If the title of this post has you gasping for air, imagine how I felt face to face and shaking hands with one of my all time favorite actors. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up…
Last night at MoMA they had a special cocktail party for Little Children to which yours truly was invited. Yes, seven years of slaving away at a computer and loud opinionated Oscar watching does have its privileges. I arranged to meet Susan, a frequent contributor @ Oscar Watch (with whom I’ve corresponded but never met) at the function since she was also planning on attending. I know you’re desperate to get the Kate Winslet part but you’ll have to wait like Susan and I did. Susan is a lovely woman and it was a total pleasure meeting her. Strength in numbers as they say and I was immediately less nervous about the prospect of meeting the great Kate.
Now, when a PR team says "cocktail party" they usually just mean “glasses of wine” And that means I was stone cold sober while approaching artists whose work I greatly admire. This helps you not to say anything stupid but it does nothing for your nerves. Note to self: Have your own cocktail before entering.
I began with the director Todd Field whom I approached after Kate Winslet had been whisked from his side, presumably by the PR team. The idea of these things is mingle! Perhaps it’s mingle or be mangled by the media but I really wouldn’t know. I am a movie fanatic first and foremost and the rest is just peripheral to me. What I mean to say is that if Winslet had spat at me I would still give her a great review. I assume corporate media outlets require more traditional schmoozing –hence, cocktail parties!
The conversation with Todd Field was perfectly cordial until it ended rather abruptly. In retrospect this was my fault since I wouldn’t shut up about Once & Again and a conversation about Little Children would’ve been a savvier (not to mention more appropriate) choice but what can I say…
You may recall that Once & Again is an all time favorite of mine. You may also have noticed that I get a little obsessive about anything that can justifiably be referred to as an all time favorite. Mr. Fields’ first comment when I mentioned this particular nugget of fandom was something along the lines of ‘oh yes, I had to play the same scene over and over again’ which made me laugh. A perfectly true statement it was: he had a rather thankless role on that great show. He lit up a little when he talked about the chance he had to direct the show. We talked a little bit about his favorite episode, the one wherein Evan Rachel Wood as Jessie got her period. I complained about the Emmys snubbing all of them except Sela. We shared notes on how unbelievably talented Evan Rachel Wood is, and was even then. And suddenly he moved on to another partygoer, mingling to escape Once & Again mangling.
I returned to Susan and her friend Mary and we all chatted briefly with Jackie Earle Haley who plays the neighborhood pedophile in Little Children. His most famous role is probably Moocher in Breaking Away, a film I loved a great deal as a child but which I haven’t seen since. So I didn’t have much to say on that front (Susan and her friend did). Mr. Haley and I agreed that Little Children is pretty brave as movies go. I told him I admired it for not coddling anyone in the audience. He remarked that he liked that it also didn’t judge any of the characters. ‘Or it’s judging all of them’ I offered as another interpretation ‘It’s a flexible film.’ To some degree I know --or worry-- that you’re probably supposed to just say “I love your work” and move on. But I have to discuss movies. That’s the way I’m wired.
A little while later, still buzzing from meeting with Kate Winslet (that’s the climax of this post, be patient), I returned to Jackie since he was with Noah Emmerich who I hadn’t yet talked to. I wanted to ask Noah about a specific line in the film about how he’s gotten fat. The actor is tall and skinny. So when I was watching the movie the line took me out of the movie for a split second. So I wanted to ask him. He laughed with surprise and said that he’d never been asked this question and then very amiably he discussed the scene and admitted that for a brief time period they considered changing the line (which is actually closer to ‘I’ve put on so much weight’) but decided it’s something skinny people say too if they’re feeling bad about themselves. Which is true. So it became a character revealing choice more than accurate self-assessment dialogue. It was a fun conversation.
There were other celebrities milling about but too Kate focused to pay much attention. Though I will say that Edie Falco in particular looked great. I briefly considered thanking her for preventing me from stabbing out my eyes while watching Freedomland but I decided (wisely) against it. In the end, though --and everyone in attendance clearly understood this-- the night was all about gazing at the glorious Winslet. She was stunningly put together, tailored black suit, hair pulled back not one strand out of place, perfect simple makeup, beatific smile.
I almost didn’t meet her. That’s another reason to thank Susan, she being blessedly more aggressive than I. It was Susan who grabbed at our only real chance to catch Kate’s eye as she turned from a short conversation with a genuflecting “I love your work” actress (whose face I recognized but whose name escapes me). Susan quickly reached out her hand in greeting and just like that Kate was talking to us. I told her immediately that I had been with her “in spirit” since Heavenly Creatures which blew me away in 1994 and I asked her if she ever saw any of this coming? She said that she absolutely did not. She’s still amazed by her career and that people keep hiring her. Susan reminded her that she gets work because of the incredible things she does with each role. And I agreed, ‘you’re brilliant in everything.’ To this tagteam assault of praise, the great actress replied in a gobsmackingly charming way (with just the teensiest hint of playful false modesty) ‘well, not everything!’
Kate went on to tell us that she had never even auditioned for anything before making Heavenly Creatures and it wasn’t until she found herself sitting in Venice with the film that it dawned on her that she had made a movie, that she was an actress. Having learned my lesson from Todd Field, I seguewayed into talking about Little Children. After hearing my enthusiasm for Patrick Wilson’s performance, career, and their chemistry together she also praised him. The interesting tidbit here was that she said she had become friendly with Patrick’s wife (sorry boys and girls: taken) and told the lucky Mrs. Wilson that she would be pregnant by the end of the shoot. Kate can see the future, too.
The rest of the conversation is something of a blur. I did wish her a happy belated birthday. But mostly I remember her ease, beauty, and poise. The biggest star there and still the easiest to converse with, so friendly and engaged in the chatter. When she said her goodbyes she even remembered details, that Susan had not yet seen the film and that I had. I left the event feeling remarkably warm.
Kate Winslet sure can mingle.
previous Winslet postings:
strange homophone * The Next Deborah Kerr * A Heavenly Creature * My Kate. My Self * Top 5 Actresses of the Aughts *