Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Last Night I Met Kate Winslet

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 *

56 comments:

JA said...

Goddamn that's awesome, Nathaniel. You lucky s.o.b.

See - your story brings out nothing but vulgarity in me; I'm obviously impressed. ;-)

tim r said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tim r said...

I met Kate once! It was at LAX. She'd just flown in to do ADR for Titanic. Her big suitcase was next to mine. The encounter lasted all of ten seconds but she did smile a lot and seemed uncommonly charming given the fan boy stalker she was having to deal with. (Think: did I explain above what I was doing in LA? Did I perhaps bribe the baggage handlers? Who am I anyway?) I'd love to say we swapped numbers and hung out at the Beverley Wilshire, but no.

elena prio said...

I have met a couple of these... untalented... ungifted folks my self. Kidding of course. About the un... part that is. If you admire an actor and see them in person it is trully really exciting! Makes me miss even more good old times back in NY.
Take care man...

Ali said...

Reading your words, I effortlessly had an image of her in my head being the enchanting and gracious personality you describe her as being. Gosh, you are so lucky, but if anyone had to meet her, I'm glad it was you.

I don't think I would have been able to put two words together, let alone had a conversation. This happened to me last year when I met Atom Egoyan; only after the fact did I think of important things to say. Gushing fans must be such a nuisance.

Eric said...

I got to know… if you met THE Pfeiffer, what is the first thing you would say / ask her?

Witchiepooh said...

Nathaniel: Thanks for your kind words. As I've already said, the feeling was mutual.

It was such a pleasure to meet you and to share the "Great Kate adventure" with a true fellow fan!

By the way, I have indeed emailed Sasha with the link and details, so hopefully OW will put it up soon.

Anyway, you've told the story brilliantly. The only thing I'd add was how much Kate glowed with pride as she spoke about the film (but frankly, she pretty much glowed period). For me personally, the high point was when she leaned over and whispered in my ear to punctuate the end her story about Patrick Wilson. Gah!

Oh, and we definitely have to thank Mary. I was skittish about approaching Kate, but Mary definitely pushed me.

Witchie (aka Susan Thea Posnock @Oscarwatch)

Kris said...

Nice, Nat. Way to go.

Last night I met Annette Bening. :)

Pedro said...

Congratulations on your good fortune!

J.J. said...

I interviewed Winslet when Eternal Sunshine was coming out -- not to turn this into a Winslet-meeting pissing contest, but I wanted to further substantiate what a lovely person she is. But short! They're always shorter than you think.

Gerry said...

A wonderfully told story of an event that clearly meant a lot to you. Well done.

I met Winslet for a couple of seconds before interviewing Patrick Wilson in Toronto; she is certainly a charming person.

Patrick, by the way, was an extremely friendly and humble man who had nothing but praise for her.

Ehil Bent said...

I'm bleeding jealousy. Pure.

Ehil Bent said...

And actors are always shorter than you expect them to be, J. J., because the standard camera height for North American films is chest-high, putting the audience at a slight (but almost unnoticeable) low-angle. Ta da.

Beau said...

:)
sounds so lovely and personable. you must've been walking on air afterwards!!!

the boyfriend said...

Eric - past history suggests that Nathaniel + Pfeiffer = hyperventilation and aphasia. Weirdly enough, it was both frightening and endearing.

Anonymous said...

Well done on managing to get a succinct word or two out. I'd have collapsed on the floor in a heap after 'Hello'.

I wrote to Kate asking for a signed photo back in 1996-ish, and she sent me one along with a lovely letter. Obviously this was pre-Titanic, so she wasn't quite as huge... but nonetheless, she didn't have to go the extra mile. I was smitten before, and I've been devoted since.

She's obviously just a genuinely sweet person.

Looking forward to the Little Children review.

Rob

Kamikaze Camel said...

That's awesome! I'm sooo jealous.

adam k. said...

I feel like I'm prepared for how short actors etc. are because I memorize their heights from IMDB. Although it's still always weird because I'm still very tall.

I wish I had met Kate Winslet. She seems just great on talk shows and such. It's a testament to her amazingness that I don't hate her for all the luck she's had in her career, and so early. I just love her.

Tram said...

*sigh*

Words cannot describe how envious I am of you, Nathaniel!

Nick Davis said...

Two things I don't understand about this story:

1) How did you overcome your Herculean impulse to damn Hilary Swank in front of Kate? Good form, I'd say, to avoid the whole painful topic, but I'm a little taken aback.

2) Nowhere in here do you mention slipping Kate my phone number, and I know that you know it. It being so close to my birthday and all. Is her call meant to be a surprise? Please advise.

NATHANIEL R said...

Nick -
1) with kate radiating so much light, all dark things were forced to scamper away.

2) i hate being late so it's next year when she'll be calling, silly.

Everyone -
what the Boyfriend says is true. However I was curiously calm during the winsletation ... maybe i'm getting better at composure.

Witchiepooh said...

Yeah, you folks would of been proud of Nathaniel. He was completely composed. I think it helped that she was so open and charming--perhaps intimidating to approach because of who she is, but easy to approach because of how she acted.

Regarding the height thing, I didn't think she was that short (and I'm pretty tall). Must have been the heels.

Anonymous said...

Your account of this lovely meeting makes up for the envy it stirs within. Well composed meeting and post.
Thanks!

Eegah said...

That is a beyond fantastic story Nathaniel. I'm so jealous!

daveylow said...

I would not know what to say if I was face to face with Kate Winslet (I was face to face with Isabella Rossellini a few years ago and was speechless). I have adored her since Sense and Sensibility. She must have people telling her how great she is all the time. So far from interviews I've read, she seems pretty down to earth and not full of herself at all.

right said...

amazing.

but... breaking away? jackie earl haley's best known role is clearly kelly leak in bad news bears. i didn't realize there could be a debate about this.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Just wow! That is so cool. And well told story. I hope you get to meet lots of huge stars so I can live vicariously through you! I'm sure I would have said something witty like, "Duh ba da do blah."

Hugs,
Linda

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Jill said...

I'm so happy to hear this. Kate Winslet has always been that rare celebrity that you always think is the one person who won't disappoint you if you meet her in person. I'm glad my impression was correct, and I'm glad that if anyone other than me had a chance to meet her, it was you.

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jbnyc said...

Nathaniel, I just discovered your site again after a brief look last Oscar season and think you're brilliant! Can't stop reading your great writing...Anyway, I, to am enamored to this young actress' body of work. Each performance just floors me. I had wanted to see Heavenly Creatures for years, and finally rented it one day. Ohmigod. I can't believe she'd never auditioned for anything before that film. God. I just couldn't fathom the depth and range of her talent at such a young age. It's a - and if I may employ a most hackneyed, albeit favorite, word of mine to describe favorite films and/or performances - haunting performance. One of my favorite parts was her saying something about her drawing and asking the teacher if she could tell she purposely used the likeness of Mario Lanza in it. So great.

Anyway, as it's been a rather flat year for movies, until this last quarter, so I had to go a bit out of my way to find Little Children as it was only playing in two Manhattan theatres about a month into its release. Well, I loved it. Haunting. Lady Kate, once again, pitch perfect. I think she's gonna have to build an addition to her house just to hold all the various awards she's yet to win.

Finally, the last thing I'll say is you can just tell she would be the nicest person. She just radiates warmth and realness. There's no way she'd ever spit on you, Nathaniel, you so silly! You must be thinking of Natasha Lyonne or something. Keep up the good work. You're quite a talent.

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Josh Colwell said...

I still have flashbacks to my own encounter with Kate Winslet. And it's been a year and a half.

Jeff said...

Met her today - we were on the same flight. Lovely person. Quite a bit different than her pics - her features I thought are much more balanced in person.

Honestly, I didn't actually recognize her until an associate was like, "hmmmm is that really? I'm not sure - what do you think?". We met John C Reilly in New Orleans back in March - he looks exactly as his photos and in the movies. Also a nice fellow - very very attentive to his children and family.