29 January 2015

Kate Winslet

Vivacious Kate Winslet (1975) is often seen as the best English-speaking film actress of her generation. The English actress and singer was the youngest person to acquire six Academy Award nominations, and won the Oscar for The Reader (2008).

Kate Winslet
Belgian postcard by P Magazine, no. 37 in the series 'De mooiste vrouwen van de eeuw' (the 100 most beautiful women of the century). Photo: Sante D'Orazio / Outline.

Kate Winslet
British postcard.

Heavenly Creatures

Kate Elizabeth Winslet was born Reading, England, in 1975. She is the second of four children of stage actors Sally Anne (née Bridges) and Roger John Winslet. Winslet began studying drama at the age of 11. The following year, she appeared in a television commercial for Sugar Puffs cereal, in which she danced opposite the Honey Monster.

Winslet's acting career began on television, with a co-starring role in the BBC children's science fiction serial Dark Season (Colin Cant, 1991). On the set, Winslet met Stephen Tredre, who was working as an assistant director. They would have a four-and-a-half-year relationship, and remained close after their separation in 1995. He died of bone cancer during the opening week of Titanic, causing her to miss the film's Los Angeles premiere to attend his funeral in London.

Her role in Dark Season was followed by appearances in the made-for-TV film Anglo-Saxon Attitudes (Diarmuid Lawrence, 1992), the sitcom Get Back (Graeme Harper, 1992), and an episode of the medical drama Casualty (Tom Cotter, 1993).

She made her film debut in the New Zealand drama film Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994). Winslet auditioned for the part of Juliet Hulme, an obsessive teenager in 1950s New Zealand who assists in the murder of the mother of her best friend, Pauline Parker (played by Melanie Lynskey). Winslet won the role over 175 other girls. The film included Winslet's singing debut, and her a cappella version of Sono Andati, an aria from La Bohème, was featured on the film's soundtrack.

The film opened to strong critical acclaim at the 51st Venice International Film Festival in 1994 and became one of the best-received films of the year. Winslet was awarded an Empire Award and a London Film Critics' Circle Award for British Actress of the Year.

Subsequently she played the second leading role of Marianne Dashwood in the Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility (Ang Lee, 1995) featuring Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman. The film became a financial and critical success, resulting in a worldwide box office total of $135 million and various awards for Winslet. She won both a BAFTA and a Screen Actors' Guild Award, and was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

In 1996, Winslet starred in Michael Winterbottom's Jude, based on the Victorian novel Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. She played Sue Bridehead, a young woman with suffragette leanings who falls in love with her cousin (Christopher Eccleston).

She then played Ophelia, Hamlet's drowned lover, in Kenneth Branagh's all star-cast film version of William Shakespeare's Hamlet (1996).

In mid-1996, Winslet began filming James Cameron's Titanic (1997), alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. She was cast as the passionate, rosy-cheeked aristocrat Rose DeWitt Bukater, who survives the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic. Against expectations, Titanic (1997) became the highest-grossing film in the world at the time and transformed Winslet into a commercial movie star.

Young girls the world over both idolized and identified with Winslet. Despite the enormous success of Titanic, Winslet next starred in two low-budget art-house films, Hideous Kinky (Gillies MacKinnon, 1998), and Holy Smoke! (Jane Campion, 1999).

In 1997, on the set of Hideous Kinky, Winslet met film director Jim Threapleton, whom she married in 1998. They have a daughter, Mia Honey Threapleton (2000). Winslet and Threapleton divorced in 2001.

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic (1997)
Vintage postcard. Photo: publicity still for Titanic (James Cameron, 1997) with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Since 2000, Kate Winslet's performances have continued to draw positive comments from film critics. She appeared in the period piece Quills (Philip Kaufman, 2000) with Geoffrey Rush and Joaquin Phoenix, inspired by the life and work of the Marquis de Sade. The actress was the first big name to back the film project, accepting the role of a chambermaid in the asylum and the courier of the Marquis' manuscripts to the underground publishers. Well received by critics, the film garnered numerous accolades for Winslet.

In Enigma (Michael Apted, 2001), she played a young woman who finds herself falling for a brilliant young World War II code breaker (Dougray Scott). She was five months pregnant at the time of the shoot, forcing some tricky camera work.

In the same year she appeared in Iris (Richard Eyre, 2001), portraying novelist Iris Murdoch. Winslet shared her role with Judi Dench, with both actresses portraying Murdoch at different phases of her life. Subsequently, each of them was nominated for an Academy Award the following year, earning Winslet her third nomination.

Also in 2001, she voiced the character Belle in the animation film Christmas Carol: The Movie, based on the Charles Dickens classic novel. For the film, Winslet recorded the song What If, which was a Europe-wide top ten hit.

Winslet began a relationship with director Sam Mendes in 2001, and she married him in 2003 on the island of Anguilla. Their son, Joe Alfie Winslet Mendes, was born in 2003 in New York City. In 2010, Winslet and Mendes announced their separation and divorced in 2011.

In the drama The Life of David Gale (Alan Parker, 2003), she played an ambitious journalist who interviews a death-sentenced professor (Kevin Spacey) in his final weeks before execution.

Next, Winslet appeared with Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004). In this neo-surrealistic indie-drama, she played Clementine Kruczynski, a chatty, spontaneous and somewhat neurotic woman, who decides to have all memories of her ex-boyfriend erased from her mind. The film was a critical and financial success and Winslet received rave reviews and her fourth Academy Award-nomination.

Finding Neverland (Marc Forster, 2004), is the story of Scottish writer J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) and his platonic relationship with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Winslet), whose sons inspired him to pen the classic play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. The film received favourable reviews and became Winslet's highest-grossing film since Titanic.

Kate Winslet
British postcard by Heroes Publishing Ltd, London, no. SFC 3312.

Kate Winslet
British postcard by Anabas, Essex, no. AP647, 1998.

The Reader

In 2005, Kate Winslet played a satirical version of herself in an episode of the comedy series Extras by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. While dressed as a nun, she was portrayed giving phone sex tips to the romantically challenged character of Maggie. Her performance in the episode led to her first nomination for an Emmy Award.

In the musical romantic comedy Romance & Cigarettes (John Turturro, 2005), she played the slut Tula, and again Winslet was praised for her performance. In Todd Field's Little Children (2006), she played a bored housewife who has a torrid affair with a married neighbour (Patrick Wilson). Both her performance and the film received rave reviews. Again she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, and at 31, became the youngest actress to ever garner five Oscar nominations.

Commercial successes were Nancy Meyers' romantic comedy The Holiday (2006), also starring Cameron Diaz, and the CG-animated Flushed Away (2006), in which she voiced Rita, a scavenging sewer rat who helps Roddy (Hugh Jackman) escape from the city of Ratropolis and return to his luxurious Kensington origins.

In 2007, Winslet reunited with Leonardo DiCaprio to film Revolutionary Road (2008), directed by her husband at the time, Sam Mendes. Portraying a couple in a failing marriage in the 1950s, DiCaprio and Winslet watched period videos promoting life in the suburbs to prepare themselves for the film. Winslet was awarded a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her performance, her seventh nomination from the Golden Globes.

Then she starred in the film adaptation of Bernhard Schlink's 1995 novel The Reader (Stephen Daldry, 2008) featuring Ralph Fiennes and David Kross in supporting roles. Employing a German accent, Winslet portrayed a former Nazi concentration camp guard who has an affair with a teenager (Kross) who, as an adult, witnesses her war crimes trial. While the film garnered mixed reviews in general. The following year, she earned her sixth Academy Award nomination and went on to win the Best Actress award, the BAFTA Award for Best Actress, a Screen Actors' Guild Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress, and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

In 2011, Kate Winslet headlined in the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce, based on James M. Cain's 1941 novel and directed by Todd Haynes. She portrayed a self-sacrificing mother during the Great Depression who finds herself separated from her husband and falling in love with a new man (Guy Pearce), all the while trying to earn her narcissistic daughter's (Evan Rachel Wood) love and respect. This time, Winslet won an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

Roman Polanski's Carnage (2011) premiered at the 68th Venice Film Festival. The black comedy follows two sets of parents who meet up to talk after their children have been in a fight that day at school. Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz co-starred in the film.

In 2012, she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In Jason Reitman's big screen adaptation of Joyce Maynard's novel Labor Day (2013), she starred with Josh Brolin and Tobey Maguire. Winslet received favourable reviews for her portrayal of Adele, a mentally fragile, repressed single mom of a 13-year-old son who gives shelter to an escaped prisoner during a long summer week-end. For her performance, Winslet earned her tenth Golden Globe nomination.

Next she appeared in the science fiction film Divergent (Neil Burger, 2014), as the bad antagonist Jeanine Matthews. It became one of the biggest commercial successes of her career. This year, Winslet also appeared alongside Matthias Schoenaerts in Alan Rickman's period drama A Little Chaos (2014) about rival landscape gardeners commissioned by Louis XIV to create a fountain at Versailles.

Next she can be seen in the crime-thriller Triple Nine (John Hillcoat, 2015), the sequel in the Divergent series: Insurgent (Robert Schwentke, 2015) and in The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse, 2015).

Since 2012, Kate Winslet is married to Ned Rocknroll, a nephew of Richard Branson. The couple has a son, Bear Blaze Winslet. They live in West Sussex.

Kate Winslet sings What If. Official Music Video. Source: Chris Horton Productions (YouTube).

Trailer for The Reader (Stephen Daldry, 2008). Source: Associated Press (YouTube).

Sources: Tom Ryan (Encyclopedia of British Film), Sandra Brennan (AllMovie), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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