2008 Dec 05

It’s a tough job, lad, but someone’s got to do it …

Kate WINSLET and the teenage actor she makes love to in her latest movie spent hours choreographing every move.

The actress told me that the woman she plays, a former Nazi prison camp guard, ‘looks like a carthorse, or an ox or something’, adding: ‘She looks very strapping; there’s a physical, almost masculine look about her.’

Yet, the minute her character disrobes on screen, her body looks sensational: curvy yet sleek.

Before I could ask, Kate said: ‘There was no body double. The body on screen is all me  -  warts and all, no enhancements  -  but remember, my body is hidden beneath a frumpy uniform.’

The sex scenes in The Reader take place between a 35-year-old tram conductress and a 15-year-old schoolboy; an older woman seducing a minor.

A report this week on news website the Huffington Post called such an affair into question, saying the fictional relationship would be illegal.

Interestingly, the film-makers waited till the boy Kate acts with was 18 before sex scenes were shot.

Anyway, they are the touch-paper for a film that explores scorching topics: among other things post-war German guilt, moral justice and romantic betrayal.

At a recent screening in London, there was much heated debate about the moral questions this fascinating film raises.

‘Love scenes are always really hard,’ Kate told me. ‘No one likes doing them. No one gets a kick out of doing them. It’s very difficult but as long as there’s a justifiable reason for those scenes to be part of the film, then I can make my peace with them.’

In the film, directed by Stephen Daldry from David Hare’s adaptation of Bernhard Schlink’s novel, it’s Kate’s character, Hannah Schmitz, who initiates the sexual relationship with the boy Michael Berg, played by David Kross with a conviction rare for an 18-year-old. (Ralph Fiennes plays the grown-up Michael Berg.)

The two actors met in New York and rehearsed their scenes with Daldry before shooting them on location in Germany.

‘We talked it all through  -  not just the love scenes but all our scenes together,’ Kate said. ‘We plotted every move to avoid any surprises.

‘Do I get tense and nervous doing such scenes?Absolutely. Do I feel incredibly bodyconscious? Absolutely.

‘The only thing for me that was difficult in shooting the intimate scenes with David was that I couldn’t let him know I was nervous because however I might have felt, I knew he probably felt one hundred times more nervous because he’d never done anything like that before.

‘At least I knew what to expect. With love scenes the thing that is so frightening is the element of the unknown,’ Kate added.

The unpredictability of not knowing who was going to be in the room, or how and from what angles they would be filmed ‘is really freaky’, she said, while the reality of it ‘is not that bad’.

David and I just talked a lot and I said to him: “I promise you, we’ll laugh about this.” And once we were shooting, we were laughing at the absolute absurdity of having to do these intimate scenes with another human being you hardly know.’

Daldry has trimmed some intimate moments but what remains is still explicit. An entire sequence where Michael takes Hannah to his parents’ home and they make love in the master bedroom was in rough-cut versions of the film but has been removed from the final cut.

Later, the film flashes forward to courtroom scenes featuring Hannah and other Nazi guard defendants and this is where the actress does some of the best work of her career.

It’s here that a secret about Hannah’s life is disclosed and much hinges on whether you feel sympathy for her actions. But the film doesn’t help you decide: it’s up to you.

‘It doesn’t ask you to forgive her. Do I sympathise with Hannah? Yes. That’s just me. Do I sympathise with SS guards? Obviously not, no. It’s very difficult.

‘Really, it’s a love story and it’s also about the fact that you can’t choose who you fall in love with,’ Kate added.

The Reader is one of two films Kate has out early next year. The other is Revolutionary Road, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Both pictures will be powerful Oscar contenders and I’ve a sense that one of them will win Kate a well-deserved Academy Award.

SOURCE: Daily Mail, Baz Bamigboye. Friday 5th December 2008