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Made in Dagenham - Jaime Winstone interview

Jaime Winstone in Made in Dagenham

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JAIME Winstone talks about making the film Made in Dagenham and developing a fond appreciation of her character and the issues she was facing.

She also talks about what appearing in a mainstream film means for her career and the possibility of returning to the theatre…

Q. What was the initial appeal of playing Sandra and how much did you identify with her?
Jaime Winstone: For me, when I originally read the script, I kind of became aware of what these women had done and felt so ignorant. I was like: “Wow,l this is amazing what journey they went on…” And how they were blissfully unaware of how far they were taking it. It was so inspirational. I just fell in love with Sandra. I read her and felt like there was a piece of her in me. I don’t want to sound like a sob story, but maybe because it’s a working class background and I kind of just saw that she wanted to see the lights and wanted to go and get something better. It’s not that I was ever in that situation but she just banged that out in me… that really sweet naivety, and wide eyed nature.

I can imagine at that time that girls wanted to be like Twiggy, and that’s pretty damn hard when you’re working in a factory. So, she was just one of them characters that I felt has such warmth. For me, she shows a two tone aspect to her… in one way, she just wanted to go and follow her dreams and aspirations, and on the other to follow her morals and be involved in what’s going on in her life at the time with the strike. It was this tug of war and she chooses the latter way in the end, and it all combines. So, it’s a really nice little journey she has/. And for me, I wasn’t being chased by zombies or dripping in blood, so it was: “Ah, it’s nice to play someone nice.”

Q. What was it like working with the women in the factory we see in the film? I understand many of them weren’t actresses?
Jaime Winstone: Yeah, a lot of the women we used when we were shooting the interior stuff in the factory had all been made redundant from the Hoover Factory in Merthyr Tidwell in the valleys in Wales, and these women brought such a heavy element to those mass, improvised scenes, where you don’t know where the camera is and all just going off each other. But these were women who had never seen a camera before, so it was absolutely amazing… their spirit and their sense of craft.

We ended up keeping them in the whole film and bringing them to London. A lot of them had never been before. A lot of them were heavily Welsh, so it wasn’t going to work, and we ended up wishing they could speak cockney. But they brought an element of realness to it, because they have recently been through this, so it added to the essence of what we were doing.

Q. Did you speak to any of the real women?
Jaime Winstone: I spoke to a few of them that were actually in the Dagenham estate, A lot of people had been around when we were shooting, saying they remembered when it happened. It’s so nice today, even to be watching the footage on the news, about the women and hearing them talk of their embarrassment. They’re still so blissfully unaware of what they did and so kind of humble with it. For now, for women to protest it’s not that out of the blue, to be honest, but for those working class women to go on strike and then to take it to the Houses of Parliament and to sit with Barbara Castle and being about an equal pay act was huge.

I just felt so stupid not knowing about it… well, obviously not stupid but more like: “God, these women were really hard working women…” They’d set their hair before they went to bed, get up and do their make-up, get dressed and put the eyelashes on, all to go and work in a factory and then come home, after a full day’s work of being labelled as unskilled workers, to put the dinner on the table and the kids to bed. And then they went to sleep. This was hardcore. But I don’t think they realised they were that hardcore, they were just tough women. Si, I feel a little bit spoiled to be honest. They were really inspirational, mind-blowing women. And then men as well… I love Bob Hoskins character in the film because he represents that generation where his mum worked in a factory and if he hadn’t of pushed these women… it was a mutual situation. They would never have had the confidence to do it otherwise. It’s a really important film to be involved in.

Q. Did you do any more research into the issue once you were involved in the film?
Jaime Winstone: For sure, now, I know a lot more than I did. In terms of the research, not really, just because Sandra is a 21-year-old girl who is wrapped up in something she doesn’t really know. They all get in so deep and I don’t think they initially realise just how deep they’re going to be going. All of a sudden, the men were in danger and there was a feeling of sex status. So, I wanted to stay as blissfully unaware as she was. I had to learn how to use a machine… which my Nan taught me because she used to work in the factory. But that was bloody hard and I was actually really rubbish at it!

But then Sandra is too, so I had the right result. But the research side of it… the beauty of these women was that they were just doing something they believed in, which was rightfully theirs, and actually the time it’s set in… there’s an amazing line in the film that Daniel Mays says: “I’ve never back-handed you, I’ve never once raised my hand to you…” But it’s like: “Well, what do you want… a medal?” That should be a given. We’re not asking for something more, we’re asking for equal respect. And that’s when the penny really drops. For me, when I saw it and read that, I was really driven by the sense that this should have been a standard.

Q. Men are still paid more than women today, so do you think women have gone as far as they can go with the issue?
Jaime Winstone: No, I don’t think so. I think times are changing and we are in a modern age where it’s a little bit silly. I don’t know if it stems from tradition. I know my Grandad’s way of thinking was that my Nan should stay at home because he didn’t want her going to work. He wanted her staying at home and do what a woman should do in that old school mentality. But now, that’s not so much the case. There is the modern day man, as they call him, who stays at home and looks after the kids while the wife goes out to work.

That said, in the industry I work in there’s not a lot of women directors or a lot of women producers, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a sexist thing. As for the money thing, I think that’s times changing and adapting, which always takes a while. We do have a lot of heavy tradition in this industry as well… But I feel very much like we are living in an equal world and I don’t ever feel compromised or put in that situation.

Q. Did you enjoy wearing the fashions and get to keep any of them?
Jaime Winstone: I desperately wanted my hot-pants, but couldn’t get them,. It’s all archive stuff. I think we did such an amazing job on effortlessly making it look and feel like the ‘60s and that working class kind of feel. My Nan worked in a Burberry factory, so she was handling amazing fabrics in the biggest dumps you could possibly imagine. It was so much fun getting to wear those fashions, though, such as the little dresses on my birthday. I became Sandra and really felt like I’d slipped into an era I’d always wanted to revisit. So, I got really caught up in it. It came really naturally.

Q. How was riding a bike and looking sexy then?
Jaime Winstone: A piece of cake [laughs]. Well, apparently riding a bike comes straight back to you, so I think Boris would be proud! [Laughs] It was great, though… those big scenes with all the women. There’s a lot of warmth in those scenes because there was a lot of warmth between the women. To get a bunch of actresses, like Geraldine James and Sally Hawkins and Miranda Richardson together… we’re all so different and from different backgrounds, but we all blended well and instantly became a unit. It was so much fun, but we did really get wrapped up in what we were doing. For me, especially, this is a feature that I feel like isn’t indie… it’s quite mainstream and yet I don’t feel like I’m out of my league. So, to be seeing myself next to Bob Hoskins and Geraldine James is like: “Wow!”

Q. What’s next for you?
Jaime Winstone: Hopefully, I’m going to do a bit of theatre in the West End. Nothing is secured yet, but I’ve got my eye on something that would be great for me. I’m doing a BBC documentary about cancer. I lost a friend to it recently and I think a lot of people have been touched by cancer, and there’s all these vaccinations that I would like to be educated about. I’ll then hopefully be doing a film set in the ‘80s. But these are all very loose things at the moment. It’s hard times for the film industry at the moment but it’s times like these when something magic can also happen. So, we’ll see.

Q. Will that be your first time on stage?
Jaime Winstone: No, I did a theatre thing last year and got a nomination for best debut. For me, it was the biggest thing I’ve ever done in terms of confidence building. I never thought I’d do theatre, because I’m not trained in that area, but I did it and it suddenly dawned on me that I was a theatre actress. I was like: “Wow, I really love this and I really buzz off that natural raw… what it’s all about basically.” That was a huge weight off my shoulders. You always get asked: “When are you going to do theatre?” And I was like: “I’m going to do it! I’m going to do it!” But I didn’t know when or how, so I was glad that I got the right part for me and that it was such great material. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse and I learnt so, so much.

Read our review of Made in Dagenham

Read our interview with Daniel Mays