Kate Winslet Biography
Last updated: 02/03/2013 05:18:17 PM
Actress Kate Winslet has achieved in five quick years what many actresses would love to accomplish in an entire acting career. Her films include Heavenly Creatures, A Kid in King Arthur's Court, Sense and Sensibility, Jude, Hamlet, Titanic, Hideous Kinky, Holy Smoke, and Quills. In the last year she has also worked in Enigma and Iris. But with her very first film role in Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures Kate attracted international recognition and critical acclaim for her high energy acting.
Kate's startling performance in her first screen appearance did not come by accident. Born on October 5, 1975, in Reading, the striking English blue-eyed, blonde grew up in a family rich in theatrical talent and background. Kate says that at five years old she knew she wanted to be an actress. "Being cast as the Virgin Mary was my first acting buzz... I took it very, very seriously. I remember really, really being Mary. Really, really feeling it." With grandparents who had a 60-seat repertory theater in their back "garden", a father and two sisters who act, and an uncle, Robert Bridges, who played Mr. Bumble in the West End production of Oliver, Kate might have been considered a natural for an acting future.
Kate also played on stage in Adrian Mole, Peter Pan, A Game of Soldier, and What the Butler Saw. In 1991, Kate secured her first role in a British television show. She played in Shrinks, Casualty, Dark Season, Get Back, and Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. It was while she was acting on Dark Season that she met screenwriter/actor Stephen Tredre. Besides the men of her own family, Kate said, "He was the most important thing in my life after my family." At age 15, she and Stephen began a serious romantic relationship that lasted five years.
From the time Kate made her Sugar Puffs commercial she prided herself on being economically independent from her family. But don't misinterpret Kate's moving out of her parents' home at an early age as a sign of rebellion. Kate Winslet is very close to her parents and siblings, but says for some time she has felt much more mature than her age. Needing money, she secured a job working in a north London deli where she tried her hand at slicing meats and cheeses for sandwiches.
One day while working at the deli, Kate received a phone call. The message? Kate had been selected out of a group of 175 aspiring actresses for a co-starring role as Juliet Hulme, one of a pair of obsessive, matricidal schoolgirls in the 1950s in director Peter Jackson's movie, Heavenly Creatures along with Melanie Lynskey. When Kate found out she had the role, "I just couldn't believe it. I was so happy, I cried...I was in the middle of making a sandwich when they phoned and said I'd got the job. I burst into tears and had to leave work because I couldn't control myself. It was absolutely brilliant."
Kate Winslet's fans and admirers have increased steadily throughout her film career, but many of her most devoted fans have been following her since the screening of Heavenly Creatures in 1994. Kate's performance was honored in Movieline magazine in March 1998 as one of the most outstanding performances by an actor under age 30. Words such as "intensity" and "passion" have become commonplace in describing Kate's acting performances. Interestingly, the word "Winsletian" has also come to be a shorthand for the same thing among Kate's friends and admirers.
It took 18 months for Peter Jackson to complete editing of Heavenly Creatures. During that time, Kate again needed money so, having returned to England from New Zealand, she went back to her job in the London deli. That would be the last time Kate Winslet would have to work at a job like that.
A Kid In King Arthur's Court
Sometime later when Kate was in the United States for the promotion of Heavenly Creatures, an agent from the William Morris Agency came to her hotel room late one evening and signed a contract to represent her for future acting roles. Kate didn't have long to wait. Her second film role was in, a Disney movie takeoff on Mark Twain's classic story by a similar name. Kate played King Arthur's oldest daughter, Princess Sarah. Despite the low-key quality of this movie, Kate produced some great scenes, particularly in her verbal repartee with the conniving Lord Belasco, and the surprising Black Knight vignette. Even though reviews of the movie were not that great, several critics commented on Kate's performance and the waste of her acting potential in the movie. One even compared Kate to the Triple Crown-winning thoroughbred Secretariat giving pony rides.
Sense and Sensibility
In 1995, English actress/screenwriter Emma Thompson and producer Lindsay Doran worked together to make a film version of Jane Austen's novel, Sense and Sensibility. Kate was originally to be considered for a minor role such as Lucy Steele, but Kate recalls, "I wanted to be Marianne, so she was the only character I would even talk to Lindsay about." Thompson and Doran both said that Kate's selection to act as Marianne Dashwood was "cast at first sight." Taiwanese film director Ang Lee apparently realized he faced a real challenge making this movie. For Kate he prescribed tai-chi and a readling list of Jane Austen-era materials to help her acting. Even with that sort of director's close work, Kate brought her own unique vivacity and intensity to her performance.
The end result was noteworthy for Kate Winslet. At the age of 19, she was nominated for her first Oscar, an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. When Kate learned of her selection to be considered she was riding in the car with a girlfriend. Getting a mobile phone call from her William Morris agent, Kate threw herself to the floor in excitement. Although she didn't win the Oscar, both Kate and Emma Thompson won awards for their roles from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Perhaps even more significant for Kate personally was the long-term friendship which she developed with Emma Thompson. While Director Ang Lee encouraged them to relate to each other as sisters in order to enhance their acting, both Kate and Emma grew to become fast friends at a time when they were both going through challenging periods in both their professional and private lives.
Kate's next role after Sense and Sensibility was as Sue Bridehead in Jude, based on Thomas Hardy's novel Jude the Obscure. Movie critic Leonard Maltin called her role in the movie "brilliant." The opinion of many was that Kate's performance was clear evidence that her Oscar-nominated turn in Sense & Sensibility the previous year was "just a warm-up."
British actor and director Kenneth Branagh had seen Kate audition for Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and he determined that he wanted her for the role of Ophelia in his film based on Shakespeare's Hamlet. Kate was initially reluctant to perform in a Shakespearian role but Branagh prevailed on her to do it and won the argument. Kate had done some Shakespeare at the Redroofs school and Branagh recognized her tremendous potential. A source on the set of Hamlet later said, "Kate is one of the hardest working actors you'll ever meet. She spends a long time working herself up to a scene, and she's very prepared. She's sincere, eager to please, openly delighted when she does a scene well. She'll have an extraordinary future."
There is no question that one of the watershed experiences of Kate's acting career has been her role as Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic. Both Kate and Emma Thompson were moved to copious tears as they read the Titanic script on a flight back to England. Kate said of the script, "It's terribly moving. I was in floods of tears even when I read the treatment and accepted the role there and then."
Paula Parisi in her book, Titanic and the Making of James Cameron, says that Casting Director Mali Finn pressed Director James Cameron to consider Kate for the role of Rose. Kate's pursuit of the role was vintage Winslet. Encountering resistance in being cast for a role is to Kate like the proverbial red flag to a bull. She was determined to be Rose and she would leave no stone unturned to get it. Kate can't say James Cameron didn't warn her that the making of Titanic would be an arduous project. She warmed to the challenge, and having starred in Titanic, Kate Winslet's life will never be the same.
The relationship between Leo DiCaprio and Kate was not at all what she went into the job expecting. Kate was afraid that she would be smitten by Leo and fall madly in love with him and that he would find her too English, too Shakespearean. That, of course, was not the way it turned out at all. James Cameron was impressed with the way they were so supportive of each other during the seven months of shooting.
The fact that there was no romantic attraction between Kate and Leo certainly was not apparent to the viewers of Titanic. In fact, Kate's comments on the romantic lovemaking scene in the back seat of the Renault are especially poignant. "Doing that scene," she says,, "it so wasn't us. And yet we were so locked into what all that had to be about. And even though I didn't feel that way about Leo, it was quite nice to sort of feel that way in the scene. It was quite lovely. And then, y'know, the cameras stopped rolling, and he gets up and walks off, and the scene's done. And I remember lying there thinking, "What a shame that's over. Because it was quite nice. It was."
James Cameron said Rose was a role Kate Winslet was born to play. "I worked with her face, her image, her voice, 17 hours a day, and I don't want to diminish her potential by calling it a performance of a lifetime, but it's one of the most amazing performances I've ever been a party to." Cameron also said that Kate is a director's delight because in "each take she gives more than the previous one. It's addictive," he said.
Following the "wrap" of Titanic, Kate Winslet was tired, exhausted, and bruised. One post-Titanic interviewer commented on the black and blue marks he saw on Kate. When the filming was over, Kate gladly returned to England to rest and recover her strength and health with her family and in familiar surroundings although she would have to make several trips back to Hollywood for voiceover work before Titanic was ready for public release. "I chipped a small bone in my elbow and at one point I had deep bruises all over my arms. I looked like a battered wife," Kate later said. Two weeks after Titanic wrapped she still felt deeply exhausted.
Hideous Kinky and Plunge
Her next project was Hideous Kinky, based on a novel by Esther Freud. Interestingly, Kate's agent was not very interested in her working that the film project. But Kate, as usual, prevailed, and landed the role of a young hippie mother who travels in North Africa with her two young daughters. Hideous Kinky premiered during the London Film Festival in mid-November 1998. It was released in England and the United States as well in 1999.
Some months after the fact it also became known that Kate had played a cameo role in a low-budget movie, Plunge, being made by one of her friends. Kate played the character of a female streetsweeper named Clare.
Kate's many fans were ecstatic in early March 1998 when they learned that she had been successful in being cast for a role in Holy Smoke under the direction of Oscar-winning director Jane Campion. This performance was much anticipated and considered by many potentially the "role of Kate Winslet's career."
The man who was Kate's first serious romantic relationship, Stephen Tredre, lost his multi-year battle with cancer in early December 1997. (Kate's romantic relationship with Stephen Tredre broke up about the time he was diagnosed with cancer.) Leo, James Cameron, and Kate were all supposed to be in Los Angeles for the Hollywood premiere of Titanic but Kate was unable to be there. Kate said that not attending the Titanic premiere was a difficult decision to make, but she felt she had to be at the final farewell for this dear friend who had meant so much to her young life. Kate sang a song at Stephen's funeral although it is not known which one she chose.
Kate was also absent when the British premiere for Titanic took place. Like many on the set of Hideous Kinky, Kate had contracted amoebic dysentery while in Morocco and had to be hospitalized in London. Her men from Titanic didn't forget her, however, and they came to her hospital bedside with a bunch of roses for their "Rose."
On the morning of February 10th, when the pre-dawn announcement of the Academy Award nominees for 1997 was announced, Kate Winslet made history when she was one of the five women selected for consideration to receive the Best Actress Award (Kate became the youngest person ever to be nominated for two Oscars). One of the things about Kate Winslet's personality that endears her to her fans is her unassuming attitude about her own achievements and importance as an actress. In response to her second Oscar nomination, Kate said,"Getting nominated for an Oscar is a great honor, but as always I don't think I'll win. I do hope James Cameron gets it for Best Director, he deserves it!"
In the suspense-filled weeks before Oscar night on March 23rd, Kate appeared on all the major talk shows in the United States (as well as several in Britain) and was featured in cover stories in Movieline and Rolling Stone magazines.
What was Kate Winslet's personal reaction to this epic blockbuster she'd played such a leading role in? Like many of her Titanic fans, Kate was astonished by the special effects James Cameron's direction had created and said she cried buckets when she saw the movie herself for the first time. Kate has actually seen Titanic at least twice in a regular audience and says she still cannot believe she was part of such an amazing film. Kate's thousands of fans cannot imagine anyone else playing the role.
Just before the 1998 Oscar night, everyone wondered if Leo DiCaprio or someone else might escort Kate to the Oscars since it wasn't known at the time that she had any ongoing romances. "No" was Leo's answer. "I'm sure Kate won't have any problem finding a date," he said. Then the world found out that Kate indeed had a new love interest in her life, 24-year old British assistant film director Jim Threapleton, the first serious one since the end of her relationship with Stephen Tredre. Kate had met him on the set of Hideous Kinky in late 1997.
Jim joined Kate's parents in accompanying her to the Academy Awards presentations in Hollywood. Kate commented that more than anything she looked forward to taking her parents to the ceremony and watching them act like kids as she had in 1995. Rumors have abounded about Kate and Jim's relationship since the public revelation that they were in love. "He's cool and I love him. That's it."
Even though Kate did not win the Best Actress Oscar, her hope that James Cameron would win Best Director was realized. She also enjoyed the thrill of Titanic taking 11 Oscars, tying Ben Hur for the most ever, including Best Picture for 1997.
Kate co-starred in Holy Smoke with Harvey Keitel and Pam Grier. The filming took place on location in Australia and India during the summer and was finished in the fall of 1998. Holy Smoke screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999, and a novelization of the screenplay by the same name was published in June of that year.
Shortly after her return from making Holy Smoke, Kate and her boyfriend, Jim Threapleton, publicly announced that they had been secretly engaged to marry since the summer. Kate proudly displayed a simple white gold engagement ring with inlaid diamonds. Jim Threapleton confirmed at the announcement that they would probably marry in the summer of 1999.
On Sunday, November 22nd, however, Kate Winslet and Jim Threapleton married at the Anglican All Saints' Church in her hometown of Reading. The vicar who had christened Kate many years earlier officiated at the ceremony and said that the entire event was a huge success. The actual plans for Kate and Jim's wedding had been a very well kept secret to avoid the massive papparazzi and media attention that was expected because of Kate's tremendous popularity. About 150 guests were present, including her Sense and Sensibility co-stars Emma Thompson and Greg Wise. Leo DiCaprio was not there. The wedding ceremony was followed by a receptioni featuring banger and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes) at Kate's favorite pub in Reading, the Crooked Billet.
Kate and Jim followed the exchange of their nuptial vows with a honeymoon in a secluded spot in Scotland. Speaking to the media at their honeymoon location, Kate said that their immediate priority was life, not work. Both of them confirmed that they have a lot of plans under consideration but for the present they intended to enjoy the holidays and their new marital status. "I'm looking at scripts but we have made no solid decisions yets," Kate said. "Our priorities lie with each other at the moment; life is more important than work." As for plans for children, Kate said, "The rumours have been rife but we have years ahead of us. So we won't be hearing the patter of tiny feet for a while yet."
In late summer of 1999, Kate filmed Quills in England with Geoffrey Rush, Michael Caine, and Joaquin Phoenix. The film is based on the life of the Marquis de Sade and Kate plays the role of Madeleine Leclerc, de Sade's maid. It is expected to be released in November 2000.
Kate's fans and many Hollywood watchers hoped that Kate's work in Holy Smoke would win her another nomination for a Best Actress Award in 2000. Many felt she had at least a "wild card" possibility of Oscar recognition, but it didn't happen this time.
Kate and her husband Jim had their own special announcement to make in late February 2000. The couple publicly acknowledged that Kate was expecting their first baby and the child would be born in September. Before Kate took time off for her pregnancy, she agreed to act in Engima, a film based on the novel by Robert Harris about the breaking of the German military codes during World War II. An earlier planned project, Therese Raquin, based on the novel by Emile Zola, was postponed for filming until possibly sometime in 2001 or later.
Kate Winslet's fans around the world are excitedly awaiting release of her latest completed film, Enigma, and Iris by the end of 2001.