Kate Winslet says 'Contagion' helped her prepare for the coronavirus pandemic

By Zach Harper

When the coronavirus was declared a pandemic and COVID-19 prompted lockdowns worldwide, you might have signed in to some of your streaming services to see disaster movies and films about scary viruses sitting at the top of your dashboard, listed as "trending." It seemed, at the time, like many people were turning to film as a way to cope with this new reality – even if what was on screen didn't match what was happening in real life.

One of those films you might have seen at the top of your dashboard was Contagion, the 2011 Steven Soderbergh movie about a deadly virus. It stars Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law and more.

"I think it's the unknown element of this virus – we just don't know how it's going to affect any given individual – I think that was what's so terrifying," Kate told The Hollywood Reporter of how people reacted at the beginning of lockdown in March. "I'm a very practical, straightforward person, and if I have to respond to an emergency, I just go into that zone."

At the time of Contagion's filming, Kate was embedded with epidemiologists and disease experts from the Centers for Disease Control, since she was playing an epidemiologist herself. The 44-year-old now says that experience definitely helped her get in a "zone" and made her feel prepared when the virus began spreading worldwide.

"People thought I was crazy because I had been walking around wearing a mask for weeks, going into the grocery store and wiping everything down with isopropyl alcohol and wearing gloves," she said in the new interview. "Then all of a sudden March 13 came around and people were like... 'Where do I get one of those masks?'"

The mom of three said two of her close friends have had COVID-19 and one of them is still having a rough time, months after coming out of hospital.

"One was in L.A. and was very lucky to get on a trial using convalescent plasma and did really, really well in the space of, like, 72 hours after the treatment," she told The Hollywood Reporter.

"And a dialect coach who lives in London has had it, was in hospital for 11 weeks, is out, and has had every lung test, blood test, blood pressure test and is clear of everything but just cannot get better – is breathless, lethargic, still feels very unwell."

Kate and Saoirse on the Ammonite set in 2019. Photo: © GC Images/GC Images

Kate is set to star in the new film Ammonite with Saoirse Ronan. It is a love story and is inspired by the life of British palaeontologist Mary Anning, who Kate portrays in it. The film follows Mary as she falls in love with Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse), a British geologist. It will have its world premiere at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11.

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