Kate Winslet Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award at Munich Film Festival

Munich welcomed Kate Winslet like she was the queen of the world on Tuesday night when the Oscar-winning actress received a lifetime achievement award at the Munich International Film Festival.

The crowd at Munich’s Deutsches Theater whooped and hollered as Winslet took to the stage to accept her award, and to introduce the European premiere of her latest film, Ellen Kuras’ biopic Lee, in which she plays war photographer Lee Miller.

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“It’s like I’m a film star!” joked Winslet, egging on the crowd to keep clapping. “No really, this is not how I usually get treated…I’m just going to lap it up.”

David Kross, Winslet’s young German co-star from The Reader, presented her with the CineMerit award, recalling that they first met “16 years ago when I was just 17 years old, had only made two films and had just left school. And you were Kate Winslet.”

Kross joked how great it was “to celebrate turning 18 with you,” a reference to the sex scenes in The Reader, which were shot on his 18th birthday, months after the rest of the film had wrapped, to allow Kross to reach legal age. “You were also my intimacy coordinator, a concept that didn’t even exist in those years,” he said. He also thanked Winslet for a famous moment on The Reader awards tour, when the pair appeared on Charlie Rose’s talk show and “I didn’t understand a word of what was being said.”

“You poor boy,” said Winslet, thanking Kross. “We put you through a lot [on The Reader],” before noting that she had “been that. I had been 17 [on her film debut Heavenly Creatures].”

The Munich CineMerit Prize was for Winslet’s life’s work —”you have won every prize under the sun, but this is the one you are missing,” the ceremony moderator joked — but the actress was most passionate speaking about Lee, a project she has been working on for the better part of a decade, and the first film where she was a fully-credited producer.

Kate Winslet in 'Lee.'
Kate Winslet in ‘Lee.’

“I can’t believe we did it,” she said of the film, which looks at a key decade in Lee Miller’s life, when the one-time fashion model-turned-photographer transformed herself into a war photographer, working for Vogue from the front line of WW2 to capture iconic images of the conflict and the brutality of fascism, including harrowing photos of the death camps at Buchenwald and Dachau.

Taking the stage with Lee producer Kate Solomon —”on set we were always ‘the Kates’,” she noted — Winslet detailed the film’s long journey to the screen and the exhausting effort it took to get made. “It’s hard to make films as a woman, and it’s hard to get film made about a woman,” she said. Wearing so many hats on set — as the producer and star, who, as Solomon noted “is in virtually every shot of the film” — Winslet said she “didn’t sit down the entire shoot.”

Securing the film’s incredible supporting cast, however, which includes Alexander Skarsgård, Andrea Riseborough, Marion Cotillard, Josh O’Connor, and Andy Samberg, was easy. “We drew up a list of our dream cast,” recalled Winslet, “and Kate [Solomon] said: ‘Just call them.’ I said: ‘But I don’t know them!’ But I did. And they all said yes.”

Solomon praised Winslet for capturing Miller’s empathy, which the producer said was the key element the photographer brought to her work, and what allowed her to transform war photography. “Before her, war photography was mainly things like planting the flag, tanks and such,” she said, “[but] what Lee saw were the civilians, the people affected, the refugees. What we now think of as photojournalism, as war correspondence [comes from that].”

“She was determined to reveal the truth, what the cost,” said Winslet. “And it destroyed her.”

Roadside Attractions and Vertical will release Lee in U.S. theaters this September. The 2024 Munich Film Festival runs through July 7.

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