Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet is rarely able to sit down and read a script in one sitting because of work or family commitments. But when Francis Lee’s screenplay for “Ammonite” came her way, Winslet’s agent implored her to read it, and she did — in one sitting. “It was just spectacular,” she says.
Winslet recently spoke with Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast about the film, her process, and her on-screen relationship with co-star Saoirse Ronan.
In “Ammonite,” Winslet plays paleontologist Mary Anning, who spends most of her days selling fossils to tourists. A wealthy man offers Anning an opportunity to care for his wife, Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan), and the two women develop an intense bond.
Lee’s script is based on a true-life story, which led Winslet to immerse herself in research and read up about Anning. “I was able to embrace, as part of my research, reading letters and love letters between women,” she says. Those letters served as an inspiration for Winslet.
Because Anning worked in a patriarchal society, her name isn’t as well know despite her achievements in paleontology. Anning discovered the first ichthyosaur skeleton, and she discovered that coprolites were fossilized feces. But, Winslet says, there was a lot of information about Anning “not only in the history books, but a huge amount historically. You can find documentation about her online.” Winslet was also able to visit the museum in Lyme Regis in the U.K, where the film was made, which was dedicated to Anning’s work.
In addition to her research, Winslet also found a tiny cottage and lived in the character’s headspace during the week as she was filming.
As Mary and Charlotte’s bond intensifies, the two women become lovers. Winslet stepped in and took charge when it came to filming the love scenes between herself and Ronan. “I’ve definitely had more experience and played LGBTQ characters in the past,” Winslet says, adding that the scene was shot on Ronan’s 25th birthday. “It just made sense. Women know what women want, let’s not beat about the bush. Saoirse and I knew we could unite in our feelings about these characters and where they’re at, and to tell that story physically. It was a very joyful experience,” she says.
“Ammonite” is available now via on-demand.