"When I'm 80 years old, God willing I live to be that old, I'll look back and go, 'Oh, that one.'"

For Kate Winslet, Mary Anning will go down as one of the greatest acting experiences of her life. "It's up there with [The Reader's] Hanna Schmitz and Mildred Pierce and Revolutionary Road," she tells EW. "When I'm 80 years old, God willing I live to be that old, I'll look back and go, 'Oh, that one.'"

Winslet joined EW's The Awardist for an in-depth conversation about her new film Ammonite, for which she gives one of the most acclaimed performances of her decorated, award-winning career. (You can watch the interview above, or listen to it in the premiere episode of our Awardist podcast at the bottom of this post.) The Francis Lee-directed film focuses on Winslet's Mary, a British paleontologist in coastal 19th-century Lyme Regis, whose lonely day-to-day life is sparked by the arrival of Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman with whom she develops a passionate romantic connection.

Credit: Neon

"When I first read the script, I had this overwhelming feeling of this surging excitement of, 'Yes, I very much want to be a part of this,' but at the same time, I also felt extremely nervous because I just didn't know where to begin," Winslet admits. "Playing a woman who existed in 1840 who had a very private, isolated life, who was socially, incredibly awkward, who had never truly been loved or knew how to love and lived in this very patriarchal, repressed society… there was a stillness to Mary that is just nothing like me."

This meant Winslet had to disappear into the character — go a little method, you could say — as she had never done before. She created a "bunker" for her. She separated from her family during filming, a first. "I just knew that I wasn't going to be able to come home and cook a meal for everybody at night or think about what groceries we'd run out of in the cupboard or do the laundry," she says. "It was quite intense in that regard. And physically, Mary's movements are so precise and determined, but steady in a way that my own are not. I'm flailing around all over the place."

Winslet studied photos of mid-19th-century working-class women who worked by the sea. Beyond the physical toll, Winslet took inspiration from their gritty countenance. "Everything about Mary's demeanor is bound up in the small world in which she lives," she says. Plus, corsets were a big no, despite the era. "We didn't want Mary to look masculine," but she wears a pair of "old men's fisherman's trousers, something that came out of [the old] images," Winslet continues. "I just knew, having worked on those beaches for weeks she'd have been freezing without covering."

It's a transformation that pays off into brilliantly understated work; Winslet has been longlisted for the BAFTA for Best Actress, and in EW's review of Ammonite, Leah Greenblatt called the performance "raw-nerved and ferocious." In our interview, Winslet also touched on her collaboration with Ronan, the delicacy of filming their central sex scene, and more.

Ammonite is currently available on-demand.

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best films.

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