you get to hang out with her much? What was your favorite part of working with her and were you a fan of her work?

I look forward to working with Cameron Diaz one day. [Laughter] I mean, Cameron is such a great girl, she genuinely is. She’s completely without ego. She isn’t a diva and she’s a very happy go lucky person, extremely positive. And it was so nice to be around that energy, but we didn’t have much time together as you say, and the moments that we did have were just fun, really, really fun. She’s extremely hard working and she’s a great team member. But our paths would cross, you know, sometimes we’d be shooting, for example, the scene with Jack and I in the video store. Cameron sort of happened to be around in the area and she came by, and she was there for sort of, half of the shooting day. And she was just giving support and making us all feel that we were a part of the same thing together, you know, she was very aware of that. And she’s a truly fantastic person.

Have you ever had a kind of, life changing vacation or holiday, like in this movie?

Um… no, not specifically, no, not life changing I mean, I’ve been to places that have really opened my eyes in a sense that… when I went to India, someone said to me before going, ‘a little bit of India goes a long way.’ I was gone for three weeks, I think, when I was doing the film Holy Smoke and I got to do a little preparation and research there. And after two days I thought, my God, I am so ready to leave now because it was just so much. It was the biggest culture shock I had had in my life. So I’ve certainly been to places that have been incredibly eye-opening and inspiring but not specifically life changing.

How long does it take you to recharge from your career?

I’m in the middle of a year off… perfectly timed question. [Laughing] But it’s not so much stepping away from Hollywood we don’t live in LA so I don’t feel that I’m right in the thick of this industry. I’m very much in the thick of my family and family life and so I do feel as though I’m always one step outside of it anyway. But I am in the middle of a year off right now just because.

What about that cottage that your character lives in? Is that like the Nancy Meyers plush fantasy of…?

I’m telling you, that cottage… that cottage was so fantastic and I promise you it exists. I mean, places like that absolutely exist. Friends of mine own places like that and I found it such a pleasure to see England look so picturesque. Because it does actually look like that in certain towns you know the town we shot it in, that’s what it looked like. And that’s why tourists are so drawn to parts of the English countryside, is to really go check out a fourteenth century church because it’s really there. Um, you know, it was just really lovely to see it, because usually England in movies is portrayed as a very grey, cold place. It’s usually raining and everyone’s depressed so it was a… [Laughing] no, I just really thought it was great, and honestly those places exist.

I don’t know if you would agree with this but I find that romantic comedies more than any other genre when they fail artistically are more difficult to watch than any other type of genre.

It’s a good thing that this one didn’t fail then, isn’t it? [Laughter]

So my question is did you find that you scrutinized this script that much harder to be sure that you were associating yourself with something that you could be proud of?

No, I mean everything is very much a leap of faith and everything is a risk regardless of the genre. But I knew when I had met with Nancy and she told me she was writing this script, I was very, very excited, couldn’t wait for her to finish, couldn’t wait to read it because Nancy Meyers does romantic comedies brilliantly I think, she really does. The scripts are solid, more importantly you absolutely believe in the characters and you really believe that that happens. You really believe… you feel like you know all of those people. And the dialogue is incredibly intelligent, it’s not kind of gag for gag sake, it always comes from somewhere, [it] comes from an emotional, grounded place and that’s everything. And that’s why they aren’t fluffy and they aren’t sort of goofy and silly. They’re real. And to be honest with you, I always felt that I was in really, really capable hands.

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