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Finding Neverland - Kate Winslet Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. You’d played Wendy in a drama school production of Peter Pan, so playing Sylvia Llewelyn Davies was quite apt, wasn’t it?
A.
I’d always loved the story of Peter Pan, I really grew up on it. So when this came around I was so thrilled to read something that for the first time gave us some kind of an insight into who JM Barrie was, and what motivated and inspired him to create the story of Peter Pan. I’m tremendously proud of the film, because I think it is very subtle, loving and affectionate, offering a take on Barrie and his life that I don’t think we’ve necessarily seen before.

Q. Was Sylvia’s life easy for you to research?
A.
There isn’t a huge amount on her. I gathered as much background information as I could in terms of her family and where they had come from, and obviously there were some actors among them, so I was very interested in that. But there wasn’t a lot on Sylvia herself. The one thing I did find was an account in a book on Barrie which said that at dinner parties she always insisted that her children were there as well.
This was a pretty outrageous thing back then, because children were supposed to be seen and not heard. I really loved that because it reminded me of my own mother, and of myself too. I’ve always got my children hanging off me so I loved that insight because it made me feel that this was a hands-on mother who would just be herself and not do something in terms of what society dictated she should.

Q. So you identify your own mum with Sylvia then?
A.
I drew a lot of inspiration from my mother. I’m one of four children, and my mother did everything with us. I remember all of us being bundled onto buses and going on day trips, and tearing around in fields and adventuring in the same way that the Llewelyn Davies boys do.

Q. As you have suggested, being a mother yourself must surely affect how you play a role like this, doesn’t it?
A.
I don’t think I could have played Sylvia if I wasn’t a parent. Finding Neverland was shot during the summer of 2002 and my daughter hadn’t even turned two when we started making the film.
She’s four next week, and my son will be nearly one by the time the movie is released, so it is particularly odd for me watching it again because what I noticed in myself is that the instincts that I had as an actor, with the boys, do in fact mirror my own instincts physically with my own son.
It’s extraordinary to see how I seem to always be physically in touch with the boys in some way, which I really love, I was delighted to see that I had done that when we made the film. I was constantly moving their hair out of their eyes, or straightening up their clothes. I like that, because it is similar to me, I am a hands-on parent in those sort of ways. So yes, being a mum in real life made a huge difference to me.

Q. How does motherhood affect the choices of roles you make?
A.
It makes me respond to different things in different ways, and it also makes me pull away from doing things that are particularly violent. I find that recurring a lot, with scripts that have a lot of violence, or anything happening to a child in them, I almost can’t finish reading them. I find them too devastating.

Q. You and Johnny Depp share a rather chaste on screen relationship here. Was there no pressure from anyone to have a more conventional romance between you?
A.
I always really felt that it was wonderful that we didn’t, that they didn’t kiss, simply because it kept the story very much about the relationship he had with all of them as a family. If there were more scenes written in about the romantic attachment between Sylvia and Barrie then it would have become a love story about two people rather than a love story about a man who was in love with life, whilst remaining in some sort of childhood.
Mind you, that didn’t stop the boys from asking why the two characters didn’t snog! But I was always pleased that it wasn’t in there, even though some of my girlfriends think I’m mad to do myself out of kissing Johnny Depp.

Q. The final sequence with Barrie and young Peter, played by Freddie Highmore, packs quite an emotional punch. Were you there for the filming of it?
A.
I wasn’t, but doing this Q&A with Marc [Forster], I was reminded that they had to shoot that scene twice because the first time they shot it there was a problem with the negative. Marc knew it would be okay telling Johnny this, but he got into a panic about explaining this to a 10-year-old boy and, more importantly, would he be able to come up with the same level of performance again.
It turned out that Marc approached Freddie and told him that his performance in that scene was wonderful but unfortunately it would have to be done again for technical reasons. Freddie said ‘I’m pleased actually, because I just didn’t quite get it’.
He was only concerned when they would be doing it, so he could get back and do it again in the way he really knew that he could. That’s astounding.

Q. Did Johnny Depp live up to his reputation as a practical joker during filming?
A.
He is a big practical joker, and there was one that worked an absolute treat. For the scene where we all go to dinner at the Barries’ house, it’s all about unspoken tension and at the same time how amusing the environment is to the boys. We knew that there were going to have to be some spontaneous bursts of laughter coming from them, but how can you tell a group of small children to laugh between this line and that line?
So Johnny brought a fart machine to work. He placed it somewhere out of sight, and operated it by remote control. There are about six different types of fart on this machine, and throughout the scene he would press the button and there’d be this noise.
The boys had no idea that this was going to happen, I really thought that one of them was going to wet himself, he was laughing so much. And so we had this constant stream of explosive giggles and sniggers. They just thought that someone was farting, in fact they thought it was Julie Christie! Then I said that actually it was me, and that made them laugh even more.

Q. Ten years on from Heavenly Creatures, do you ever have to pinch yourself at all you’ve achieved?
A.
Sometimes I do. I feel like a cracked record, because I keep saying that in terms of my career I feel incredibly lucky. But, to put it bluntly, when you go home from work and you’re straight into changing dirty nappies and pureeing the baby food for the next day, I have that wonderful constant reminder of what my life is really about. It’s that part of my life, my home life, that I have to pinch myself about because it’s really great.

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