Words: Will Stroude
Kate Winslet says she hopes the success of LGBTQ-themed films like Ammonite among mainstream audiences will help to "right the balance" for LGBTQ actors in the film industry in the future.
The Oscar-winning actor, 45, addresses the ongoing debate about presumptively straight actors being cast in LGBTQ roles as she speaks to Attitude ahead of the romantic drama's release in the UK on digital platforms this Friday, 26 March.
Directed by God's Own Country filmmaker Francis Lee, Ammonite tells the story of a fictionalised romance between real-life 19th-century paleontologist Mary Anning and her close friend Charlotte Murchison (played by Saoirse Ronan).
In recent years, the casting of straight actors in LGBTQ roles has proved increasingly divisive, with many arguing that LGBTQ actors should be prioritised for such parts given the difficulties many still face in securing heterosexual roles due to outdated prejudices.
Asked whether she was aware of the criticism which might surround her own casting as Mary, Winslet tells Attitude's Will Stroude: "I was aware of that, yeah. I would be foolish to say that I wasn’t aware that people may feel that way."
Saoirse Ronan (left) as Charlotte Murchison and Kate Winslet as Mary Anning in Francis Lee's Ammonite (Image: Lionsgate)
The star of Titanic and The Reader adds cryptically: "You know, I can tell you that there were private things shared between myself and Francis and Saoirse connected to our own paths et cetera that we felt were relevant to add to these characters – and those aren’t things that I’d be really sharing publicly."
Winslet goes on to say that she hopes that by increasing the number of LGBTQ stories told on screen, more casting opportunities for LGBTQ actors will follow.
"It’s like I said before, the balance is off, right?" she says. "I mean, let’s be real here: there are a lot more known straight actors in the mainstream than there are LGBTQ actors, and we definitely need to right that balance.
"But I hope that by being a part of this film and normalising a same-sex connection in this way, I really, really hope it will inspire LGBTQ performers to feel… just to feel more celebrated, and to hopefully change this."
Kate Winslet as Mary Anning in Francis Lee's Ammonite (Image: Lionsgate)
She adds: "It would be amazing if we could really see these big shifts and changes in cinema. And for my part, I wanted to contribute."
Winslet has played queer characters several times over the course of her 25-year career, including in her 1994 feature film debut, Heavenly Creatures, and in 2001's Iris, in which she played Irish and British novelist Iris Murdoch.
Asked if she's noticed a difference in how Ammonite has been received and talked about by the media and public compared to those earlier LGBTQ-themed biographical dramas, Winslet replies: "Well, I still think there is a serious lack [of] LGBTQ films that make their way into our mainstream.
Kate Winslet (left) as Mary Anning and Saoirse Ronan as Charlotte Murchison in Francis Lee's Ammonite (Image: Lionsgate)
"I think we still feel so compelled to compare the few that do exist and that’s what I hope is going to change.
She continues: "I also hope that by telling these stories, that perhaps queer actors who might feel some degree of fear that they may not get roles because there just aren’t enough parts for LGBTQ actors, I hope that by bringing more of these stories into the mainstream and into cinemas for audiences to enjoy, then perhaps LGBTQ actors might feel a little bit more, I don’t know, included, welcomed, celebrated.
"It’s really important to me."
Ammonite is available for premium home rental on all digital platforms in the UK from Friday 26 March.