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‘My days of doing nudity are a little numbered’

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Philly’s a tough town. If there’s a quintessential story about the City of Brotherly Love, it’s this one: in 2015, when Canadian researchers developed a child-sized hitchhiking robot with a big smile and yellow wellies, the hitchbot made it across Europe and halfway down the east coast of the United States, offering friendly small talk to anyone it encountered. Then it got to Philadelphia, where it was promptly torn limb from limb and left in an alley.

Residents have pelted Santa with snowballs and hurled batteries and beer at their own quarterback. They flip cars and set things on fire even when they win the Super Bowl and World Series. The unloved cousin of Boston and New York is often overlooked by Hollywood. The accent is so tricky to replicate, most actors won’t go near it. (Even Rocky didn’t even have a proper Philly twang.) So it’s funny, then, that it took a Brit with an elegant voice, creamy complexion and sunny outlook to parachute into the Philly burbs and totally nail the look, feel, sound and salty attitude of the denizens of Delaware County, or Delco, as it’s known.

Kate Winslet gets emotional talking about the end of her Sky Atlantic series, Mare of Easttown, which scored its own Saturday Night Live skit and found a fan in the self-described Philly girl in the White House, Jill Biden. (“You don’t screw around with a Philly girl,” Joe Biden said of his wife last year, after she blocked an anti-dairy activist who bum-rushed him at a campaign stop.)

Kate Winslet photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth/New York Times
Kate Winslet photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth/New York Times

Winslet has said, in the past, that it’s hard for an actor to tell what will wow audiences while you’re shooting, that sometimes you think you’re doing great work and then it turns out to be “a limp biscuit”. Mare Sheehan is anything but a limp biscuit. The police detective exists in a cloud of vape smoke, trysts, flannel, Rolling Rock and Jameson shots – “a very hot grandma”, as Guy Pearce’s character calls her, sparring with a mother (Jean Smart) who loves drinking Manhattans.

Winslet said that she has been bowled over by the way audiences have fallen “in love with this wildly flawed, messy, broken, fragmented, difficult woman. I loved her marks and her scars and her faults and her flaws and the fact that she has no off switch, no stop button. She just knows ‘Go’.

“Not only did I have to hide myself in the character completely, but I had to hide this story, carry the secret,” she says. “I kept it hidden since 2018, when I first read the scripts. My job was to take them on this horrendous journey and hope to God that they’d be prepared to come into the attic with me at the end. It has been agony, agony, agony. You can see I’m still, like…” She sounds as if she might cry, something she would never let Mare do, then pulls herself together and lets fly one of her frequent, merry F-bombs. “I can’t deal with it. It’s ridiculous.”

THE SHOW IS a murder mystery with many motifs: grief, the American opioid crisis, small-town life. Winslet, a mother of three, sees it from this perspective: “It’s about mothers protecting their children at all costs, and the lengths that a parent will go to in order to protect their children,” she says. About the finale’s twist ending, she adds, “Oh God, it’s just unbelievable, it’s heartbreaking.”

Underneath Mare’s facade, she says, “is a woman who is so entrenched in grief for her son that she has not processed, and as she shares it, as she talks about it with a therapist, she will crack. She doesn’t want affection. She doesn’t want to be loved. And she doesn’t want to be cared for, because if she has to experience those things it makes her feel vulnerable, and if she feels vulnerable then she can’t be strong any more, and she can’t carry on.”

Winslet is known for what one producer calls an “insane work ethic”. She prepares elaborate back stories for her characters, and she says she prepped more for Mare than for any other role in her life. (But she is not Daniel Day-Winslet: she is said to be fun once the shooting wraps for the day.)

She is Zooming in from her house on the south coast of England, curled up with bare feet, her blond mane looking much glossier than Mare’s. She’s wearing an old white Calypso T-shirt, a couple of gold necklaces and some black Sweaty Betty pants.

Kate Winslet photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth/New York Times
Kate Winslet photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth/New York Times

The actor often saves something from her sets, and she shifts her camera to show off the sign from the Easttown police station she has hung on a wall. She kept Mare’s jacket and badge, too. She has been harking back to her breakout role as another strong, but more upper crust, Philly girl: Rose DeWitt Bukater. “It’s like Titanic again,” she says, chuckling. “I’m on the side of buses again! It’s like going back in time 24 years where I’m walking down the street and people are nudging and pointing and whispering again.” When the actor was on a bike ride in England recently, a woman ran up to stroke her arm and offer all her theories about whodunit.

Winslet says she knows people are saying, “Oh my God, how can she let herself look so unglamorous?” When Craig Zobel, the director, assured her he would cut “a bulgy bit of belly” in her sex scene with Guy Pearce, she told him, “Don’t you dare!” She also sent the show’s promo poster back twice because it was too retouched. “They were, like, ‘Kate, really, you can’t,’ and I’m, like, ‘Guys, I know how many lines I have by the side of my eye. Please put them all back.’”

She says she baulked when she saw an early cut in which her ordinarily luminous skin looked too good. “We tried to light it to make it look not nice,” she says. “Listen, I hope that in playing Mare as a middle-aged woman – I will be 46 in October – I guess that’s why people have connected with this character in the way that they have done, because there are clearly no filters. She’s a fully functioning, flawed woman with a body and a face that moves in a way that is synonymous with her age and her life and where she comes from. I think we’re starved of that a bit.

“In episode one, she’s having sex on a couch. I said to my husband, ‘Am I okay with that? Is it all right that I’m playing a middle-aged woman who is a grandmother who does really make a habit of having one-night stands?’ He’s, like, ‘Kate, it’s great. Let her do it.’”

Mare of Easttown: Kate Winslet with Guy Pearce
Mare of Easttown: Kate Winslet with Guy Pearce

In moments of doubt she tortured herself and her assistant director, wondering about other actors – “three real people were haunting my mind. I will not name them” – who might have done a better job. The show’s costume designer did recon in Wawa convenience stores, finding inspiration for Mare’s flannel, inexpensive T-shirts, Ocean City sweatshirts and “bad jeans”, as Winslet says.

“Whenever we’d find something unflattering,” Winslet recalls, “we’d be jumping up and down like, ‘Yes! We’re wearing this.’”

She would leave her clothes in a crumpled pile on the floor of her trailer after filming, “and they would stay in a rumpled-up ball overnight. We were not washing and drying and hanging those clothes. Never.” They filled in her shapely eyebrows to give her face a heavier look, and left the sunspots and imperfections. “We’re so used to seeing this stuff airbrushed away,” she says. She wanted Mare to reflect the burdens she carried, a physical and emotional heftiness. She borrowed a Peloton exercise bike to work out at night, to make her thighs more muscular. “There’s a sloppiness to her, and there’s a looseness to how she sits and how she walks and just how she holds herself,” Winslet says. “Her body posture is totally different to mine. I actually stand quite upright.”

In one peak-Mare scene, she comes home and scarfs down a cheesesteak that her mother has got her, without taking off her jacket, still clutching her police files. “This is so clearly a woman who does not cook, doesn’t care about what she puts into her mouth, also probably forgets to eat, so that when she does eat, she’s so starving she doesn’t even care what it is that she’s shovelling in,” she says.

Winslet’s father, Roger, also an actor, helped inform this bit. “My dad actually reminds me quite a lot of Mare, to be honest. He was slightly the inspiration,” she says. “He basically moves like Mare and eats like Mare. Well, he does eat with his mouth full. We do tell him all the time, ‘Dad!’ He’s going to be so mad I just said that.”

Kate Winslet photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth/New York Times
Kate Winslet photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth/New York Times

AND YET WINSLET, a vegetarian, could get into character only so much. She sheepishly confesses to a Philly sacrilege: the show’s hoagie rolls contained no meat and, most shockingly, no onions. “I felt really, really bad, because I know onions are a very important part of a hoagie,” she says, “but because we had so many hours of filming scenes with all of this food, it basically wasn’t fair on the crew to have all this stinky onion food on our tiny set all day long.” (She says she was aware of the existence of scrapple but did not try it.)

Even with the counterfeit hoagies, locals are thrilled with Winslet’s metamorphosis. They have even named a hoagie after Mare. Shawn McCreesh, who works with me at the New York Times and grew up, like the first lady, in a nearby town very similar to Easttown, spotted someone he recognised from back home on the show. Patsy Meck, who plays the woman working the desk at the police station, says that Winslet was “genuinely who you would want her to be – she was so real”. Meck, whose three grandchildren were extras on the show, says it was amazing to see Winslet “walk off set, sit down and talk to me in a deep British accent, then pop right back on set and start talking like the rest of us”.

Winslet says she had to change the way the muscles in her face moved – often in freezing weather – in order to emulate Philly’s midatlantic dialect, with its selectively elongated vowels and smushed consonants. “Look, when you’ve done Polish-Armenian and German,” she says, referring to her accents in Steve Jobs and her Oscar-winning turn as a Nazi in The Reader, “frankly, I thought, Delaware County, oh, it’ll be fine: the vowel sounds a little bit different, but it’ll be fine. Honestly, it was just so hard.”

Still, mastering the sound wasn’t the hardest part. Stepping into the shoes of a mother raising a child with severe mental-health issues, as Mare did, was. (Mare’s son, Kevin, had struggled with depression and addiction before taking his own life.) Winslet met parents who had been through it all, and worked with a grief counsellor.

“There’s that moment,” she recalls, “when the therapist says to Mare, ‘Did he frighten you?’ and she just says, ‘Sometimes.’ A huge admission for Mare to even say out loud, ‘My son scared me.’ Of course, you see it in that flashback when Carrie and Kevin take Mare’s money for drugs in the bathroom.” She says the detective strives to fix everything else because she could not fix Kevin.

In order to truly understand the opioid epidemic, how its many tendrils can wrap around a place like Easttown, she went to what Philadelphians call “the badlands” – the north Philly neighbourhood of Kensington and its open-air drug markets. “We would go in an undercovery type of car and just drive around a lot,” she says.

“I remember seeing – and actually it broke my heart – a man with the most beautiful face and a beard. You could see there was a soul right there. He had been amputated from the knee down on his right leg, and he was injecting into the toes of the other foot.

“People are fighting for their sliver of life there. I would see people in these teeny-tiny houses, and they would be not just sweeping their front stoop but sweeping the pavement and the guttering in front of their home. Sometimes, for some people, that’s as much as they can do to keep their pride, to keep a feeling of something that is theirs and that is intact.”

What did the dark heart of the United States’ opioid crisis look like to a Brit? “I have to be honest,” she says, “I was really staggered that there aren’t more of those support networks in place to help with people. In this country we do definitely have better support networks for people in crises like that, we absolutely do.”

Kate Winslet photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth/New York Times
Kate Winslet photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth/New York Times

WINSLET HAS BEEN KNOWN to warn young actors on a set not to confuse social-media fame with the hard work of acting. “I have certainly heard, twice, of certain actors being cast in roles because they have more followers,” she says. “I’ve actually heard people say, ‘She’s not who we wanted to cast, but she has more followers.’ I almost don’t know what to say. It’s so sad and so extraordinarily wrong. I think the danger is not just for young actors but younger people in general now. I think it makes you less present in your real life. Everyone is constantly taking photographs of their food and photographing themselves with filters.”

She leans her face close to the camera, and notes her lack of filters, with an expletive. “What worries me is that faces are beautiful. Faces that change, that move, are beautiful faces, but we’ve stopped learning how to love those faces because we keep covering them up with filters now, because of social media, and anyone can Photoshop themselves, and airbrush themselves, and so they do. In general, I would say I feel for this generation, because I don’t see it stopping, I don’t see or feel it changing, and that just makes me sad, because I hope that they aren’t missing out on being present in real life and not reaching for unattainable ideals.”

The actor is so famous for disrobing in movies that her IMDb profile says her trademark is her “voluptuous figure”. But she says nude scenes may be in her past. “I think my days are getting a little bit numbered of doing nudity,” she says. “I’m just not that comfortable doing it any more. It’s not even really an age thing, actually. There comes a point where people are going to go, ‘Oh, here she goes again.’” She jokes that it’s not fair to camera operators to have to work to get the best angles as her body changes.

Winslet has a daughter, Mia, who is 20, with her first husband, Jim Threapleton, a director whom she met on the set of Hideous Kinky. She has a son, Joe, who is 17, with Sam Mendes, her second husband. And she also has a son, Bear, who is seven, with her current husband, who has gone back to his original name, Edward Abel Smith, from his playful pseudonym, Ned Rocknroll.

Mare of Easttown: Kate Winslet with Guy Pearce
Mare of Easttown: Kate Winslet with Guy Pearce

“He added ‘Winslet’ as one of his middle names, just simply because the children have Winslet,” the actor says. “When we’re all travelling together, to all have that name on the passport makes life easier.” (Bear’s middle name is Blaze, after the fire that Kate and Ned escaped that burned down the British Virgin Islands home of Richard Branson, her husband’s uncle.)

“He’s the superhot, superhuman, stay-at-home dad,” she says of her husband, as she smiles happily. “He looks after us, especially me. I said to him earlier, like, ‘Neddy, could you do something for me?’ He just went, ‘Anything.’” She swoons, noting that his long hair now gives him the look of “an ocean warrior”.

She breaks into song, crooning that they go together like “shama lama ding dong”. “He is an absolutely extraordinary life partner,” she says. “I’m so, so, so lucky. For a man who is severely dyslexic, as he is, he’s great at testing me on lines. It’s so hard for him to read out loud, but he still does it.”

She adds that “he didn’t particularly plan on meeting and marrying a woman who is in the public eye and therefore having been so judged”. She finds it amusing that, instead of being rock’n’roll, he’s very Zen. “He’s vegan, does yoga, breath work and cold-water swims.”

Winslet grew up in Reading, west of London, in a modest house and worked slicing ham in a deli when she was young. “I came from a small community not dissimilar to Easttown in the sense that there were paper-thin walls,” she says. “You could hear the neighbours rowing through the wall. You could hear the verbal grenades that were being hurled at one another.”

She says her father had called to tell her he loved an episode of Mare, then added his usual caution: “But you know, babes, don’t rest on your laurels. You’re only as good as your last gig.”

Kate Winslet photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth/New York Times
Kate Winslet photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth/New York Times

Confirm or deny

Maureen Dowd: Bob Iger approached you about making Titanic II for Disney+.

Kate Winslet: No, never did, and I never would.

You pocketed a few things before you jumped ship from the set of Titanic.

People stole the White Star Line cups and saucers. I was good. I did take a pair of Rose’s earrings, but somewhere I lost one.

Like Mare, you have a gloriously filthy mouth in real life.

(Laughs.) True, yes.

You can’t stop reading about Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez.

What? No! I’ve never read about Jennifer in my life. What are these questions?

Hideous Kinky was neither hideous nor kinky.

I don’t even know how to answer these questions.

You keep your Oscar on the back of your toilet.

I don’t actually know where the Oscar is at the moment. I think it’s possibly in my son’s bedroom. But it was on the back of the toilet for a long time, yes.

You lived in New York for 10 years and never once went to Philly.

That’s true.

You’ve incorporated the Philly slang word “jawn” into your vocabulary.

John, as in a man’s name?

This role is the first time you held a gun, and you didn’t like it.

True.

In John Turturro’s Romance & Cigarettes, you simulated sex with James Gandolfini bouncing on an exercise ball.

I had ripped all the ligaments on the left side of my foot. I’m nursing my son. As I’m bouncing on that ball, I’m actually bouncing using one foot with my leg in the cast, improvising at three o’clock in the morning. We were in hysterics. Oh, God, I loved Jimmy Gandolfini so much. He was just so wonderful, so insecure and just so honest.

Guy Pearce washes cans in the dishwasher before he puts them in the recycling can.

That is true. – New York Times

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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