God’s Own Country director ‘didn’t want to be responsible for killing Kate Winslet’ on set of new lesbian film Ammonite

Ammonite: First image of Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan as lesbian lovers

God’s Own Country director Francis Lee has said he “didn’t want to be responsible for killing Kate Winslet” while shooting a complicated cliff scene in his new lesbian drama Ammonite.

The film, which premieres at the Toronto Film Festival Friday (11 September), tells the story of real-life palaeontologist Mary Anning (played by Winslet) as she falls in love with a younger woman called Charlotte (played by Saoirse Ronan).

The acclaimed director told The Hollywood Reporter that Winslet didn’t want a stunt double and was adamant that she would do all of her scenes in Ammonite herself.

Lee spoke of a “memorable” day of filming, when Winslet had to fall down a cliff.

Kate Winslet had to fall down a cliff during the filming of Ammonite, and Francis Lee didn’t want to be responsible for killing her.

“It’s very early on in the film and it’s with Kate on her own on the beach when she climbs a cliff to excavate what turns out to be a large ammonite and she falls down the cliff and the fossil breaks,” Lee said.

“There were so many difficult elements to that scene [including] the tide on that particular beach. The beach disappears when the tide comes in, so we had a very limited amount of time to shoot.”

He continued: “And we never had a stunt double because Kate wanted to do everything herself, which I fully endorsed. But you’ve got Kate Winslet who’s then gonna fall down a cliff, and you don’t want to be responsible for killing Kate Winslet.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Lee spoke of the “wonderful bond” between Winslet and Ronan.

“I think that they both learned from each other and supported each other. It was just everything you could want from two wonderful actors.”

The queer drama is already being tipped as an awards contender.

The stunning first trailer for Ammonite was released on 25 August, sending queer fans into a frenzy.

The highly-anticipated film is already being tipped for awards success ahead of its Toronto Film Festival premiere.

Ammonite became the subject of controversy in 2019 when Anning’s distant niece Barbara told The Telegraph that there was “no suggestion” that the palaeontologist was a lesbian.

Responding to the backlash, Lee hit out at efforts to “straighten” queer history.

“Given a historical figure where there is no evidence whatsoever of a heterosexual relationship, is it not permissible to view that person within another contest?” he wrote on Twitter.

“Particularly a woman whose work and life were subjected to the worst aspects of patriarchy, class discrimination and gender imbalance.

“As a working class, queer film maker, I continually explore the themes of class, gender, sexuality within my work, treating my truthful characters with utter respect and I hope giving them authentic respectful lives and relationships they deserve.”