Hollywood is known for iconic pairings. It has given us Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Murphy and Sarah Paulson, and now Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. The actors are powerhouses on their own—with both stars racking up *numerous* Academy Award nominations and wins, and wowing audiences with their stunning performances in acclaimed films like Lady Bird, Little Women and Brooklyn, in Ronan’s case, and Little Children, The Reader and a wee indie film called Titanic, for Winslet. If a film has either Ronan or Winslet in it, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be gold, which is why the duo’s pairing in the recently released Ammonite, is so freakin’ exciting—because it’s pretty much the March Madness match-up of Tinseltown.
And fans eager to see the two actors together on screen won’t be disappointed. Ammonite follows the story of Mary Anning (played by Winslet), a 19-century palaeontologist in Lyme Regis, England who’s known for several groundbreaking palaeontology discoveries, and her romantic relationship with the upper-class Charlotte Murchison (played by Ronan).
While Anning and Murchison were real people, and friends IRL, there’s no documentation of a romance between them. And while this queer reading of their friendship was deemed controversial by some who say it’s a historically inaccurate attempt to sensationalize Anning’s personal life, British writer and director Francis Lee told FLARE in a press junket that it made sense for the movie—and for Anning’s life. Anning never married and had no documented relationships with men, and for much of her life, Anning’s work was co-opted and appropriated by men. “To me, that didn’t feel like it would be a good relationship for her, with a man,” Lee says. “It felt that it wouldn’t be equal [and] that she would still be owned by a man. And I wanted somebody that felt like an equal.” He added: “Charlotte felt like an equal and elevating person for Mary to have a relationship with.” It’s important to note that Lee does acknowledge the film is a fictionalized reading of Murchison and Anning’s relationship. There’s no historical indication that the pair were more than close friends, but Lee has simply done what many filmmakers have done, imagining an inner life for someone who didn’t have a very public one.
Which isn’t to say that Lee’s decision was met entirely with backlash. In a March 2019 interview with The Telegraph, Lorraine Anning, a relative of Mary Anning, said of the decision: “To be honest, it doesn’t matter. As long as [the story is] well presented and tastefully done and in the spirit of Mary Anning, then I think it’s brilliant.”
Similar to the characters they portray on-screen, Ronan and Winslet are equals in many ways. Or at least, Ronan is well on her way to being considered as an equal to Winslet, if not the Kate Winslet of the millennial generation. So, what is it actually like when two acting powerhouses work together? It sounds pretty lovely. Ahead of the December 4 video on-demand release of Ammonite, FLARE chatted with Winslet and Ronan about their time working together, filming sex scenes (on Ronan’s birthday!) and those pesky career comparisons.
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Kate Winslet knew she and Saoirse Ronan would get along
Despite the fact that both actresses seem like delightful people, there’s always the chance that two individuals who seem alike in so many ways (beautiful, successful, talented, you know the drill) may not actually get along. But that wasn’t the case for these two actors. “Saoirse and I [are] very lucky in that we had met each other before,” Winslet says. “We’d never worked together, but we had met each other on press junkets or even doing photo shoots together in the past. And we interviewed each other for the actor an actor series a few years ago when she was nominated for Brooklyn. And so we had met and it was clear that we had a similar sense of humour, which I think is really important.” Which means that when it came to actually teaming up on a film, Winslet says the pair knew they would mesh well.
Winslet says that when it came to taking on their roles as Anning and Murchison, the actors worked together to craft the characters to perfection, ironing out their respective emotional arcs and even writing down the choreographed moments in which their characters would smile at and touch each other. “Whether that was their hands or faces, physically how close they might be at times, we had to be quite sparse in the expression of that affection, because we needed it to remain as electric as possible in those very few moments where their hands do touch,” Winslet says.
Those subtle but intense moments in the film couldn’t be pulled off by just anyone, and the synchronicity between the two characters was emulated off-screen as well. “I think working together and being on the same page and having the same approach to the work was a real blessing,” Winslet says of working with Ronan. “It definitely helped us in terms of just being in each other’s corner and wanting to look out for one another.”
But Winslet was surprised by one thing
While Winslet knew the pair would get on swimmingly (Ronan is pretty much Hollywood’s current sweetheart, after all), one aspect of their relationship *did* surprise the Oscar winner—just how protective she’d feel of her younger co-star. “One thing that I hadn’t anticipated feeling was quite so protective of Saoirse,” Winslet says. “I felt like I wanted to look after her and make sure that she felt secure and safe.” This was especially pertinent when it came to shooting a few *select* scenes, including the films climactic scene in which Anning and Murhcison are finally able to be physically intimate in Anning’s room. “Because I have more experience shooting scenes of that nature than she has, I wanted her to feel happy and relaxed,” she continues. What exactly did that kind of care look like to Winslet? Probably unlike what you may think…
“We filmed that scene on her 25th birthday,” Winslet says. “I actually asked them to reschedule the scene and they pulled it days forward so that it would fall on her 25th birthday,” she says. But, it was for a super sweet reason. “I thought, ‘Hey, it’s a memory,’ you know? I just knew that there’d be a sense of fun and celebration around that day for her.” (Ronan, for her part, didn’t find out about this scheduling request until the pair were on the press junket for the film together. “It was the greatest birthday present I could have asked for,” she told FLARE. “I had a wonderful time and I think because it was my birthday, it also gave us the excuse to drink on the job and have a couple of glasses of Prosecco before we got into it.”) Which, TBQH, sounds like an *ideal* day.
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Ronan doesn’t think she and Winslet can be compared—at least not entirely
As the younger ingenue compared to Winslet’s established greatness, Ronan is in a kind of precarious position. Ronan is a unique and talented actor in her own right, choosing nuanced and interesting films that have garnered her Academy Award nominations (and have given us iconic scenes like the Timothée Chalamet hair ruffle in Little Women), and playing characters we genuinely want to root for (even when they’re kind of bratty, CC Lady Bird). But because of her talent, Ronan is inevitably compared to other phenomenal actors like Winslet, who, similar to Ronan, started out acting young and has chosen acclaimed and diverse projects throughout her career. Essentially, they’re both great actors—so they’re compared because of it. (Also, there has to be *something* to the fact that we tend to typically compare only female actors to one another. There’s no mention of Adam Driver being the next Christopher Walken. There’s just Adam Driver. Hint: it’s the patriarchy). While Ronan understands the comparison, and says that the two are similar in the way they approach their work, “I’d like to think that every actor or actress is sort of different in their own way and brings something sort of specific to a role,” she says. “And that’s why you watch them.”
Talking about Winslet, Ronan says that as both a person and a performer, she’s “incredibly open and accessible.”
“And you see that in the characters that she plays; there’s nothing hidden,” she continues. “What I have always really loved about our work, [is] that she has this open vulnerability and real colour to what she does.” And Ronan says that she just doesn’t compare their work. “I’ll never watch my work in the same way as someone else would. I’m kind of too involved in it.”
Which isn’t to say that Ronan is unhappy with being perceived as similar to her co-star (this is Kate Winslet of Titanic fame, after all!). “In no way would I say, ‘Oh Kate and I are different,’” she explains. “I hope I’m similar to Kate and I really respect the road she’s taken in her own career and the kind of work that she’s done, so it’s lovely to be compared to her at all.”
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But Ronan won’t scoff at the title of millennial Kate and Leo
Another reason the two actors are often compared is because of their close working relationships with two *very* popular leading men of their generations. Winslet with OG heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio, and Ronan with everyone’s favourite internet boyfriend, the aforementioned Timothée Chalamet. Were you even a child of the early 1990s if you *didn’t* believe, hope, wish and pray that Winslet and her BFF DiCaprio were somehow together, or at least madly in love with each other but keeping it on the down-low while simultaneously hoping DiCaprio was single so that he could date you? The answer is no.
And like Winslet and DiCaprio, who’ve starred in major films like Titanic and Revolutionary Road together, remaining friends as they rose from relative obscurity to infamy, Ronan and Chalamet have a similarly lovely creative and personal relationship. With both actors following the trajectory of Winslet and DiCaprio as they found fame together and now head into their own categories as superstar and heartthrob. (Plus, their chemistry is start-a-forest-fire-from-damp-kindling electric.) So, what does Ronan think of the comparison of she and Timmy as the millennial Kate and Leo?
“A few people have said this to Timmy and I, that we’re the new Kate and Leo, and we will gladly take that torch and run with it for as long as we’re allowed,” she says with a laugh. “I think Kate and Leonardo obviously have an amazing work relationship and have played completely different characters with one another. And I hope that Timothée and I will continue to work together.”
In the same way that Ronan says she feels Winslet and DiCaprio probably push each other artistically, so do she and her own Leo. “We both really push each other,” she says of working with Chalamet. “So it’s great to be compared to them.”
That said, Ronan emphasizes that there’s one *major* difference between her and Winslet. Or at least between her and one of Winslet’s most infamous roles. “I would say if we were in the ocean and I was on a door, I would let Timothée come on to the door and I would not allow him to sink to the bottom of the ocean like Kate did,” Ronan says, referencing that famous Titanic scene. “The only difference I would say is that I’m less selfish than Rose was.” Consider the debate closed.