Kate Winslet may have fame and fortune, but none of it would be worth it if she couldn’t give back.
Case in point: the Oscar winner’s efforts earlier this year to help a woman named Gemma Nuttall, who was battling a rare form of ovarian cancer.
The actress joined a fundraising effort to help pay for the 28-year-old fellow Brit’s life-saving treatments. “Her prognosis dictated that she should have been dead in June,” Winslet said while choking back tears at Thursday night’s SAG-AFTRA Foundation Patron of the Artists Awards, where she was honored with the Actors Inspiration Award. “[But] I was able to help fundraise an enormous amount of money, and she’s cancer-free today.”
Winslet was presented with her award by her Titanic co-star Kathy Bates.
“The greatest privilege for me has been learning how to use my voice on behalf of others,” Winslet said. “And, for me, that is standing up for individuals who do not have the means to help themselves, whether they have autism and are non-verbal, whether they are homeless because of addiction, abuse or fear or helping a person who is dying … because they haven’t the money to pay for the specialist treatment that could save their life.
“I can’t stand that, so helping others who are striving to find a place in the world where they are understood, heard, accepted, supported, appreciated or given a right to a life — these are the individuals I am passionate about helping.”
Winslet recalled working on her big-screen debut, 1994's Heavenly Creatures.
“When I woke up for my first-ever day of filming, age 17, it was cold and dark outside and I felt like I had a secret,” said the actress, now 42. “I felt as though the minute I stepped out of bed I was stepping out into a completely unknown world and embarking on a journey all by myself into the world of acting.”
Winslet insisted she had no idea what she was doing. “I didn’t have any formal training in spite of what everyone thought and still thinks, probably, but I had done my homework and I had toughened myself up so I was ready to take it all on,” she said, adding, “All I knew was that I was lucky and I had better not fuck it up.”
Fellow honoree Judd Apatow took time to speak out about the sexual harassment scandals currently roiling Hollywood.
“I think we all need to get together and really support all these people who are speaking up,” the multihyphenate said. “We're all aware now that there are really dark forces trying to keep people quiet.”
Referencing The New Yorker’s recent article that claims Harvey Weinstein enlisted the help of ex-Mossad agents to track his accusers and journalists investigating their claims of sexual assault, Apatow said, “Now we understand why it’s been so hard for people to fight this fight. But now that we’re all talking about it, we need to continue to talk about it and come up with some solutions, so that we can spend our time protecting our actors and actresses.”
Filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow, Netflix exec Ted Sarandos and entertainer Lionel Richie were also honored.
“I can’t tell you how many communities I have been in around the world and people say to me, ‘Mr. Richie, how in the world do I get started?’” the “All Night Long” singer-songwriter said. “I say, ‘Take one step at a time and dream.' If you don’t have dreams, you don’t have possibilities.”
The evening, which took place at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, included musical performances by Kristen Bell, Katherine McPhee, Sarah Bareilles, Renee Olstead and Diane Warren.
Also taking the stage to talk about the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s work were Andrew Garfield, Mandy Moore, Tracee Ellis Ross, Allison Janney, Jack Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany and Gary Oldman, among others.