Labor Day - Kate Winslet interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
KATE Winslet talks about some of the challenges of playing Adele in Jason Reitman’s Labor Day as well as what appealed to her about the character.
The Oscar-winning actress also talks about some of her career choices and how she went about building her relationship (as well as nurturing) her on-screen son. She was speaking at a press conference held during the 2013 London Film Festival.
Q. Both Adele and Frank are very scared individuals but they seem to need each other. What is it in each of them that speaks to the other one, in your opinion?
Kate Winslet: It’s really funny because a lot of people have asked us this question and I think both Josh and I have our own set of private answers that we were probably using when we were making the film. But I suppose the almost honest answer is that it’s one of those great unknowable things. What is it that ever attracts one person to another person? What is it that ever really draws you to somebody else without you having any control over it? I certainly think that for Adele the more obvious things, perhaps, were that she simply hadn’t been near a man for a very long time. And hadn’t been in a position where she’d even had to think about trusting somebody. And I think for whatever reason, she does find herself trusting in the most unlikely of men and realises very quickly one thing that Joyce, in writing the book would be hoping that people who read the book would appreciate, is that she can see that he is a good person.
She can actually really acknowledge that, and really trust in it and just go with the honesty of that feeling that she has and instinct that she has. I found myself a lot actually… because taking this man into her home, into her car, seems completely bizarre and irrational and I would find myself trying to find reasons for her actions sometimes. I needed to figure it out for myself. And actually sometimes I couldn’t. So, on those occasions, I would just play the motherly instinctive honesty of that moment – she’s standing there opposite a very menacing man who has her hand on the back of the child’s neck and I think all she thinks is: “I need to say yes so that I can my son back to my side.” And she does that without thinking what might happen 10 seconds later.
Q. Why is it when it’s an ex-con, if he does something good then you actually want him to be the person you hope he’s going to be?
Kate Winslet: Well, one thing that Jason [Reitman] chooses not to do is to not rehearse. I remember Jason initially… I think he was initially quite worried that I’d want rehearsal. I don’t actually care about rehearsal. But I did feel that that atmosphere that Josh has talked about and the feeling of the audience wanting him to do something good and not knowing what was going to happen next… I very much felt that Jason’s choice to not rehearse leant itself particularly to Labor Day. For us, as actors, we sometimes genuinely didn’t know what he was going to do next and what he would want us to do as actors. And that particularly worked for Gattlin [Griffith, child co-star] because he was so terrified for so much of the time about wanting to really do his best. He’s a really genuinely wonderful young man and the fear that he brought with him was very much a part of Henry. So, I was always very grateful that we hadn’t marked everything out. So, although we ourselves had done our own private homework about who we wanted our characters to be, nothing was revealed really until each day. But that helped so much in terms of creating that atmosphere of ‘what is going to happen’? Actually, anything could.
Q. Do you feel attracted to impossible love stories?
Kate Winslet: I don’t know that I am necessarily specifically drawn to unexpected love stories and I don’t know that my own feelings about unexpected circumstances in which people can fall in love are particularly relevant. But one thing I did feel very strongly when I first read the script was that I really did believe in the relationship. I absolutely believed it. And I also really admired many things about Adele as a woman who is, on the surface, quite obviously fragile and fragmented, even though I haven’t really played a character who is so obviously weak in so many ways. But I admired her strength as well and I felt it was very important that she was strong because I think we have that capacity in us [to become strong] no matter how broken a person can sometimes be. I also very much loved her relationship with Henry – that in spite of so many things that were happening against her, she was actually a good mother and he’s a really wonderful young man. There was something very unique and oddly intimate – not in an inappropriate way – but in a way that you don’t often see in a single mother and a teenage boy. I really enjoyed the warmth between them and it felt very believable to me.
Q. Can you talk about the chemistry between yourself and Gattlin Griffith, who plays your son? What process did you go through?
Kate Winslet: Jason was kind of part of that as well. I very much remember saying to Jason: “I know how I’d like to do this but how would you like me to do this?” It was one of the most wonderful working relationships that I think I’ve ever had. It was quite honestly such a privilege to spend that amount of time with someone who’s that lovely and that particular age, which is the most gorgeous age for a young boy or girl because every day there’s a whole swathe of questions. And they don’t have the answers and don’t even know how to ask them. My big thing with him early on was: “You’re terrified. Don’t worry, so am I, so is Josh and so is Jason and so is everyone else here on this film crew.” But I think I just knew that I had to really be his friend and wanted to be his friend and to guide him. He really was my priority on set. And it’s true there were some days when Josh and I had things to do on-set, particularly the intimate stuff or where we’re physically just closer together on-set than I was with Gattlin… I would be unkind or anything but I just wouldn’t lend him so much of myself.
There were definitely days when, and I don’t necessarily like using the word ‘method’, but I definitely did find myself doing a little bit of that. And then on other days, when we were doing scenes together or I could tell that he really did need me, I was absolutely there for him, really like a parent, and also making sure that whenever he had done some really brilliant takes, telling him how impressed I was and how impressed everyone was. It was little things like that that really helped. I also talked to him about being an actor and sometimes protecting him from this one [nods to Josh]… Josh is a complete team leader, so he pretty much ran the fun atmosphere on the set, which I was so grateful for, because normally that falls to me and I just felt so pre-occupied with Gattlin that I could say: “OK, I’m just going to let Josh do that, that’s fine.” But there were days when I would have to say to Gattlin: “He’s been doing this forever; we can’t do that. So, we just have to go over there and be quiet.”
Q. And how about your chemistry with Josh?
Kate Winslet: I think we were just very lucky [that we got on] because I hate Leo [DiCaprio] [laughs]. Obviously, that was a joke! Oh my God!!! No, we were very fortunate in that regard. I think that the gentle homework that we both had done… Jason had very much expressed a desire that we didn’t over-prepare, which again does come with its own set of rules. And that does mean not doing too much because there is a danger that you can do too much. I’ve been bit by that before. I watched something recently that I did years and years ago and just thought: “I probably did more homework for that than I did for this and hadn’t been able to quite work out what I was doing with the performance.” So, I did find myself trying not to do too much. I definitely spoke to some people who had been agoraphobic at certain points in there life but not to any great extent. It’s funny even when I hear people refer to Adele as someone who is agoraphobic because I didn’t really label her that way myself. She didn’t seem to me to be typical of anything at all. She was very much her own person with her own special set of circumstances. I don’t think you can really claim to be agoraphobic if you have a child and you have to somehow get them out into the world. But it’s very true that Josh and I really got along very well and that was more helpful than any of the homework that I did.
Q. You looked as though you didn’t have a clue what you were doing in the kitchen in this…
Kate Winslet: It’s acting darling [laughs].
Q. Are you any good in the kitchen?
Kate Winslet: I’m fabulous!