Kate Winslet breezes into the Blue Bar at The Berkeley as if she owns the place. And judging by the overjoyed reaction from the staff, she just might. The Wedgewood dream décor perfectly complements her sophisticated persona. She sits opposite me and smiles. The black liner on her upper lash lines and smudged dark brown on her lower reveal intelligent, honest eyes, and her lids in Avocado Chic, together with Cherry Glisten lips, create an effect that positively shouts celebrity. Her Emilio Pucci hair and Faith Connexion shoulder dress, convey confidence and elegance, while her accessories of H&H nail jewellery, Lulu Frost necklace, Tumi ear cuffs, and gold Tom Binns’ Charlotte Olympia, prove her stylish contemporary mood.
Demurely, she explains she doesn’t have long for the interview. I say, “Okay we’ll get into the questions.” She smiles, and I begin my interview.
MJ: Kate, in your films you often have misfortunes with water. In Titanic you were tit-high in a flooded boat, in Sense and Sensibility you were drenched from a storm, and as Ophelia, water became your death, although I have to say you floated beautifully.
KW: I am a good floater (laughs). Water is my second home. I was born a mermaid. My mother screamed at my father, “John! John! I’ve given birth to a fish.” Obviously I can’t remember any of this. I was just a little baby with gills, struggling to breathe, but my mother has recounted the event so many times I know it all by heart. My father, who was a little bit drunk, joked, “Well, it’s a good job we’ve got a fish pond then.” Which didn’t please my mother because, firstly she couldn’t understand why my father would joke at such a moment and was terrified that in her hour of need her husband had suddenly gone mad, and secondly because she had given birth to a mermaid.
My grandmother who was present said she could remember a similar instance when a cousin had given birth to a dwarf whale. Unfortunately this cousin had her baby at a sea resort and the scent of sea air caused her offspring to yearn for the ocean depths. One day when the family were out for a picnic the baby leapt off the edge of the cliff, plummeted into the frothy waves below and was never seen again. Luckily, I had no such misfortune. My father was a keen swimmer and often took me sea bathing. I never had any desire to swim away and leave my family. Though I was sorely tempted by the advances of a baby bottlenose dolphin. As a child I had a very long nose, and apart from my arms, my skin colour, my lack of fins, and my much smaller brain and eyes, I suppose from certain angles I resembled a dolphin. Unfortunately our relationship never got anywhere because his parents disapproved of our being together, and when the time came for his pod to move on I was abandoned. It was my first heart break. Although, like many other people, before and since, I recovered to subsequently find love.
She smiles and the heartbreak in her life shows in her eyes.
I enjoyed school and it was there that I realised the worst of the problems of being a legless creature. I fell in love with ballet. More precisely I fell in love with Maria Callas, no, not Maria Callas, she’s a singer. Maria Constantiopoulis, no that wasn’t it. What was the name of the famous ballet dancer? Maria… Maria…
MJ: Maria Constantinople?
MJ: Maria Cincinnati?
MJ: Maria Cornucopia?
KW: No. Now you’re just making up names.
MJ: I don’t know any ballet dancers.
KW: Well anyway, I set my heart on becoming a ballet dancer, but obviously this would be difficult if not impossible without legs. My parents were kind enough and, fortunately, sufficiently wealthy to send me to a highly regarded plastic surgeon. His first words when he met me were, “What a beautiful tail you have. Never have I seen such a tail on a woman.” I think he wanted to flatter me. But of course my love of Maria whatever-her-name-was drove me away from my tail and towards two legs. He agreed to operate and was obviously skilful. I believe my legs have turned out rather well. True, I have webbed feet which seek out puddles independently from the desire of the rest of my body. But apart from one or two quirks like that, my legs are almost indistinguishable from any other plumpish attractive female. And so I started ballet. You notice I said plumpish attractive female, and that was the problem. Ballet dancers should be lithe and trim, and I was a little on the wobbly side. And so, because it was doubtful I would ever make a prima donna, my ballet teacher, who recognised my talent for performing, led me towards acting. And that’s why I’m here today.
MJ: Thank you Kate. That was very interesting. I don’t think our readers will realise, how much you had to overcome as a child in order to be successful in the movie business. One of my favourite films of yours is Hideous Kinky. In light of what you have just revealed it must have been a dreadful film for you to make.
KW: Terrible. My DNA constantly cried out for H2O. The sand got into my eyes and hair, and my skin dried and became scabby. But at least I could bathe between takes. And of course Flower Remedies helped me through the ordeal.
MJ: Your marriage to Sam Mendes is often seen as being a synergistic relationship which helped both of your careers.
KW: When I first met Sam, he reminded me of my first love, the baby dolphin. He had the same beady eyes and scaly skin, but like many celebrity marriages the stresses of living in the public eye eventually took its toll, and because he was a scumbag philanderer, the marriage failed. It wasn’t my fault. I did everything I could.
MJ: You only have one Oscar, although you’ve been nominated on six occasions. Is that a blight on your career?
KW: I don’t feel I am always offered the correct parts. I would have made a wonderful lesbian in Go Fish, or an exciting baby carp in Wanda. But I’m still hopeful that the right part will come my way.
MJ: What will your next film be?
KW: I’m hoping it will be a remake of Splash. I feel I’m made for the role of Madison. I know I could bring a wealth of experience to the character.
She smiles. “I’m sorry, I have to go. Thank you so much for the delightful questions. I hope your readers enjoy my fishy tale.” Her Faith Connexion silk swishes as she leaves her chair. She grips her Alaïa clutch bag in her Ophelia-like fingers and in a flash of elegance she disappears back into the world of grimy London on her way to another make-believe story. It begins to rain. I’m sure she will be happy.
Samantha Memi lives in London. Her stories can be found at http://samanthamemi.weebly.com/