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Kate Winslet takes on Mildred Pierce

By Tom Brook
BBC News, New York

image captionRachel Evan Wood stars as Kate Winslet on-screen daughter in Mildred Pierce

This weekend sees Kate Winslet in her first major screen role, since winning an Oscar two years ago, as the title character in Mildred Pierce - a new US TV mini-series on cable channel HBO.

The British actress will be following in the footsteps of Hollywood legend Joan Crawford who famously played the part in a 1945 film noir melodrama.

Winslet dominates the new five-part mini-series - appearing in nearly every scene.

The actress has been getting some good reviews for the role she regards as unique.

"I've never come across a female character who has such an incredible blend of both strength and vulnerability at the same time," Winslet says.

Mildred Pierce is set in 1930's Depression-era California, following the struggles of a class-conscious single mother working as a waitress.

'Like a rocket'

Using her entrepreneurial skills she moves up in the world to become a restaurant owner - but she never resolves her complicated relationship with her ambitious, scheming daughter.

media captionTalking Movies' Tom Brooks spoke to Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce about their new series Mildred Pierce

Winslet admires her character's fortitude: "She really does make something out of herself at a time when it was incredibly hard for anyone to do that, she's like a rocket."

The star is also well aware that many viewers will compare her performance to the one that brought Joan Crawford a best actress Oscar 65 years ago.

"I'm sure they probably will - I actually haven't seen the original, deliberately," she says.

"I can't wait to see it now. I'm sort of dying to because I know it's a great film - I've been told by so many people. It's also a very different Mildred Pierce that we have done."

The TV series draws, not from the 1945 Joan Crawford film, but from the original 1941 Mildred Pierce novel written by James M Cain.

The King's Speech actor Guy Pearce, who stars opposite Kate Winslet, says the new production is "completely different because in the 1945 movie, they incorporated a murder into the story of my character, which doesn't exist in the book, and they set an entire film around that and made it a film noir".

At the heart of the story is the intense relationship Mildred Pierce has with her daughter, played by The Wrestler actress Evan Rachel Wood.

'Extremely relevant'

Wood describes the way mother and daughter relate as being more like lovers quarrelling and views the TV drama as "a strange love story."

image captionGuy Pearce stars as Mildred's husband, Monty Beragon

The mini-series has been heavily promoted and HBO is clearly hoping for strong ratings.

Early reviews have been largely favourable, but there have been complaints that the series is too slow-paced.

One of the challenges has been to make the 1930's period drama resonate with a modern audience.

Director Todd Haynes thinks the drama is "extremely relevant" because the tough economic times that form the backdrop to Mildred Pierce's Depression-era America are evident in the US once again.

More on this story

  • Kate Winslet footage is released

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