Unless you’re a Kate Winslet stan or you’re one of those Saturday Night Live nerds who keeps a veritable memory palace of every Studio 8H fact ever, you probably don’t remember Winslet’s hosting gig in 2004. That’s not because she was bad or anything, but because she was overshadowed by an appearance so catastrophically bad that it cemented itself in television history. In an interview for the Hamptons International Film Festival on October 8, Winslet reminisces about SNL and reveals that she “was on the week after Ashlee Simpson. I was the next show after.” How do you follow the nation’s first televised Lip Sync for Your Life like that? Winslet says “that studio was just a hotbed of anxiety. Like, okay, oh my god, this show’s gotta be really real. There’s this thing of the opening monologue, and they kept saying to me, ‘Kate, we’re so sorry, we don’t have it yet, we’re not ready. Just give us a moment.’”
It took a whole lot longer than a moment. Winslet says by Friday, the day of the dress rehearsal, the writers still had not given her an opening monologue. “And I am literally at this point, I’m shitting myself. Like, ‘Guys, please, just make something up. Just let me make something up! Just tell me what I’m doing.’ And they were like, ‘Can you tap dance?’ And I went, ‘I can actually, yeah.’ And they were like, ‘Perfect. You’re gonna tap dance and you’re gonna sing.’ So in three hours, I learned this tap-dance routine and this song.”
Add this to your SNL trivia memory palace: The writers were so thrown by Ashlee Simpson’s iconique hoedown that they couldn’t even write poor Kate Winslet a monologue. She just had to sing an old standard called “Pick Yourself Up” from the movie Swing Time and do a soft shoe. That’s the raw power of Ashlee Simpson.