Kate Winslet was called "blubber" and told to settle for "fat girl" roles as a young girl with dreams of acting. And though films like Titanic secured her status as a leading lady, the English actress tells the Sunday Times that her body couldn't escape scrutiny.
"When I was younger my agent would get calls saying, ‘How’s her weight?’" shares the Oscar winner, who says now that "as a middle-aged woman I care about being that actor who moves their face and has a body that jiggles." At 47, she feels that the movie industry has progressed over the years in terms of not fixating as much on weight. It's a change Winslet calls "heartwarming."
But as the mother of a 22-year-old daughter, actress Mia Threapleton — with whom she stars in the new British TV drama I Am Ruth — Winslet feels anxious about the pressure social media and internet culture puts on young people. While the Sense and Sensibility star was no stranger to tabloid interest in her private life, she didn't come of age in the era of TMZ or Deux Moi.
“It was hard enough having the flipping News of the World on my doorstep, but that doesn’t even cut it now,” she says, referencing the British tabloid. “That phrase about ‘today’s news being tomorrow’s fish and chip paper’ doesn’t exist. The thing you did when you were drunk or foolish? It may come back to haunt you. Needing to be on one’s guard for young actors is just a different thing. It must be extraordinarily hard.”
I Am Ruth, in which Winslet and Threapleton play mother and daughter, explores how that pressure can have toxic consequences for teens and their self-image.
"Mia and I absolutely had in real life some of those conversations in I Am Ruth,” says the actress, who shares Mia with first husband Jim Threapleton. “But so have most of the mothers that I know with their teenagers. Friends have gone through white-knuckle living hell and these days, as an actor, I endeavor to find roles that shed light on topics that are difficult to talk about. This was one.”
The mother of three can relate to the strain parents are under as they try to protect their children's mental health. She's mindful that, because of her fame, she'll be "accused of lecturing" others, noting that "I don’t have a f***ing answer that is better or worse or different than anyone else’s."
"Just because I am high-profile, it doesn’t mean I’m not affected," Winslet says. "I don’t have a protective force field. I mustn’t talk specifics, because I must be careful with Mia’s privacy, but young adults are going through something incredibly hard. I don’t have a magic wand, but as a parent you try to do the right thing.
"There are times in your child’s life when nothing you can do or say is right," she continues. "You just want them to be happy, but the pressures of the world are enormous. There’s nothing you can do to keep them safe.”
But the Mare of Easttown star doesn't entirely despair over Gen Z.
"My daughter’s generation have an ability to speak for themselves,” she notes. “They have already learnt that they will be heard. Obviously not in every situation, but they know how to use their voice — especially young women. That’s striking to me. When I was younger you spoke when spoken to. That is not the case now. Young women are stronger. And they’re prouder of their bodies.”
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