Kate Winslet has roughly 20 minutes of screen time in "Divergent," Neil Burger's adaptation of Veronica Roth's popular young-adult novel (the first of a trilogy), but the five-time Oscar nominee didn't mind taking the supporting role.
"It's always very strange to see oneself on screen, but because I don't occupy that much screen time, it was quite nice for me to just enjoy the story," Winslet told HuffPost Entertainment. "There was so much that was shot when I wasn't around. There's a whole movie that had happened, really, before I even walked onto the set. It was actually just incredibly exciting to see what they had all been up to and to watch all the performances."
Winslet stars as Jeanine Matthews in "Divergent," the leader of the Erudite faction, and chief antagonist to Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), a young woman afflicted with the title adjective. (In the universe of "Divergent," citizens who can slot themselves in multiple factions are looked upon as dangerous outliers; there are five factions in total.) Winslet, who was five months pregnant when she shot a majority of her "Divergent" scenes, spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about the new film, what it was like to play a real villain and her relationship with Woodley.
What kind of familiarity did you have with "Divergent" before being approached for the film? I wasn't familiar at all. I hadn't even heard of the books, actually, but that's for no other reason than I just simply had not. Of course, before agreeing to take on the role, I very much wanted to know what the story was all about. I read the novel immediately and read the script; I loved them both equally. It was a really exciting opportunity for me to do something so completely different: play my first real baddie. I was really excited, as well, by the young cast. This was a moment where I felt Hollywood was showcasing some great new talent. Not so much Shailene, because she has worked before and has been around for a while, but with Theo James certainly, and a couple of the supporting cast members. There are faces in there that we haven't seen before. I just love that. I think it's very important to bring in the new faces. They're all so wonderful in the movie.
Did you enjoy participating in the physical scenes involving your character? There's a lot of action for you here. I was five months pregnant when we did the movie. In actual fact, I found it quite frustrating that I couldn't be even more physical. I was very fortunate, though, that we did some reshoots on [a key action scene late in the film]. We did reshoots literally four weeks ago. I was thrilled because my baby was on the outside of my body. I was like, "Hit me, hit me harder! I don't mind, I'll fall to the ground." I was so excited that I could really do it. It was great! But it was definitely hard, I have to say, for me, working and being that pregnant. Just aside from everything else. Trying to hide the bump, which was wanting to pop out more and more each day. Plus, I had come straight from a period movie that I had shot in the UK, which hasn't come out yet, and I had never worked back-to-back before. I had literally five days between these two very diverse genres. It was quite a lot to take on, but thrilling nevertheless.
This is the first time you've ever played an outright villain. Was that a matter of choice or simply the fact that no one offered you the opportunity? Things have come along before. It hasn't been that I never wanted to play a baddie, but the truth is that it's not the easiest thing in the world to pull off. The writing of a role like that. The construction of a character who has evil coursing through them. It's a specific thing. I was just very fortunate in this instance that the character of Jeanine was so brilliantly formed in the book and the screenplay, and it just struck a chord with me. More than that, I was just very taken with the overall idea that this story carries: that we all want to belong to something, come from somewhere and count for something in our lives. The ability to make a choice, whether it's a right one or a wrong one. To me, it just spoke a lot about that basic human desire we all have to be true to who we are, and that's not always the easiest thing in the world to do. I loved that.
For me, I also loved how Tris was not this superhuman teenager, but just a relatable young adult who had very real problems within this dystopian nightmare. I think that Shai really does carry the movie in more ways than one. What she definitely does with great aplomb is that she injects Tris with this absolute essence of normality. She's just a normal girl trying to figure out who she is and trying to be true to herself and remain strong and compassionate. In many ways, actually, I found Tris to be quite similar to Shai, because Shai does have some very strong beliefs in the world and how she chooses to live her life and what's important to her. There's a very strong moral and grounding foundation within Shai, and subsequently I think that very much comes through in Tris as well. That's really important, I think, with a film like this. There is a moral compass that is very much set for the audience, I think, by Shai's performance.
Shailene is about the same age you were when "Titanic" was released, and not to compare the two films or even her burgeoning career to yours, but it's hard to go two feet without seeing her on a magazine cover or reading a quote she said. Did you talk to her about how to handle that kind of explosive fame? She's a very gentle and grounded person, so I suppose I could say that I'm not worried about her. She knows the industry extremely well. She has a really wonderful family, too. Yeah, of course we talked about it. Of course we do. It's a great privilege to be able to share the experiences I have had with her. Am I going to be specific about what we shared? No [laughs]. But she's going to be just fine. She's a really great human being. She's going to be tremendous actually.