For Kate Winslet, landing the role of Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic was a slam-dunk opportunity of a lifetime — so much so, in fact, that she was a little skeptical about whether she deserved the role at all.
In a new conversation for the Los Angeles Times' Envelope's Actress Roundtable, Winslet, 45, recalled "playing an American for the first time" opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the romance-disaster epic, and feeling like a fish out of water.
"I was the overweight girl who would always be at the end of the line. And because my name was a W, sometimes I wouldn't even get in the door of the audition because they'd run out of time before the Ws," said the star.
Added Winslet, "And I was in Titanic. It's mad."
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The Ammonite actress went on to admit that she didn't sign up for roles in blockbusters again right after Titanic because she "was scared of Hollywood," which she considered "a big, scary place, where everyone had to be thin and look a certain way."
"I knew that I did not look that way or feel like I fit there, so if I was ever going to belong, I had to earn my place," Winslet said. "To me, I hadn't earned it. Titanic might have been a fluke."
The star also said that her imposter syndrome persisted despite her pre-Titanic turns in Heavenly Creatures and Sense and Sensibility — the latter of which earned her an Academy Award nomination at 19 years old. (She would go on to nab six more Oscar nods, including one for Titanic and a win for 2008's The Reader.)
"I had this feeling of 'maybe that was just luck,' " Winslet said. "When I became a mother at 25, all of that stuff evaporated completely. Then two years after she was born, I was asked to do Eternal Sunshine [of the Spotless Mind]. I do believe that was a huge turning point in my career because from then on people suddenly went, 'Oh, she can do that?!' "
At just 22 years old during the time of Titanic's release, Winslet said last month on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast that she "was still learning how to act," as she'd only "been doing it since [she] was 17."
"And so I still felt like I wasn't really ready to do lots of big Hollywood jobs," she explained. "It was a huge responsibility. I didn't want to make mistakes, I didn't want to blow it — I wanted to be in it for the long game."
"So I did strategically try and find smaller things, just so I could understand the craft a bit better and understand myself a bit better, and maintain some degree of privacy and dignity," Winslet added.
Of how she felt following the film's success, "I felt quite bullied, if I'm honest," Winslet also said. "I remember just thinking, 'Okay, well, this is horrible and I hope it passes.' And it did definitely pass but it also made me realize that if that's what being famous was, I was not ready to be famous, thank you. No, definitely not."
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