Kate Winslet says she wanted to be an actress from the age of five but because her family members were stage actors, she was not aware of the world of film. She attended Redroofs Theatre School and made her debut television performance, aged 11, dancing in front of the breakfast cereal mascot, the Honey Monster.
It is ironic her first role was advertising for food because as effortlessly down-to-earth as she seems, Winslet suffered at the hands of bullies throughout her adolescence. She was trapped in the art cupboard at school and taunted by the nickname ‘Blubber’ for being overweight. It was this experience that incensed her to stand up against the trend to shed weight. “I was like all those girls,’’ she said. “It was an unstoppable feeling. I starved myself. So seductive - all my bones sticking out.”
“I was that child, looking at the images of models in films, magazines and fashion shows. This is what girls are brought up to believe, that to be thin is to be loved, adored, perfect. That's how they'll get a boyfriend - by becoming like a stick insect.”
Winslet’s early roles were small parts in television until 1994, when she won the role of Juliet Hulme in Peter Jackson’s 'Heavenly Creatures' which set her on an extraordinary path for a girl not yet 20-years-old. 'Heavenly Creatures' was a film based on the true story of two girls who murdered one of their mothers. Winslet played a slightly perverse, intense role which was just short of over-the-top but won her the admiration of critics.
Next up was Ang Lee's Jane Austen revival, 'Sense and Sensibility'. Lee called Winslet a “bold, raw talent’’ and said Winslet fainted on set several times, so immersed was she in the masochistic, intense romanticism of her character, Marianne. So by her late teens, Winslet had been directed by Peter Jackson and Ang Lee and starred alongside Emma Thompson who Winslet reveres and remains close with.
Winslet’s next big role was opposite rising star Leonardo DiCaprio in 1997’s 'Titanic', the top-grossing movie of all time by a nautical mile. Love the movie or hate it - you’ve most likely seen it.
And so she looked set to become part of the Hollywood machine, just another star collecting her millions from the big-budget monsters. However, Winslet has always appeared to stand apart from the other plastic Hollywood starlets, never falling drunk out of a nightclub at 4am or fussing if a nail breaks. She calls a spade a bloody shovel and rejects the trappings of super-stardom.
Following 'Titanic', Winslet retained her art-house credentials, turning down scripts from America, choosing instead to star in a modest British film, 'Hideous Kinky'. Winslet starred as a flaky yet driven hippie who decamps to Morocco with two daughters in the early 1970s.
It was on location in Morocco filming 'Hideous Kinky' that Winslet met assistant director Jim Threapleton in 1998. She said she saw him and “just knew’’. They married in November that year in her home town of Reading and the couple were blessed by the same vicar who baptised Kate as a child. The wedding cemented Winslet as a rare down-to-earth celebrity as the reception was held at the bride's favourite pub, The Crooked Billet, where guests dined on bangers and mash.
In 2000, the couple had a daughter called Mia but they separated the following year and were divorced by Christmas 2001. By the time the split was finalised Winslet had met her second husband-to-be, director Sam Mendes whom she would marry in 2003.
In Jane Campion's 1999 film, 'Holy Smoke', Winslet plays Ruth, a young woman who goes to India with a friend and meets a guru (Harvey Keitel). In the film, there is a scene where Winslet stands naked in the Australian scrubland with a great sky behind her, and urinates on to the sand. She wasn't actually urinating, she says; there was a saline drip attached behind her head. However she claims she did insist on trying one take for real. “And the problem is, of course, that the wee dribbles down one leg.’’
In 2000, it was back to petticoats as Winslet portrayed a laundress who colludes with the incarcerated Marquis de Sade to help smuggle out his writings in 'Quills'. In 'Enigma', the World War II-era spy drama, she took a role that was less emotionally charged, instead more subtle. In 'Iris' she played the youthful incarnation of British philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch.
In 2003, a year before the release of 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', Winslet and Mendes were married in a top secret wedding in the West Indies. The wedding was attended by three close friends and her daughter Mia. The couple have a son called Joe Alfie Winslet Mendes, however, they separated in 2010. Winslet is currently married to Richard Branson's nephew, Ned Rocknroll (yes, that's his real name).
Perhaps motherhood encouraged her to try different roles. In 2006 she voiced the streetwise Rita, a rat living in a vast sewer metropolis stumbled upon by a pampered pet mouse Rody (Hugh Jackman), in the animated comedy 'Flushed Away'.
Her role in 'Little Children' earned her another Academy Award nomination. She told television talk show host Michael Parkinson that nude scenes never got any easier. She was unable to watch the film, in particular the love-making scenes, with husband Sam Mendes so he went to see her performance on his own. Winslet wept during the Parkinson interview when she revealed Mendes had come home in tears after seeing the film and told her he was incredibly proud of his talented wife. Winslet says she doesn’t read reviews because they give such a distorted opinion, “What matters to me is what my mum, dad and husband think.’’
In chick flick 'The Holiday', Winslet stars with Cameron Diaz, as a woman so totally over men she decides to house-swap and take a break in America. Winslet got caught in a cross-cultural faux pas when she told reporters: “Cameron could eat me under the table.’’ To the Brits the sentence sounds like nothing more than Diaz being a big eater, in American parlance the phrase takes on a lewd connotation referring to oral sex. In typical Winslet fashion, she laughed it off - even though she says the producer looked as if she was “about to vomit’’ when she made the gaff.
Winslet and Mendes were given a nod in August 2007’s InStyle Magazine for being the best Old School Hollywood couple for their stylish red-carpet public appearances. Typically for Winslet but rather unusually for a celebrity, she was revealed as the face of Lancôme’s Tresor perfume but she only accepted the modeling job if the company promised not to airbrush her for the poster campaign.
Anna Winslet, Kate’s older sister, told reporters: “Kate and I don’t think men like skinny, pointy, spikey women. She feels women should be allowed to be the natural shape they are without having to conform into some sort of image that is never going to be what their make-up is really about.’’
Titanic star Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet appeared again as a couple in 'Revolutionary Road', released in 2009. In the same year Winslet won the Oscar for best actress for her role in 'The Reader'. Her latest roles include 'Movie 43' (2013), 'Divergent' (2013) and its sequel, 'Insurgent' (2015).