NEW YORK — If there’s one word that sums up Kate Winslet’s experience with Woody Allen on “Wonder Wheel” (opening Friday), it is “terrified.”
The Oscar-winning British actress and the prolific American filmmaker had hoped to work together in 2004 for “Match Point,” his hit London-set homicidal drama, but Winslet opted instead for child-raising duties.
“Wonder Wheel,” set in the 1950s Coney Island amusement park, proved irresistible.
Allen’s second riff on Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” following “Blue Jasmine,” which won Cate Blanchett her best actress Oscar, stars Winslet, 42, as neurotic, unhappy Ginny.
Like Williams’ Blanche DuBois, Ginny is needy, sexual, contradictory and delusional. Married to Humpty (Jim Belushi), a Brando-esque lug, she’s having an affair with a younger lifeguard (Justin Timberlake).
“It was extraordinary to have such a remarkable role — the words, the layers of her, the regret, the pain and this huge desire to live another life,” Winslet said.
“This (expletive) life is not what she planned for.”
As for a wedded future with her lifeguard, “That’s a vague hope that is completely impossible and out of her grasp,” she said.
Winslet confided that she was nervous every day of filming.
“I knew I had to give Woody Allen what he needed for this extraordinary role, but around 3 a.m. was the usual time when I’d wake and actually have a racing heart.
“I was like that the entire shoot — from start to finish. Being on a strange, white-knuckle ride is the best I can describe it.”
The prolific Allen is demandingly matter-of-fact. He doesn’t rehearse. He has been known to fire actors weeks into shooting and is, Winslet knows, “a man of few words. So we were all terrified.”
“Woody is a brilliant writer and a (expletive) extraordinary director. Actors are quite needy, but he doesn’t like that and I understood it. But he’s frank.”
When she and Belushi finished a complicated 9-minute scene in one take, they were happy, energized.
But not for long.
“Woody comes in,” Belushi recalled, “and says, ‘That take was the best example of the most apathetic acting I’ve ever seen. If I put that take in the movie, people would be in the lobby in three minutes. Talk like normal people would talk!”
And they did....Read more