Kate Winslet on 'Steve Jobs' at NYFF Career Tribute Dinner: "I Was Helped Hugely By Some Very Bad Hairstyles and Clothes"
The six-time Oscar nominee talks about the challenges and joys of transforming herself into Apple's Joanna Hoffman
Kate Winslet has spent the better part of her 40th birthday celebrating the upcoming release of Steve Jobs at the New York Film Festival. On Monday, at the film's New York premiere and on Winslet's actual birthday, her fellow Steve Jobs castmembers, including Michael Fassbender, Jeff Daniels and Seth Rogen, surprised the actress by singing happy birthday in front of the sold-out crowd at Alice Tully Hall. Then on Tuesday evening, the six-time Oscar nominee was the guest of honor at a Lincoln Center dinner paying tribute to her career.
"Doing Steve Jobs was very symbolic for me," Winslet told NYFF Director Kent Jones after an intimate dinner at the Kaplan Penthouse, which overlooks Lincoln Center. "Having that be the last film I did in my 30s and loving it as much as I do — it's a very special time, it's a very special opportunity that I'm having right now talking about a film I genuinely love."
According to Winslet, landing the role of Joanna Hoffman, Steve Jobs' close confidant and marketing director, took active campaigning because she wasn't considered a natural fit for the role.
"I really don't look anything like her at all," joked Winslet. "I knew I was going to have a job just getting the filmmakers to consider me because I've got boobs and the real Joanna is five-foot-two and maybe doesn't quite have as big boobs as I do. I just knew that I had to somehow ignite their creative imagination and hope to God they sent me a script."
Once she landed the role, disappearing into it was "one of the great joys" of Winslet's career. Winslet had the difficult challenge of mastering Hoffman's unique accent — Hoffman grew up in Poland and Armenia before moving to the U.S. as a teen. Winslet found physically transforming herself into Hoffman to be much more fun.
"The film spans three different periods — 1984, 1988 and 1998 — and luckily hair changed a lot in those 14 years," explained Winslet. "I was helped hugely by some very bad hairstyles and clothes. No prosthetics, just wigs and glasses and funny costumes."
Winslet said one of the things that provided her a great sense of freedom was getting to know the real-life Hoffman, who gave the actress permission to create her own character, often referring to herself in the third person when the two discussed the role. Hoffman also shared anecdotes with Winslet that shed light on her unique relationship with Jobs, including a story about the time Jobs cleaned Hoffman's apartment at 1 a.m. because he couldn't deal with how messy it was.
One of the reasons Winslet cites Steve Jobs as being the perfect film to round out her 30s was the unique challenges presented by writer Aaron Sorkin's 14-page scenes of dialogue and director Danny Boyle's insistence on shooting them in long, continuous steady-cam shots.
"We really would shoot them in one [shot], no cuts, no trickery," Winslet told Jones. "That's a huge amount of pressure. Not just because you have to remember every beat, what you're saying when you walk through the door, what the word was you close the dressing room door on, which hand you have the clipboard in — these are things actors retain in their minds all the time, but when you have to do that for such a prolonged number of pages it really is very difficult."
"Michael [Fassbender] and I found ourselves saying aloud how lucky we were for the amount of film experience we had," remarked Winslet.
According to Winslet, it also was a new experience for co-star Seth Rogen, who was relieved to not constantly be rewriting dialogue on set.
"'Comedians, literally, if they don't like something, they just change it,'" Winslet said in her best Rogen impersonation. "'So, this what you do on real movies?'"
Steve Jobs opens Friday, Oct. 9.