Think back to sleepaway camp, and the pals you made there. Intense bonds are formed over relatively short periods of time. Inside jokes are born, friendship bracelets are weaved. Promises are made to write every day! Remain friends forever! As anyone who’s found an old crumpled note in the back of a desk drawer full of inscrutable references written by a person whose name you vaguely remember can attest, those bonds don’t always last. Movie sets, it turns out, can be kind of the same way. Melanie Lynskey confirmed that this can also be the case on-set, remembering the painful way she learned that lesson.
In a wide-ranging conversation on Josh Horowitz’s podcast, Happy Sad Confused this week, Lynskey opened up about her first big role, in Peter Jackson’s 1994 film Heavenly Creatures. She starred opposite Kate Winslet in both of their feature film debuts, playing a pair of intensely bonded girls who plan and commit a murder together. Winslet and Lynskey, too, naturally bonded on set. It didn’t last.
“When I lost touch with Kate it was more heartbreaking than some breakups that I’ve had,” Lynskey said. “It was so painful. It wasn’t like anything happened, she just became a gigantic international movie star, and she didn’t have a lot of time, and then suddenly she’d be in Los Angeles and not have time.”
Eventually, even Winslet’s jaunts through LA didn’t even have the attempt to make plans. “When I was living here, and she’d be there and I wouldn’t hear from her,” Lynskey said. “It sort of gradually happened. It happens in Relationships, people kind of drift apart, but it was so painful for me.”
Lynskey and Winslet have both been working consistently in the nearly 30 years since breaking out in Heavenly Creatures, but, Lynskey revealed, they’ve never reconnected. The last time she says she saw Winslet, in fact, was at the 2009 premiere for Winslet’s then-husband Sam Mendes’ Away We Go, in which Lynskey had a supporting role.
“That’s the last time I saw her,” she said, not going into further detail on whether they spoke, or if they were simply in the same theater at the same time.
She did call Winslet “a huge inspiration for me” in how she handled the media attention that came with her early fame, particularly cruel comments about her body.
“I know she’s a very, very confident person, but everyone’s sensitive, and she’s very sensitive,” Lynskey said. “ And the way she was dissected and talked about, I remember at the time being so furious on her behalf, especially because, like, Kate Winslet is now in the world. Kate Winslet is doing movies, and you’re getting to witness that talent. This is like a life-changing actor, an actor that comes along once in a generation. Just focus on that. And also—she was tiny, and still is tiny. It infuriated me so much and I just was always amazed by how gracefully she handled all of it.”
Lynskey, too, has faced criticism about her body even recently, responding to shaming comments about her appearance on The Last of Us made by Adrianne Curry. “I am supposed to be SMART, ma’am. I don’t need to be muscly,” she said in one of a string of tweets in response. She’s also been open about the eating disorder she struggled with from the age of 12.
Winslet wasn’t Lynskey’s only platonic showmance that didn’t last. “It happened a Couple of times,” she said, including one actor who told her “I don’t stay friends with actors” after Lynskey expressed her fondness at wrap.
“I was so shocked by it,” she said. “This woman had been working longer than me and was used to, ‘no, we move on. This was just a couple months of our life.’ But I was so sensitive, I was always so injured by losing these great loves I was having, and you know, it got easier.”
Hollywood isn’t all cliquishness and fleeting connection, however. During the interview, Lynskey talked about taking on her role in The Last of Us at the bequest of her friend Craig Mazin, co-creator of the massively popular show. They first met playing the party game Mafia, she said, and then “we became very good Mafia friends.” She went on to tease her strategy (“I’m not very good at lying”), but wouldn’t reveal it, by the way. All she’ll tell you is that she is very, very good at the game. “Someone said to me, I’ll never trust you again.”
Now, with roles on shows like Yellowjackets and The Last Of Us, Lynskey is more visible than ever, but reminds audiences that she’s not new here. “It is funny to have like a 30-year career,” she said, and have people frame her success with a wink: “But now…”
“I’m proud of my career,” she said. “I worked really hard! I was a working actor. For me, that was all I’d ever wanted. My dreams had come true.”
A representative for Winslet did not immediately return Vanity Fair’s request for comment.