Belfast Telegraph

Why Kate Winslet is just right to put her children before film business

By Jane Graham

I read an interesting broadsheet newspaper interview with Kate Winslet this week, in which she was very honest about her family life with three children after two divorces (she's now married for a third time). Despite being scarred by a tabloid Press which, every time it got a photo of one of her kids without her, screamed "Where is the mother?" (to which the answer, she says, was often "crying in a heap in the kitchen because my baby was with her dad, and I was missing her"), in this interview she spoke at length about both of her ex-husbands and her three children; their ambitions and interests, her worries about the narcissistic culture they're growing up in and why she's turned down attractive job offers because they'd take her away from them for too long.

I was impressed that Winslet admitted this last point. It's a common motivation for parents, and particularly mothers, regarding employment choices. But in the world of celebrity, especially in very lucrative, or prestigious, lines of work, such as Hollywood actors or premier sportspeople, it is rarely regarded as a respectable reason to take or reject a job.

Five-thousand-word articles on the career of Gwyneth Paltrow, or Johnny Depp, don't stop for long to wonder if the reason they made a film in Europe had more to do with where their kids went to school than the artistic challenge their characters presented.

In the Winslet interview, the journalist complains that, when he asks why she hasn't done more stage work, "the chat soon flips back to family"; he doesn't seem to understand the answer lies therein.


As far as the mood of the serious media goes (broadsheets, Radio 4 etc), if you're box office, you are not in thrall to the minor, dredging concerns of family. You are Above Family. You are what you do. And for the most part, celebrities play along, not wanting to seem less ambitious, their world more prosaic, than that of The Greats.

This is an attitude long established by a Press once dominated by a male perspective and still adhered to. It is another example of that ancient masculine notion that work is hard and cool and family stuff is soft and fluffy.

Just as those things which women tend to be more interested in than men - cooking, sewing, romantic comedy - are generally regarded as less culturally significant than those with bigger male followings: sport, gaming, action movies.

Which might explain why Kate Winslet's interviewer peppers her excited chatter about her kids with bizarre apologies for an unusually personal article, one he assumes readers will find "too family-heavy".

When the actress discusses a touching birthday letter she wrote to her daughter, he accuses her of giving a "stretched monologue better suited to a shrink's couch".

He presents examples of subjects he tried to pursue, such as her familiarity with Apple products (her latest film is a biopic of Apple founder Steve Jobs), and appears frustrated when, instead of giving him a list in response to his rather dull question, she raises concerns about the relationship threats posed by an addiction to smartphones and tablets.

It's a very male approach, to seek a bunch of hard facts, and sniffle at personal confession, but I can't imagine it's in keeping with the priorities of at least half the readers of a Kate Winslet interview.

They might not count for much in the old private school of the broadsheet newspaper, but editors, if you can't find a man who doesn't shrink from the things that make so many female celebrities women tick, try sending a woman next time.

Sandbach's tragic loss unsettles MPs

Speaking of things which make certain men uncomfortable, I was very moved when MP Antoinette Sandbach spoke in Westminster about the sudden death of her newborn baby.

She cried as she called for a more thoughtful approach to dealing with victims of this terrible condition and there were some in the House who looked distinctly terrified at the sight. Some commentators deemed the event distasteful.

In the House - built exclusively for rich, highly-educated men with perennially stiff upper lips - it does not do to cry. But if we can combat the notion of the career politician with that of the MP with deep emotional investment, only good can come of it.

Foxy Laurence helps revive Lewis

I'm in two minds about the end of ITV's Lewis next week. I can't believe Kevin Whately is four years older than the great John Thaw was when he died and must congratulate Just for Men's hair products for such surprise; grey-free brunette Whately looks great for 64.

The show, however, has been moribund for years, with the cool, suave, intelligent and supremely talented Laurence Fox (above) perpetually overshadowing his doddery fictional boss and real-life inferior colleague, even when producers forced him into a neck brace to limit his acting skills.

Lewis has been a dead duck for years, but "Hathaway" I would happily watch for another decade.

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