A Conversation with Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet stars in Ammonite as Mary Anninga real-life fossil hunter who lived in England in the 1840s. Directed by Frances Lee, the film follows Mary’s work and her passionate love affair with Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), a relationship that defied all social norms at the time. 

Can you talk about your research on Mary Anning?
The research that I did was quite specific. I had to educate myself on Mary, so I looked through history books to understand her life and who she was. In terms of learning the science and being a palaeontologist, I worked very closely with Paddy Howe, a palaeontologist in Lyme Regis. I spent two weeks with him on the exact beaches that Mary would have worked. I walked in her footsteps as much as I possibly could. In terms of the love story element, I focused on the difference in connections between women in those days, which were very different from how they are now in terms of friendship. I read a lot of old letters written between women who had close, intense friendships, which would often spill over into a more intimate connection, even though both women might have been married to men.

There was a moment in Ammonite in which your character experiences jealousy. Can you talk about your relationship to jealousy and envy? 
Doing the job that I do, the one thing that I just cannot have in my close relationships or in my life is to have jealousy or envy. It wouldn’t work for me because so much of what I have to do in the workplace is to pretend to love someone and express physical intimacy. It’s a distressing quality for adults to have, and when you’re in a relationship, love, understanding and support should overrule all of those things. So, I don’t have the capacity to feel envy or jealousy, and I feel very blessed that I don’t.

During the filming of Avatar 2, is it true you held your breath underwater for over 7 mins?
I’ve been a certified PADI diver since I was 24, but the breathhold has nothing to do with PADI or scuba diving. The breathhold is all to do with free diving, which is a completely different mechanism. I had about three weeks of intense training in the UK with an instructor who worked with me in a very deep dive pool. I had another 10 days of training in the tank when I went to LA to start shooting, and that was where I did my 7 minute and 14 second breathhold. It was amazing. I loved it so much, and sometimes when I’m stressed, I’ll say to my husband, “Omigod I just want to get in a pool and do a breath hold”…. It’s so relaxing… you have to switch your brain off, slow your heart rate down, and restrict your physical movements. 

What TV shows have you been watching during the lockdown?
I am not very good at sitting down and watching television, or just sitting and vegging out with a glass of wine, and enjoying the moment, but I have gotten very good at it during COVID. My husband and I and my two eldest children, Mia and Joe, decided to watch Downton Abbey during the lockdown. We had never seen it before… and we really got into ‘Downton’. Our kitchen and living area are all kind of combined, and for me, the kitchen is the heart of the house. So very often everyone else will be watching something, and I will run between the TV and the stove, and try to stay on top of what everyone is watching. It has been a real pleasure for us as a family to make an occasion of watching television, and it will probably never, ever happen again.