Few actors working today have already cemented their place in history as one of the great. Among those few is, of course, Kate Winslet. You might know Winslet from any number of roles — “Titanic,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Revolutionary Road,” and more recently, the “Mare of Eastown.”
Winslet has been working consistently for the past three decades, and it shows in both the wide variety and critical acclaim of her work. In all that time, she’s also managed to have a personal life. As of this writing, the mother of three has had as many husbands and one seriously age-inappropriate relationship at just 15. With all that experience to back her up, Winslet’s life has been one of transformation.
Follow along, we delve into Winslet’s career from 19 all the way to 45. We explore her most significant career moves, her journey into motherhood, and her life on and off the screen.
Read on below for all the deets.
Kate Winslet had a tough time on set
Kate Winslet began nabbing TV roles as a child, but it wasn’t until 1994 that she got her first leading film role in the horror/crime thriller “Heavenly Creatures.” As you might imagine, your first big film role probably comes with a lot of pressure. One of the more challenging moments involved a love scene between herself and her co-star Melanie Lynskey.
Years later, Winslet admitted to being quite nervous when filming the scene. After all, Winslet was only 19 at the time. For the most part, the crew did their best to make the young actresses feel comfortable. “When I did an intimate scene on ‘Heavenly Creatures’ … we never felt vulnerable, we never felt exposed,” Winslet reflected to Vanity Fair. However, one incident left a bad taste in her mouth. “One of the camera boys — as we’re lining up a shot, and we’re both in our little undies, naked from the waist up — I heard him as an aside say to someone else, “Well, I guess it’s hard-d***s day, boys.”
At the time, Winslet laughed it off, but years later, she views the whole thing much more seriously. “When you’re younger, you do this nonsense thing of just thinking, ‘That’s what men say.’ And they do it sometimes like they’re breathing,” she told the outlet. “I don’t know a single girl, actually, who hasn’t experienced some level of harassment on that level. Even if they’re just words, they’re so powerful. It’s like bullying.”
'Titanic' still haunts Kate Winslet
If you know Kate Winslet from anything, it’s undoubtedly her role as Rose in 1997’s “Titanic.” The cinematic masterpiece tells the story of star-crossed lovers who meet and fall in love in the days before the doomed ocean liner sinks to the bottom of the Atlantic. To call the film a box office success would be an understatement. It catapulted Winslet to stardom at the young age of just 21.
It might have been her big break, but Winslet famously hated shooting the film’s final scenes, given that they involve her character floating in the Atlantic Ocean. The water they used on a set to recreate the scene was reportedly freezing, and Winslet was stuck floating on a prop door in icy water in between long takes. “I did get hypothermia,” she told Stephen Colbert in 2017. “I was really f***ing cold!”
What Winslet really hated, though, were the nude scenes. One of the film’s more famous scenes comes halfway through when Jack paints Rose naked. Winslet told the Huffington Post in 2014 that fans often ask her to sign a copy of screengrab (meaning a nude photo of herself). “I don’t sign that one,” she said. “People ask me to sign that one a lot … That photo gets passed around. It’s like, ‘No, I didn’t mean for it to be a photograph that I would end up seeing 16, 17 years later.'” Though she admitted she finds it a bit funny, she added, “It is still haunting me.”
Kate Winslet wanted her kids to have a normal life
Just a few years after her breakout role in “Titanic,” Kate Winslet gave birth to her first daughter at the age of 25. Winslet and her then-husband Jim Threapleton welcomed their daughter Mia in 2000. Winslet went on to have two other children, one with ex-husband Sam Mendes and the other with her current husband, Edward Smith. If you think motherhood slowed Winslet down, don’t. Winslet was committed to being the most devoted mother and successful actress she could be.
To balance work and family, Winslet would often bring her kids on set with her to make sure she got as much quality time with them as possible. All those days on set paid off, as they instilled a strong work ethic in the kiddos. “[Set visits were] always a special treat,” Mia told Variety in 2020. “I really understand why my mum has always impressed on us how hard the work is.”
It might sound glamorous to grow up on film sets but Winslet worked hard to make sure her kids had as normal a life as possible. “I don’t have staff. I don’t have a chef or a driver or things like that,” she told Harpers Bazaar in 2017. “I know that my kids would absolutely hate it. I want them to look back and remember my chicken soup and my packed lunches and that it was me on the school run.”
An Oscar speech and a statement
After being nominated over and over again, Kate Winslet finally nabbed an oscar in 2009 at the age of 31 when she was nominated for her role as an illiterate SS guard in “The Reader.” Winslet gave a classic acceptance speech, in which she teared up, thanked her loved ones and remarked that she used to practice winning an Oscar with a shampoo bottle when she was younger, per Reuters. In short, it was adorable.
It came out later though, that the night was significantly more stressful for Winslet than she let on, and that was all thanks to Harvey Weinstein. The Weinstein Company produced “The Reader” and, before her win, Winslet was reportedly reminded to thank Weinstein in her speech. The problem? She hated Weinstein. “He was bullying and nasty,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. “Going on a business level, he was always very, very hard to deal with — he was rude. He used to call my female agent a [vulgar name for a woman] every time he spoke to her on the telephone.”
Ultimately, Winslet opted not to thank her producer in her long-awaited acceptance speech. “That was absolutely deliberate,” she said. “It was nothing to do with not being grateful. If people aren’t well-behaved, why would I thank him?”
Kate Winslet was a hero in real life
Kate Winslet has played a hero on screen, but she’s been a real-life hero off-screen as well. Winslet got to put all her leading lady training into practice when she saved Richard Branson’s mother from a fire in 2011.
Winslet and her family stayed with Branson in his famous estate in the Virgin Islands when the mansion was struck by lightning. The house quickly caught fire and people began to panic. “I was woken up with people screaming. I was in the house right next door to the Great House (about 10 yards away) and looked over, saw the whole house engulfed in flames,” Branson told ABC News at the time. Branson and the roughly 20 other guests staying on the island at the time frantically tried to get everyone out of the house before it was completely engulfed in flame. To move things along as quickly as possible Winslet sprung to action.
“My mother’s 90 years old and, in order — although she can walk — in order to speed the process up, [Winslet] picked my mother up and carried her,” Branson said. “Carried her out of the house, and so Kate helped rescue my mother.” If all that drama isn’t worthy of another Oscar, we don’t know what is.
Kate Winslet took on more challenging roles
In the years since Kate Winslet first appeared on the big screen in “Heavenly Creatures,” she’s made a name for herself as a very serious actor. Winslet has taken on a wide variety of roles, everything from depressive 1950s housewife to a closeted 1800s hundreds paleontologist. Of late, her most impressive role has been her lead in the HBO series the “Mare of Easttown.”
Winslet took on the challenging role of the rugged Pennsylvania cop (complete with an accent) after being wowed by the script. At first look, the show is about a variety of things, including small town cops and a drug epidemic, Winslet saw it differently. “It’s about mothers protecting their children at all costs, and the lengths that a parent will go to in order to protect their children,” she told The New York Times in 2021.
Winslet also noted that she wasn’t sure if audiences would respond to the character or the story the way she did. She was “bowled over” at the overwhelmingly positive reception and the overnight success of the show. The only thing Winslet loved more than the twist ending? The character. “I loved her marks and her scars and her faults and her flaws and the fact that she has no off switch, no stop button. She just knows ‘Go.'” As we’ve seen over the past 25 years, it sounds like Winslet might have a bit in common with her character.
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