Most of the world became enamored with Kate Winslet's screen presence in Titanic, and because human brains are stubborn, that's how they often think of her. The young actress made her name in a period drama that showcased her porcelain skin and waterfall of ginger curls. Since then, Winslet has disappeared into a huge range of parts, from the depressive, free spirit Clementine in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind to a former concentration camp guard in The Reader, and so on. Nowadays, Winslet-as-Winslet is almost always a blond when she's not working, and usually clad in a stylish but classic ensemble in her public appearances. Yet in the new drama about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, the actress's character won't remind you of Rose or Clementine or even Winslet herself. In Steve Jobs , Kate Winslet's brown hair makes her almost unrecognizable as Apple marketing mind and Jobs' "work wife" Joanna Hoffman.
Hoffman is a real person, of course. As much as the filmmakers and cast of the film like to remind the press that it's "not a biopic," Steve Jobs is dramatizing the lives of people who existed and continue to exist. There are very few pictures of Joanna Hoffman online, but some kind Apple fans have archived interviews with her on YouTube, including this one from a show called The Computer Chronicles . The footage is grainy, but the resemblance between her and Winslet in the movie's trailers is uncanny.
Interestingly, Winslet addressed the likeness issues before she even put her name in the ring for the part. And she really did chase this role down herself. In an interview with Deadline, the actress recounted how Ivana Primorac, her hairstylist on the film The Dressmaker and who also was hired to work on Steve Jobs, first got the actress's wheels turning about the idea. "She tells me the story, and told me how it was written in three acts, that it would be written by Aaron [Sorkin] and directed by Danny [Boyle], etc, and I suddenly say, 'What's the women's part?'"
After some hours of "scheming" with Primorac in the makeup trailer, Winslet became determined to get involved with the film and play the role of Joanna. She told Vulture the story of her audition-by-photograph and how her husband Ned Rocknroll was recruited to help:
I could feel that the powers that be weren’t overly intrigued by the idea of me playing this role, maybe because physically, facially, I didn’t look like a Polish-Armenian immigrant. But sometimes you have to convince people, so my wonderful husband, Ned, I said to him, 'Okay, honey, please, while I’m at work, would you mind awfully going to a wig shop and, please, get for me three dark-haired wigs, one short, one shoulder-length, and one long — and we will Google what this woman looks like.'
Once those were in hand, Winslet emailed a photo of herself plus wig, sans make-up to producer Scott Rudin. A meeting with Boyle followed, and soon the role of Joanna Hoffman was hers.
Of course, the wig and '80s-chic grandma glasses didn't transform the actress fully into the influential marketer. Winslet was able to meet Joanna Hoffman in person, not just to study her complex accent, but also to discuss the close professional relationship that she and Jobs had. "She came to America as a young woman and achieved a great deal," Winslet told Vulture. "One thing that was unique about her as a figure in Steve’s life was that she didn’t need anything from him."
One independent woman playing another? Wig or not, Kate Winslet was made to take this part.
Images: Universal Pictures; Giphy