OSCAR-winning actress Kate Winslet has opened up about the “enormous challenge” of playing fossil hunter Mary Anning in upcoming film ‘Ammonite’.
Having already been released in the USA, the much-anticipated film based on the life of Lyme Regis palaeontologist Mary Anning will go on general release in the UK on March 26.
The film stars Kate Winslet as the 19th century working class fossil hunter, who develops an intense bond with a privileged young woman, Charlotte Murchison, played by Saoirse Ronan, with the story exploring the themes of class and same sex relationships.
In an interview for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, which provides educational assistance to the members of the Screen Actors Guild and children’s literacy programmes, Kate spoke to writer, director and TV presenter Dawn O’Porter about how she got into character for ‘Ammonite’.
The actress said she “spent weeks on end on those cold, sideways-rain beaches of Lyme Regis” ahead of filming with local palaeontologist Paddy Howe, who taught her how to fossil hunt.
“I didn’t want to pretend, I didn’t want to turn up on the first day and have the expert give me a quick 10-minute session on how to dig or scrape,” she said.
“I knew that I had to get Mary into my bones, along with the cold and the energy and rhythm of her, which is so incredibly different to my own.”
Kate said she had to remove a lot of herself to get into the character of Mary, which she described as an “enormous challenge”.
“It was a really tough call knowing that if I was going to play this part that I would have to immerse myself as much as I could because my own family life just did not fit with how I was going to play this character.”
Kate then spent nine weeks filming in Lyme Regis and chose not to stay in hotel with the other actors and crew members. Instead, she lived alone in a cottage in Lyme Regis.
I tried to live a life that was a close to Mary’s as I possibly could, which was obviously very difficult to do,” she said.
“She lived a life filled with struggle; she was very working class, self taught, exposed to extreme hardship and poverty.
“I was able to live alone in a little cottage which was exposed to the elements on two sides, so when there were storms the sea would hit the windows of the house, I was that close to the water.”
Later in the interview, Kate spoke passionately about Lyme Regis-based reforestation charity The Word Forest Organisation, which plants trees near Kenya to tackle climate changes.
Kate first became involved with the charity when she was filming for ‘Ammonite’, as fossil hunter Paddy Howe’s wife, Rikey Austin, is a trustee of the organisation.
The actress has since narrated their #TreesAreThe Key documentary and has designed a T-shirt for their online shop.
Speaking of The Word Forest Organisation, Kate said: “They are utterly extraordinary. They work in a small area outside Nairobi and they have this wonderful group of women called the Mothers of the Forest and the mothers work with the children to plant the saplings.
“They grown their own fruit, their own nuts and they’re able to live a life on what they’re able to grow.
“This charity raises money, builds classrooms, teaches them how to make sanitary items, they are just the most wonderful charity and very, very small.”