February 23, 2009 12:00 PM

In The Reader, you play a former Nazi guard who has an affair with a 15-year-old. What was it like getting into character?

At first it was absolutely terrifying. I had nothing from my own life that I could compare with her. I thought, “Do I have the chops?” Then I was like, “Kate, stop fannying around like a massive girl and get on with it.” Even if I didn’t like her, I had to understand her.

And all the nude scenes?

I was fine. Honestly, I’m a pretty ballsy chick.

How did your husband [director Sam Mendes] react to your nomination?

He was thrilled. He picked me up and swung me around.

Have you picked a dress?

Not yet. It’s such fun working it out. [While I was growing up] my mother would get me to wear a pink puffball hand-me-down skirt that had to be let out because I was considerably stockier than my sister. So I never felt great dressing up. Now I just want to enjoy it!

How do you balance work with raising two kids [Mia, 8, and Joe, 5]?

With great precision. I plan everything in advance: who’s dropping off, who’s picking up. We have charts, maps and lists on the fridge, all over the house. I sometimes feel like I’m with the CIA.

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