Kurt Anderson: This is Studio 360. I'm Kurt Anderson. When she was just 21, Kate Winslet got a pretty good part- In Titanic.
[Clip from Titanic]
Anderson: Ka-boom, instant movie star. 15 years later, she's proved that wasn't a fluke. Whether playing a former Nazi prison guard or a tragically bored housewife, she makes you believe and she can play for laughs. Winslet's new movie, Carnage, is a faithful adaptation of the hit Broadway comedy God of Carnage. It's directed by Roman Polanski and stars Winslet, Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster, and John C. Reilly as two sets of yuppie parents trying to sort out what happened after a fight between their 11 year old sons. The entire movie takes place in real time in one Brooklyn apartment.
[Clip from Carnage:
Kate Winslet: You think my son is a snitch?
John. C. Reilly: I don't think anything.
Winslet: Well if you don't think anything, don't say anything. Don't make insinuations.
Jodie Foster: Nancy, there's no reason to lose our cool here. Okay? Michael and I have gone out of our way to be fair-minded and conciliating.
Winslet: Oh, god. Not so fair-minded.
Foster: Oh, really?
Winslet: Superficially fair-minded.
Christoph Waltz: Dougal, I have to go.
Winslet: So go. Coward.]
Anderson: Kate Winslet, welcome to Studio 360.
Winslet: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
Anderson: So even though the parents are ostensibly meeting about the kids, the movie is really all about the adults.
Winslet: It's about flinging a lot of mud at each other and each other's marriages and the cracks within each of these marriages are somewhat revealed and not only revealed but really explored and thrown around a room and throw in a little apple and pear cobbler and some whiskey in the middle of the afternoon and it adds for some pretty interesting fireworks, should we say.
Anderson: But we should stipulate that all of that said, it's not Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. It's a comedy.
Winslet: It's a comedy. It is very much a comedy.
[Clip from Carnage:
Winslet: Let's get out of here, Alan. These people are monsters.
Waltz: Stop it, Nancy.
Winslet: No, no, no. I- I want to drink some more. I want to get drunk off my ass. This- this bitch throws my bag against the ceiling. Nobody lifts a finger. I- I want to be blind drunk.
Waltz: You're drunk enough.
Winslet: How can you let her call our son a gremog? We come over here to work things out with them and they- they insult us. They browbeat us. They lecture us about being good citizens of the planet. I am glad our son kicked the sh*t out of your son and I wipe my ass with your human rights.
Reilly: Wow. You get a couple of drinks in her and then bam! Her true self comes out. What happened to that gracious, demure woman with the soft eyes?]
Anderson: That is Kate Winslet and John C. Reilly in Carnage.
Winslet: Yes. It's a satire and we really did have an extraordinary time making this film. You know, it is set in New York. It is set in Brooklyn and it directed by Roman Polanski. So what we did was we rehearsed the entire piece very much like a play and I haven't done theater for a really long time. Not since I was 18. So it really took-
Winslet: Yeah. It really took me right back there and Jodie- Jodie's never done theater.
Anderson: That's Jodie Foster, who plays the other mother.
Winslet: Jodie Foster, that's right. Jodie Foster, exactly, and so for her this really was a very, very different experience and we had two weeks of rehearsal and we all had asked Roman prior to day one, would you like us to learn this like a play? Should we learn the entire script? He said, "No, no, no. We don't need to do that. No, no, no." So we thought, okay, fine, and at the end of the first week, it was Friday afternoon and Roman said, "Okay. This weekend, you will learn it and we'll see you on Monday." And of course we all went a sort of very, very white shade of white and said, "But hang on, Roman. We asked you if you wanted us to learn this before we started?" He said, "Yes. I know. I changed my mind." So we went home and learnt it over the weekend and came back.
Anderson: Oh, Roman.
Winslet: Oh, Roman. You cad, you, and we came back in on Monday morning having learnt it and then we really did just go through it like a juggernaut and staged it, rehearsed it, and then we started filming at the beginning and shot in story order. In exact story order.
Winslet: Yeah. From beginning to end. We just worked through it like a play and filmed it along the way.
Anderson: In addition to doing an American accent beautifully and, of course, acting wonderfully.
Winslet: Thank you.
Anderson: You do drunk really well and that's- Drunkenness is a very hard thing not to over-do.
Winslet: What are you suggesting? Yeah.
Anderson: I'm not suggesting anything, except that you- Had you done that before?
Winslet: What? Got drunk?
Anderson: No. Professionally simulated drunkenness.
Winslet: I have, actually. Yeah. I had to do- I did a film called Holy Smoke which was directed by Jane Campion with Harvey Keitel a long time ago.
Anderson: Right, right.
Winslet: Yeah and I had a couple of scenes in that actually where I had to be drunk, but one had to be fairly significantly drunk and I did actually have a couple of drinks to loosen myself up before a take and then vowed I would never ever, ever resort to that tactic again.
Anderson: You do, however, have to at one point spectacularly vomit. Was that a first for you?
Winslet: That was my second on-screen vomit, really.
Winslet: Yeah. My first-
Anderson: You're a veteran.
Winslet: Ha! My first being, but only fairly recently in Mildred Pierce, I had to do a vomit.
Anderson: Right, right, right.
Winslet: No, but this was a proper, proper throw up and it was such so much fun. I got very involved with the consistency of the vomit, I have to say.
Anderson: Well, I was going to ask. I'm, and it's a perverse interest of mine, but how exactly does that work? Is there like a bag that you hold in your cheek or how does that exactly happen?
Winslet: Well we did, in truth, because it is such a violent vomit-
Winslet: We did several versions of it. Obviously, that amount of vomit could not be held in anyone's mouth. So we did versions where I was holding as much in my mouth as I could and that would be the sort of the beginning part of the take, for example, but then the actual violence of the regurgitated cobbler-
Anderson: That's a cut.
Winslet: Yeah. That was a cut and yeah and there was a rig and a little bit of CGI also that went on to.
Anderson: Really? There's CGI vomit?
Winslet: Very much so. Believe me, there are photographs around somewhere that were taken by our still photographer of me in a full blue suit against a blue screen with a full rig. It was very much a Gollum scenario.
Anderson: Who knew.
Winslet: Yeah, who knew. No, I really did look a little like I was one of those kind of those stop- What do you call it? The-
Anderson: Motion capture?
Winslet: There you go. I look like a little bit of a motion capture person, minus the tennis balls.
Anderson: Well it is interesting that he made the choice, and obviously going into it you were aware that he made the choice to not attempt, as movies based on plays sometimes do, to open it up and have long walks or car accidents or- It's all in this apartment for an hour and a half.
Winslet: That's right. That's right. It's all in one room, you're right. Pretty much.
Anderson: Did that give you any pause going into it?
Winslet: No. None whatsoever. I mean, look when Roman Polanski sends you a script and says, "Will you play this part?" The word no just doesn't come into it.
Anderson: Speaking of saying yes instantly when Roman Polanski calls and offers you a good role, did you think also, as I would have, "Huh, interesting. Roman Polanski making this movie about misbehavior and accountability and moral justice, given his life." Was that interesting?
Winslet: You know, it's really funny that you say that. I'm getting quite good at answering this questions about Roman now in the sense that I actually don't really answer them at all.
Anderson: Okay, sure.
Winslet: I just- No, no. Here's the funny thing is that I love him so much. He's really a wonderful, wonderful man and so I automatically feel very defensive of him and protective, but the one thing I would certainly say about Roman is that, you know, yes. Of course, he has had a really interesting life and he has experienced a great many things that majority of people do not even come close to and one thing he has managed to do is to use his experiences to enhance his creative self. So his understanding of the human condition, shall we say, is fairly profound and extensive in comparison to the majority of us out there and in this piece his experiences of child rearing and marriage and his own observations of the way that other people conduct themselves in relationships as well as his own experiences really did make for some interesting insights.
Winslet: Which were very beneficial to all of us and also all of us actors, we're parents too and so we all had a different experience of a version of this type of story that we were able to bring to the table as well.
Anderson: Yeah. You have an 11 year old too. So have you ever been anything remotely like with with your misbehaving 11 year old?
Winslet: My beautiful, not misbehaving, angelic 11 year old. No.
Anderson: She's never hit anyone?
Winslet: No, she's- Her brother. Let me tell you, yeah. Of course.
Anderson: You had parents and grandparents with theatrical careers. So you come by this congenitally, but when you were looking at those lives, those hard scrabble actor lives, did that shape your decision? "Oh, I want to do that." When you were a kid?
Winslet: Well it's funny because I sort of grew up in a family where everybody seemed to be doing it. I mean, my father was an actor. That's absolutely true and my mother, she actually isn't an actress and never had aspirations to be one, but her parents were both actors. They ran a repertory theater company in Reading, the town where I grew up in and also where my family still live and grow up, and the theater was in the back garden. So literally the back garden. So my mom was constantly surrounded by actors coming and going and costumes and sets being built in the front room and that was how she met my father. He was friends her brothers, who were acting. So and I sort of grew up a little bit around that.
Anderson: So did you feel as though you were sort of- It was natural that you'd go into the family business?
Winslet: I just kind of felt like I was already doing it, really. I suppose just always, but I certainly never thought about films and we didn't get a television until I was about 10 and a VCR when I was 14.
Winslet: No. No and I remember-
Anderson: And this was in the 1980s when you're- Or 90s when you were 10 or 14.
Winslet: Obviously, I mean, it's people- People seem not to believe me when I say this because I've always been fairly well-spoken, but my parents really did not have any money. I mean, we lived in a house that the electricity- You had to put money into a meter to make it work and if the meter ran out and you didn't have the right coins, well you know. You just would- That would be- We'd live in darkness until someone had the 50 pence coin to put in the meter to make the electricity work again. I mean, that honestly is how I grew up. So I never thought about films. I just saw these people being so fulfilled through having such a wonderful time and feeling so happy doing this creative and glorious thing for a living and actually not even for a living because they weren't making any money from it.
Winslet: So I suppose my introduction to that world was really, really fortunate because I saw people doing it for all the right reasons and that was why I wanted to do it.
Anderson: Back in 2005, on Ricky Gervais' HBO show Extras, you very wonderfully played yourself playing a nun in a Holocaust movie. I want to play a clip of that performance.
[Clip from Extras:
Ricky Gervais: And I just would like to say, I think that you doing this is so commendable. Using your profile to keep the message alive about the Holocaust.
Winslet: Oh, god. I'm not doing it for that. We don't really need another film about the Holocaust, do we? It's like how many have there been? You know, we get it. It was grim. Move on. No, I'm doing it because I've noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust, you're guaranteed an Oscar. I've been nominated four times, never won. The whole world is going, "Why hasn't Winslet won one?"
Gervais: Definitely, yeah.
Winslet: That's it. That's why I'm doing it. Schindler's bloody List. The Pianist. Oscars coming out of their ass. ]
Anderson: And then, four years later, Kate Winslet goes on to win an Oscar for her performance in The Reader, which is pretty much a Holocaust movie.
Winslet: My god, it is so funny. God, it's so funny. I forgot that for a long time.
Anderson: It was great.
Winslet: God, it's so hilarious, isn't it? Hysterical, but that's- It's really important for actors to send themselves up, don't you think?
Winslet: And especially if you are successful or in the public eye, like we can't take ourselves seriously. We mustn't, mustn't ever, ever do that.
Anderson: So when you climb up on that stage to get the Oscar for The Reader, did you think, "Gosh."?
Winslet: Honestly, honestly, someone said to me earlier that day during the Oscar ceremony, "My god, can you imagine the quotes in the British press when everyone remembers the Ricky Gervais thing and I'm sure I'm going to be hearing from Ricky kind of thing." And sure enough, of course, I did. I got a text message later that night, having won, from Gervais saying, "Oy, Winslet, told you so."
Anderson: There you go.
Winslet: Very, very funny.
Anderson: Kate Winslet, thank you very, very much. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Winslet: You too, thank you.
Anderson: Kate Winslet's latest movie is Carnage. It opens around the country on December 16th.