Winslet takes on Joan Crawford in new "Mildred Pierce"

Thu Mar 24, 2011 11:01am EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Joan Crawford won her only Oscar for playing iron-willed, single mother Mildred Pierce on screen in 1945.

But Kate Winslet, the British actress who has an Oscar of her own, felt that watching the classic film noir was the worst kind of preparation for stepping into Crawford's shoes in the HBO TV miniseries version of "Mildred Pierce".

"I saw the first five minutes of the film, and then I thought, I shouldn't see it," Winslet told reporters.

"I knew I had to honor the original book and to be true to the Mildred Pierce in that brilliant novel...What I was working toward with (director) Todd Haynes was something different."

HBO's five-part miniseries, starting on Sunday, is not so much a departure from the black-and-white Crawford movie, as a return to its roots in the 1941 novel of the same name by James M. Cain.

"Mildred Pierce" is the tale of a woman who finds herself newly-divorced during the Great Depression and struggling to carve out an independent life for herself and her family, while also earning the love of her cold and calculating daughter.

Most notably, the book lacks the murder plot that was invented for the film and focuses on the tortured, sometimes melodramatic, relationship between Pierce and her daughter Veda, played by Evan Rachel Wood.

But what most attracted Haynes to the story of the determined single mother in 1930s, Depression-era California was its resonance with today's tough economic times.   Continued...