Kate Winslet Had No Idea How Old Her Co-Star Liam Hemsworth Was

Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
In The Dressmaker, Kate Winslet's character Tilly returns to the town that spurned her as a child — bringing an arsenal of seamstress skills that she uses to curry favor with her former tormentors.

"What Tilly does is not only empower other women, which is quite a word we kind of bandy around now, I think a little bit too much," says the actress about her character, "but [she] literally makes other women view themselves in a totally different way and perhaps function differently and start to live their lives slightly differently. There's something pretty powerful about that."

The film, which is based on the best-selling book of the same name, is an eclectic convergence of genres: where revenge comedy meets romance and links up with female coming-of-age drama. It is also sprinkled with shirtless shots of Liam Hemsworth.

But perhaps the most jaw-dropping imagery comes in the form of couture gowns set against the dusty outback. We spoke with Winslet about the transformative power of a pretty dress, the battle she's done fighting with her figure, and how fashion functions as armor in her own life.

Do you remember the first piece of clothing you owned that make you feel a little superhuman?
"Yeah, I do actually! I bought a Betty Jackson jacket. I remember how much it cost: 350 pounds, which at the time was a huge amount of money for me. I mean, it's still quite bloody expensive for a decent jacket. It was kind of a three-quarter length, beautifully tailored jacket, a black jacket. It fit me perfectly — I used to wear it on auditions because it made me feel like I belonged.

"It actually made me feel slightly more sophisticated, more confident walking into a room meeting a new director or a casting director. When I first started spending time in L.A., I had two outfits for auditions: One was that Betty Jackson jacket with a plain white shirt and some black leggings, and the other was a very casual pair of jeans and a shirt with the sleeves rolled up. I would just flip between the two — I would actually just take them out with me during the day, both outfits, and just switch in public backrooms, depending what audition I was going into next."
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
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I think we all have those special pieces that we feel like our best selves in.
"Actually, last week I was going through lots of things I had in storage and [found] that one pair of trousers I’d lost track of. I mislaid them, and I thought: Well good, actually, it’s quite good that I don’t have to keep bothering to put on these trousers and just make sure I’m in shape enough to fit into them post-baby or whatever. Anyway, I found them and I almost looked at them nervously thinking: Do I dare to even put these on now? Why would I do that to myself? And I was like, ‘Oh fuck it, get over it.’

"So I put them on and I completely could not get them over the bum. But the great thing was, and the reason I’m telling you this story: I cracked up laughing. The release was brilliant — that moment of like, ‘I don’t fucking need you trousers anymore.’ It was like, ‘God, did I ever care that much about whether I could do up these stupid pants or not?’ It was such a lovely feeling."

I'm pivoting a bit, but I wanted to ask: Your romantic opposite in this movie is Liam Hemsworth, who is a bit younger than you are.
"I just found out today that he’s 26. I didn’t even know how old he was."

Do you think Hollywood is shifting its attitudes about the younger man/older woman dynamic?
“I don’t think it’s particularly shifting, no. But you know the thing is, I’m so okay with my own age, and I’ve been very fortunate in my career that I can’t honestly say yet that I’ve been in a position where I’m not being offered things because I’m getting older... I mean talk to me again in 10 years’ time, and I might be like: 'Do you remember I said to you that I wasn’t getting parts anymore? Well yeah, guess what: Hollywood thinks I’m too old and I need a face-lift.' Which I won’t be getting.

The Dressmaker, starring Kate Winslet, opens in theaters September 23.
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