"Steve Wright In The Afternoon"
Pre-recorded Interview With Kate
Aired on BBC Radio2 January 16, 2002
Listen to the audio playback of the interview!
Steve Wright: On the big show today: Kate Winslet, superstar Kate Winslet will be on to talk about her new film, which of course is the ĎIrisí movie, Iris Murdoch... [introducing interview segment] The movie details her relationship with her husband of over forty years, John Bayley, and also charts her battle with Alzheimerís disease. Now, Kate Winslet plays the young Iris, while Dame Judi Dench takes over the role of the acclaimed writer in her latter years. Tim Smith went to meet Kate Winslet to find out more about the movie.
Tim Smith: This is ĎSteve Wright in the Afternooní, and this is Tim Smith with a specially pre-recorded interview with Kate Winslet in the luxurious confines of the Dorcester Hotel. Did you pay for this?
Kate: [laughing] No, I didnít pay for it. Itís quite nice doing these press things, though, because they do bring you to nice hotels.
Tim: And youíve made my day because you remembered me from the time before. I interviewed you, I think, about 18 months ago. You were heavily pregnant with child.
Tim: And youíd just done your talking books, hadnít you?
Kate. Yeah, my Enchanted Wood series, the Enid Blytons. Yes, I had just done those, and yes, I would have been heavily pregnant. Well, now I have a small child, small child whoís running around all over the place, babbling.
Tim: What's her name, is it MY-ah?
Tim: MEE-ah, sorry.
Kate: Yeah, M-I-A. Yeah, sheís simply great, simply fantastic, and laughing, and joking, and dancing away. Sheís a great child.
Tim: You look fantastic now.
Kate: Thank you.
Tim: I say that because the media makes so much about you, or has done in the past.
Kate: I know.
Tim: And that must drive you bonkers.
Kate: Well, it is a bit boring, and I think itís sort of old news now, you know. Iím just me, or Iím back to me. Got my figure back after the baby. But no, I think, you know, any woman who has had a baby knows that, you know, you do just naturally gain weight. Youíre supposed to, as did I. I gained about four stone, I think, in the end. And naturally, and very sensibly, got back to the weight that I was before I had Mia. Absolutely no smaller, absolutely no different. And much was made of that Iíd been on a supposed diet, which I havenít done for years now, so...
Tim: I heard youíd lost that weight doing Geri Halliwellís yoga. Is that not true?
Kate: Iím afraid thatís not true. Sorry, Geri, if that lets you down. But, when you have a baby, when youíre a full-time mum and you have a baby, thereís no time to do any exercise or anything. I think itís just lots of, kind of, looking after the baby and running around after her now.
Tim: Weíd better talk about Iris, hadnít we?
Kate: Yes, please.
Time: Although before we start, I just wanted to say that when you came back into the room, I said Ďtop film starí, and you laughed, and you hate that. But you are a top film star. [Kate moans and protests, then laughs]
Tim: I should have introduced you as 'two-time Academy Award nominee'...
Kate: Oh, donít say that...
Tim: ...in a kind of big American accent.
Kate: [laughing] Oh, donít say that, oh, don't say that.
Tim: But itís a fact.
Kate: Well, I know, but Iím still Kate from Reading [laughs].
Tim: Itís funny you say that because Steve, of course, used to do a lot of work in Reading, and heís sure he knows you from somewhere down Reading way. You didnít used to work in a pub down there, did you?
Kate: No, Iíve never worked in a pub. Iíve worked in many places. I used to work in a delicatessen in Reading, County Delicacies, which still exists in the old Reading Marketplace.
Tim: Maybe he bought something from the delicatessen when you were serving in it. When would that have been, Kate?
Kate: Itís a possibility. When, did you say? Or what?
Tim: When would that have been?
Kate: Oh, a long time, about ten years ago.
Tim: No, that canít be it [Kate laughs]. It must be something else. Listen, letís talk about Iris, then.
Tim: It stars you, stars Jim Broadbent and Dame Judi Dench. Ostensibly the story of Dame Iris Murdoch. Itís a staggering film, I thought, and very moving.
Kate: Thank you.
Tim: And told in a very strange format. Because you play the young Iris Murdoch...
Tim: And Dame Judi plays the older Iris Murdoch.
Kate: Thatís absolutely right. And it is the story about Iris Murdoch and her life. Itís not so much about her work as a novelist. Itís really getting under the skin of who she was and her relationship with John Bayley, who was her husband for many years, who nursed her through Alzheimerís when she was... well, later in her life, in the section of the story that Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent play out. And Hugh Bonneville and myself play the younger John Bayley and Iris Murdoch. And there was a lot of fun. I mean, Iris Murdoch as a young woman was very full of life, a very strong woman, and loved arguing about things that she passionately believed in. And it was a great experience. We really had a wonderful time.
[Clip from film - When John shows Iris his rooms]
John: I shouldnít be doing this.
John: Having women in my room, itís not permitted.
Iris: I wouldnít say youíd had me, exactly.
John: You love words, donít you?
Iris: When one doesnít have words, how does one think?
John: [Pouring wine] Language is all very well, you know, but itís not the only way of understanding each other. Thereís sight, and smell, and touch, of course...
[Iris moves toward him for a kiss, but John is shy.] I love your nose. [Rubs his nose against hers] Snubby, snubby, snubby.
Iris: [Rubbing her nose against his] Snubby, snubby, snubby.
Kate: The main thread of the story is this love story. And it is a true love story, you know, because it really happened and because itís so much centered around the strength of the relationship that Iris Murdoch and John Bayley had. And the script is taken and based on two books that John Bayley wrote not very long ago about his life with Iris. And itís just really, really beautiful, you know, two soul mates. And, yes, the young side of the story happens in flashbacks, so we just feel the echoes of who Iris Murdoch was. And then it cuts to the core of their relationship as they were older and during the decline of Iris Murdochís life, and her illness that affected her so greatly. But itís a lovely film, and Iím very proud of it.
[Clip from film - John meets Iris in a pub and questions her about her lifestyle after seeing Iris kiss a woman goodbye as he enters]
John: Do you like women? I mean, do women like you?
Iris: You mean lesbians?
Iris: Would it bother you if they did?
John: Oh, no. The same thing happens with me, with homosexuals, I mean.
Iris: And do you go to bed with them?
John: God, no.
Iris: At the college, theyíre all, as somebody once said to me, Ďold fashioned lesbians of the very highest typeí.
John: [laughs, intrigued] Do you go to bed with them? [Iris just looks back at him and doesnít answer.]
Tim: Did you know much about Iris Murdoch before you did the film? Had you read many books?
Kate: No, I hadnít at all. I was familiar, obviously, with her, and who she was, and what she meant to people, and how highly respected she was. But I did have to familiarize myself with her work a little bit, but mostly it was focusing on, as I say, who she was as a young woman and as an older woman, and this extraordinary life that she had led. And thatís the thing that not many people know about. You know, she loved words, she loved people, she basically loved living. And this incredible relationship that she had with John Bayley, her husband, who obviously nursed her through her illness up until her death and even beyond, in a way. You know, you still feel now that he adores her and loves her, and that she gave him so much, and that he gave her so much. You know, he really, really cared for her until the very, very end. So, it is deeply moving, but uplifting as well because itís not... you know, it isnít a film that is about Alzheimerís at all, itís not about suffering, and itís not depressing in this way. You know, she had a really great life. And as a young woman she was dynamite, she really was.
Tim: She was ahead of her time, wasnít she?
Kate: She was. Well, it did feel...
Tim: She did her own thing, whether that was sexuality, anything... politics...
Kate: Yes, she was just a true life liver. You know, she didnít hide behind anything, she wasnít afraid. At the same time, though, she wasnít unpleasant, or manipulative, or unkind, or rude to anyone. But, you know, she had strong morals, and she certainly spoke about what she believed in and why she believed in those things, and was very, very true to herself and to those feelings that she had about life and people, etcetera. And so itís a very uplifting film in many ways because of that. Itís full of lots of fun, certainly the section of the story that myself and Hugh Bonneville are involved in because, you know, itís them as two young things, skinny-dipping and riding bicycles, and basically having a good time.
Tim: You do do some skinny-dipping in this film, donít you?
Kate: Thatís true.
Tim: Yeah, like without any clothes on at all.
Kate: Yes, thatís true.
Tim: Isnít it true that when you did this scene as well, the crew took off their tops to reveal Titanic tee shirts?
Kate: This is true.
Tim: Is that really true?
Kate: And I was like, Ďoh, come on, guys, you know, itís a bit old, isnít it? Itís a bit old and tired.í And they just said, Ďah, you know, weíre sorry, Kate, we couldnít resistí. You know, cause there were some guys who had done some underwater camera work on Titanic, and they unzipped their wet suits one day, and I was like, Ďoh pleeease, come oní. But, you know, look, I love water. I had a great time shooting those scenes and I didnít want to get out. And plus, it was heated, the water was heated. It was fantastic, it was like being in a lovely bath.
Tim: Theyíre gonna throw me out of these luxurious surroundings, but I must say this, and I know you wonít mind me saying this - that Dame Judi Dench, she can act, canít she?
Kate: [whispering] No [giggles].
Tim: Okay, Kate Winslet, thanks a lot for talking to ĎSteve Wright in the Afternooní. Good luck with the film. Thanks a lot.
Kate: Thank you.
Steve: Tim Smith with Kate Winslet. Lovely interview [cheers in studio, then right into ĎWhat If?í]