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Kate Winslet on leaning into the 'sheer lunacy' of new show The Regime

The 48-year-old portrays a deluded European dictator in the six-part miniseries 

Kate Winslet at The Regime premiere
Updated: 17 March 2024
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If there is an actress who has fully embraced the ageing process, it's Kate Winslet. She entered her 40s declaring she felt "triumphant and calm and happy". Now 48, as she nudges towards her next decade, she seems more powerful than ever.

Kate Winslet attends the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House on February 14, 2016 in London, England.© Getty
Kate Winslet doesn't relate to the term 'movie star'

Asked recently her definition of a movie star today, Kate told a newspaper: "To me, quite honestly, the term 'movie star' is almost an invention in many ways. For me, I just try to do my job well. Try and stay humble. Try to be kind and try to be grateful for everything that I have.

"And most importantly, to remember that when you're a woman and you're getting older… it's a good thing, not a bad thing. Those are qualities that I think help anyone, really, in a high-profile position in this industry."

Kate Winslet at The Regime premiere © Getty
The actress is more concerned with being kind and staying humble

She has always exuded star quality, from her film debut in Heavenly Creatures at the age of 18 to the Oscar winner she is today. And while midlife continues to bring professional fulfilment, it has also brought personal contentment.

She is a happily married mother of three who juggles her career with making packed lunches and doing the school run. She even took a career break in 2021 to be with her family and has rarely worked outside school holidays, so she can bring her children with her to film sets.

"I love being a mum; it was good to have a bit of a reset," the actress has said of her time off. She married her third husband, Edward Abel Smith – Sir Richard Branson's nephew, once known as Ned Rocknroll – in 2012.  The couple live in Sussex with their son Bear, ten, actress daughter Mia, 23 – from Kate's brief marriage to director Jim Threapleton and who co-starred with her mother in Channel 4 movie I Am Ruth – and son Joe, 20, from her marriage to director Sam Mendes.

Kate Winslet celebrated with her husband Edward Abel Smith© Getty
Kate with her husband Edward Abel Smith and daughter Mia Threapleton

Kate has been vocal in calling out what she regards as the sexism and body shaming that blighted her relationship with the media early on in her career, and is glad that Mia and other women of her generation "know how to use their voice".

Meanwhile, Kate's latest role allows her to play on her midlife power and confidence to full comedic effect, portraying a deluded and menopausal dictator of an imagined Eastern European republic in HBO six-part satirical series The Regime. While many actresses might have run for the hills after reading "menopause" in the script, Kate fearlessly embraced her character's ice baths and night-sweat-soaked silken sheets.

Kate Winslet as Chancellor Elena Vernham in The Regime© Sky
The A-lister stars as Chancellor Elena Vernham in The Regime

Her character, deeply paranoid Chancellor Elena Vernham, turns to volatile soldier Herbert Zubak (Matthias Schoenaerts) as an unlikely confidant and lover, sending her dismayed husband into exile in Switzerland.

The Regime – trailer

"It's a twisted love story about two people who should never have fallen in love. What I needed to do was get really brave, actually," explained Kate, who reveals that the couple's sex scenes were so funny that members of the crew had to be sent out for laughing.

"Our cinematographer was a repeat offender, and one of the hair and make-up people," she said. "Matthias had all these tattoos, and as he got sweatier, they just kept sort of rubbing off on parts of my body. That happened a lot."

Kate Winslet and Matthias Schoenaerts in The Regime © HBO
Kate and her co-star Matthias Schoenaerts were tasked with filming 'funny' sex scenes that had the crew laughing behind the scenes

The role also called for Kate to adopt some radical costume choices. "She's willed herself to feel powerful in order to get through. But I was like: 'Hang on, she can't just be the shouty boss,'" noted the actress. 

"So, no matter how ludicrous her costumes are – how ridiculously skin-tight and weirdly sexual sometimes she appears to be – it's all as a result of these massive emotional chips that are missing. "She's like a Swiss cheese – she's full of holes."

Kate Winslet attends the EE British Academy Film Awards at The Royal Opera House on February 14, 2016 in London, England.© Getty Images
Kate's accent in the show is loosely inspired by Margaret Thatcher

The Reading-born actress also knew she could not sound like herself in the role and, at pains not to sound like a member of the royal family, settled on an accent reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher.

"The show was originally called The Palace and we've had many shows in recent decades about re-creations of real historical events to do with the British monarchy," Kate said. "So if you call a show The Palace and you put me in that role – and people know how I sound in real life – I was worried the audience might spend the whole first episode trying to understand exactly where they were. So, I knew for the penny to drop quickly, I had to come up with something else."

Kate Winslet with The Regime director Guillaume Gallienne and co-star Andrea Riseborough© Getty
Kate with The Regime director Guillaume Gallienne and co-star Andrea Riseborough

Kate's diverse CV includes her Oscar-winning portrayal of a Second World War concentration camp guard in The Reader and playing novelist Iris Murdoch in Iris, which earnt her one of her other six Oscar nominations.

The Regime, meanwhile, which also stars fellow Britons Hugh Grant and Andrea Riseborough, also required Kate to sing – specifically Chicago's 1970s soft-rock ballad If You Leave Me Now, which the chancellor insists on singing in public. "I had practised a lot, and the kids were getting sick of me practising," she recalled. 

MORE: Kate Winslet opens up about feelings surrounding 'traumatic' screen debut with her two rarely-seen children

READ: Kate Winslet shares rare details of friendship with Leo DiCaprio, 26 years after Titanic release

"I turned up at Abbey Road [recording studio] and thought, okay, I can sing it fairly well and with a certain degree of confidence. I'll just give it a go." However, the director decided she should sing badly instead – sparking more on-set laughter. "Guillaume and I were absolutely wetting ourselves. Oh my God!" she said of her French co-star Guillaume Gallienne, who plays her long-suffering husband.

Kate Winslet as the Chancellor in The Regime © Miya Mizuno/HBO
Kate leant into the 'sheer lunacy' of the Chancellor's scenes

In other scenes, Elena regularly talks to the decomposing corpse of her father, which she keeps in a glass coffin in the palace basement. "I leant right into those scenes, because for a person to have kept the corpse of their deceased parent and go and have chats with them downstairs – I knew that was not a safe emotional place to exist.

"This is a global leader singing Santa Baby as her Christmas message, so we leant into the sheer lunacy of it," she added. "Here is a woman who thinks people want to see her body all of the time. So we went all out. We had her sing the song dressed in this dreadful, trashy Santa/elf gimmicky thing. It was totally mad."

Interview: Gill Pringle 

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