'Labor Day' Star Kate Winslet on Being a Mom, Onscreen and Off, and Her Most Difficult Scene (Q&A)
This story first appeared in the Jan. 3, 2014, issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
THR chatted with Oscar winner Kate Winslet, 38, just before she gave birth to her third child Dec. 10 (she welcomed a boy in London with husband Ned Rocknroll). Here, the best actress Golden Globe nominee for Labor Day talks about her role in Paramount's Jason Reitman drama about an escaped convict (Josh Brolin) who forever changes a mother and son.
Are you surprised about becoming a mother again at this stage of your life and career?
Yes. It's been very busy, but thankfully I've had some time to rest. I haven't been pregnant in 10 years. My daughter is turning 13, and my son will be 10. It's funny -- I really was at a point where I was certain I wasn't having any more kids. Life is very strange that way, isn't it?
Ironically, you are promoting Labor Day, which is largely about the close bond between a mother and son. How did you get attached to this project?
The script came my way, and I was very excited. I'm such a huge admirer of Jason, and Josh was already attached. But I had to say no. I'd just wrapped the film Carnage and decided I wasn't going to work for a year. I told Jason, "I'm sorry, it won't work out," and he asked, "Why not?" I admired his chutzpah. I said, "I made this commitment to my life and children." He said, "OK, can you do it next year?" So, in the meantime, he directed Young Adult, I had time at home and then we shot the film last summer in Boston. It was very hot.
The film made a big splash at the Toronto Film Festival in September, and the scene that had everyone buzzing was when Brolin's convict character, Frank, teaches you and your son how to bake pies. Why is that scene so meaningful?
There has been so much focus on it. I think it's because it's oddly intimate; he's giving their lives new tastes and succulence. It's very metaphoric. The sequence took an entire day to shoot. Josh was so prepared. He's this big, clunky guy with huge hands. He really looks like he should be skinning a deer! But he was determined to nail the scene. He baked five pies a week for five weeks and served them to the cast and crew. They were delicious, but at one point we had to say, "Please, no more pie, Josh!"
The film has a layered narrative, mixing flashbacks with events unfolding in real time. What was the most difficult scene emotionally for you to film?
I think it's when my character, Adele, reveals her past to Frank and the baby she lost. I was really dreading it because it's so poignant and sad; it's about everything she's never said to anyone. She's been rattling around inside herself alone. But honestly, it was more difficult to watch than shoot. The night before the Toronto premiere, my husband and I went to a private screening. I hadn't seen the film in five months, and then we come to that scene. I'm now pregnant. We look at each other and say, "What the f--- are we doing watching this?"
How has being a mother impacted your career?
You know, I played a mother in a  film called Hideous Kinky when I was 22 and really struggled with the fact that I wasn't a parent. After I had kids, my whole being was transformed. I loved creating the relationship between Adele and [her son] Henry in Labor Day; everything is so raw and electric at his age.
You started acting young, at age 16, and broke out in Peter Jackson's 1994 film Heavenly Creatures. How does it feel to be a mentor now to younger actors like Gattlin Griffith, who plays Henry in Labor Day?
He's such a lovely boy, so it was a complete privilege. I loved being the person to tell him, "OK, I know you're shitting yourself right now, but that's OK. So are Josh and Jason and I. Let's go and rehearse together." That's the kind of thing that no one said to me when I was starting, and I wish they had. You know?
Not to give away the ending, but the film definitely takes the audience on an unexpected journey. What do you hope people feel after seeing this film?
I think that's dangerous to suggest how people should think or feel, but my hope is that it's a story that surprises people. I'm a very big believer in the main theme of the movie, which is to me that there's someone for everyone. Also, I'm never in films that have happy endings -- my characters frequently die -- so I was delighted I didn't die in this one.