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Kate Winslet on how she chills out her fellow actors

The star of "A Little Chaos" confesses how bad she is at gardening and how her director, Alan Rickman, reacted when he learned she was pregnant on set.

Believe it or not, “A Little Chaos” is Kate Winslet’s first full-blown costume drama in over a decade. Her last film involving corsets and puffy dresses was “Finding Neverland,” from 2004. “I was excited to do that period,” she says. “It’s like, ‘Oh, back to basics. I remember what this feels like!’ Then after a day I was like, ‘Oh god, I remember what this feels like.’” In the film she plays Sabine de Barra, a woman (alas, fictional) commissioned to design a garden at Versailles for Louis XIV (Alan Rickman, who also directed).

On her gardening skills: “Oh, I don’t have any. So I’ll be happy to talk about my gardening talents, which don’t really exist, truth be told. I’m just not very good at it. I love gardens, and I’d love to be a gardener. Every year I say I’m going to learn French and I’m going to learn to garden properly. And then the next year comes around and I say, ‘Right, this year I’m going to learn French and learn how to garden properly.’ I can sit here and say, ‘This year, I’m going to learn.’ And I’ll just keep on not doing it.”

On telling director Alan Rickman she was pregnant: “I told him the second day of filming. I thought, get the first day out of the way, because it was so stressed. I was nervous to tell him because, even though I knew he’d be really excited, at the same time I knew he’d be like, ‘Oh, f—.’ I called him into the trailer and I said, ‘I really don’t know how to say this, so I’m just going to say it really quickly: I’m pregnant.’ He went [lowers head], ‘Right.’ I said, “But look, it’s completely fine, I’m completely with it, we just have to carry on. You might just have to accept that my boobs are going to get massive.’ And he was like, ‘I think I can cope with that.’ [Laughs]

In the first trimester women on the whole don’t particularly like telling people, till that glorious 12 week mark — which I wasn’t. It was earlier than that. But I don’t like fuss. I don’t like being wrapped in cotton wool and all that stuff. So I didn’t want people making a fuss over me. When you’re pregnant it doesn’t mean you stop doing things. You don’t sit at home and put your feet up. You just carry on, don’t you? So that’s what I did.

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On the question of Hollywood’s women problem: “I have such a hard time being asked that question. I don’t think actors and actresses should ever complain and make noises. The truth is I’ve been extremely lucky and I can only speak for myself. I’ve never had any reason to complain. I’ve been in a position in my career where I’ve worked with wonderful people from whom I’ve learned extraordinary things. I’m continuing to work and continuingly to do things that are challenging and artistically stimulating. That’s all an actor can hope for. So I honestly try to shy away from that question, because I don’t know how to answer it. I also think whatever I said in response to that type of question would get picked up on and quoted a million times over.”

On relaxing fellow actors on set: “I used to have a trick when I was a smoker: I used to sit down and pull out my roll-up cigarettes, which was my quirky thing I used to do. Then I would visibly see people go [sighs], and they’d relax and say, ‘Oh, she’s normal.’ And one by one they’d say, “Actually, can I have one of those?’ I haven’t smoked for quite a long time, so that’s gone. But what I do have in its place is I have a pencil case, and it’s got a little cartoon figure on it, and it says ‘Poo,’ and this person is squatting. That’s my relaxation tool. Out comes the poo pencil case and everyone just goes [sigh].”

Does she social media?: "I go online to Google carrot cake recipes and lentil soup. [Laughs] I don’t really follow that stuff. Maybe I’d be more aware of how impactful those things can be [if I did], but honestly I just don’t know. Which is fantastic."

Given how many period (and now futuristic) films she does, does she long to do more contemporary films?: “I love it all. I really do. Every genre provides something, provides a totally different challenge. There’s something more specific about the acting that’s required in a period film. But at the same time, as in the case of ‘A Little Chaos,’ there was room for a little bit of fluidity and looseness, simply because Alan is an actor himself. He’d say, ‘Forget how we rehearsed it, let’s do the whole thing a little differently.’ But the Steve Jobs film — even though it’s not entirely contemporary; it’s set in ’84, ’88 and ’98 — it’s a different thing. You don’t have to think about how you stand, how you go from standing to sitting. You don’t have to think about your response to someone when they walk in the room, mostly because when someone walks in a room we don’t even look anymore. I don’t long for one thing or another. I long to always be doing this job.”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge
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