Getting hold of Kate Winslet is no mean feat. Between a comical series of dropped FaceTime calls (just after we both wax lyrical about how great FaceTime is for both signal strength and costing nothing), a long text conversation attempting to rearrange in between her filming schedule, and our respective children’s bedtimes, we finally catch up when she’s supposed to be in New York but is actually still at home in Sussex. Confused yet?
“We’ve had a slight change of plan,” she explains in her no-nonsense Winslet way. “I have to go to St Tropez and do a big fundraising thing with Leo on Wednesday and I suddenly just realised it wouldn’t make sense to go to New York with my husband [Ned] and the kids, to then come back tomorrow night. My husband and I looked at each other and were like, ‘Hang on a minute, that was a stupid plan.’”
That sums up what it’s like to be Kate Winslet: down-to-earth and straight-talking, while nipping over to the South of France for a charity auction with her BFF Leonardo DiCaprio. “You don’t even want to know the last conversation we had,” she laughs, “because it was so funny and made me laugh so much. We found ourselves saying to each other, ‘Can you imagine if the world really knew the stupid things we say?’
“I’m not going to tell you what we actually talk about,” she adds (crushing our dreams), “but yeah, we’re very, very close and sometimes we do quote the odd Titanic line back and forth to each another, because only we can, and we find it really funny.”
As that iconic film celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, let’s just take a moment to appreciate that Kate and Leo still occasionally speak to each other as Rose and Jack.
But from one disaster epic to another: ice is also responsible for Kate’s downfall in The Mountain Between Us, out next month. It’s a tense survival film that begins as the light aircraft in which Alex (Kate) and Ben (Idris Elba) are travelling nose-dives into a remote mountain range (AKA your worst nightmare; it’s unlikely this one will be streaming on in-flight entertainment). It then follows them as they attempt to make their way back to civilisation. It’s heart-stopping stuff, and the two leads – who begin the film as strangers – reveal different responses to the ever-increasing danger they find themselves in, as they face dwindling rations at the crash site, then having to decide whether to embark on a perilous trek down snowy ravines. Ben is the play-it-safe doctor who wants to do things by the book, while Alex is the go-with-her-gut photographer, refusing to sit passively and wait for a rescue that might or might not be on its way.
“She acts in the exact same way I think I would have done, and that was definitely something I saw in her,” Kate says cheerfully. “From quite a young age, I stood up for myself and strutted out into the world and carved my own path. And I really responded to that in Alex. She has that similar sense of self-possession and she’s extremely self-sufficient.”
You get a sense of her mettle in the retelling of the terrifying, real-life catastrophe in which Kate was caught up in 2011 when she, her children and Ned were among the guests who had to escape a fire at Richard Branson’s Caribbean holiday home on Necker Island [Ned is Richard’s nephew].
“I didn’t do anything different from what anyone else was doing,” she insists, talking about her part in the evacuation, which ended with all the guests leaving safely. “We were making sure no one was trapped or injured. Honestly, it all happened very efficiently, practically without panic. I remember getting to the point of safety and all of us heavy breathing, then looking around at each other and laughing. It’s a very strange thing – it’s hard to describe, like an exhilaration at being alive.
“But I look back on it like, ‘Oh, my god’. Or I’ll find myself looking for something for days, and then Ned will say, ‘Is that one of the things that got burnt in the fire?’ But you know, none of it matters – it’s all just stuff.”
It’s this Girl Guide attitude that makes you think you could do worse than being stuck 10,000 feet up a mountain with Kate Winslet. While filming, she was ever-prepared with her rucksack of essentials for the daily drop-offs (they were helicoptered in) at the Canadian Rockies (where, FYI, it took 45 minutes to put on all of the layers of thermals required to battle temperatures that dropped to -38°C). These included M&M’s, Nescafé sachets, flasks of chicken broth and a pair of battery-heated gloves Ned found for her that were the envy of the crew. “Moving at speed and at altitude through deep snow makes your chest burn,” she says. “And you’re thirsty beyond belief. Normally on a film, there’s a group of people who keep their eye on the actors and make sure they have everything they need, but this was very much a case of every man for themselves, which was good. I’m like that anyway. If I’m going up a mountain, I want to make sure I’ve got a head torch and eno