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Kate Winslet Bio
Kate Winslet, CBE (born October 5, 1975) is an English actress and singer. She is the recipient of an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, three Golden Globe Awards and a Grammy Award. She is the youngest person to acquire six Academy Award nominations, and is one of the few actresses to win three of the four major American entertainment awards (EGOT). In addition, she has won awards from the Screen Actors Guild, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association among others, and an Honorary César Award in 2012.
Brought up in Berkshire, Winslet studied drama from childhood, and began her career in British television in 1991. She made her film debut in Heavenly Creatures (1994), for which she received praise. She garnered recognition for her supporting role in Sense and Sensibility (1995) before achieving global stardom with the epic romance Titanic (1997), which was the highest-grossing film of all time at that point. Winslet’s performances in Iris (2001), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Finding Neverland (2004), Little Children (2006), and Revolutionary Road (2008) continued to draw praise from film critics; the last of these prompted the critic David Edelstein to describe her as “the best English-speaking film actress of her generation”. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in The Reader (2008) and the Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Miniseries for playing the title role in Mildred Pierce (2011). Winslet’s greatest commercial successes since Titanic include the romantic comedy The Holiday (2006), the animated film Flushed Away (2006), and the first two films of the Divergent series.
In addition to acting, Winslet has narrated documentaries and children’s books. She was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children in 2000 for narrating Listen To the Storyteller. She has also provided her vocals to soundtracks of her films, including the single “What If” from Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001). Divorced from film directors Jim Threapleton and Sam Mendes, Winslet is married to businessman Ned Rocknroll.
Winslet made her television debut, with a co-starring role in the BBC children’s science fiction serial Dark Season. This role was followed by appearances in the made-for-TV film Anglo-Saxon Attitudes in 1992, the sitcom Get Back, and an episode of the medical drama Casualty in 1993.
In 1992, Winslet attended a casting call for Peter Jackson‘s Heavenly Creatures in London. Winslet auditioned for the role of Juliet Hulme, a teenager who assists in the murder of the mother of her best friend, Pauline Parker (played by Melanie Lynskey). 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 was released to favourable reviews in 1994 and won Jackson and partner Fran Walsh a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Winslet was awarded an Empire Award and a London Film Critics’ Circle Award for British Actress of the Year for her performance. The Washington Post writer Desson Thomson commented: “As Juliet, Winslet is a bright-eyed ball of fire, lighting up every scene she’s in. She’s offset perfectly by Lynskey, whose quietly smoldering Pauline completes the delicate, dangerous partnership.” The same year, from 7 April to 7 May, she appeared as Geraldine Barclay in What the Butler Saw for The Royal Exchange Theatre. For her performance in the play, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress by Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards.
The following year, Winslet auditioned for the role of Lucy Steele in the adaptation of Jane Austen‘s Sense and Sensibility, featuring Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman. She was instead cast in the second leading role of Marianne Dashwood. Director Ang Lee admitted he was initially worried about the way Winslet had attacked her role in Heavenly Creatures and thus required her to exercise t’ai chi, read Austen-era Gothic novels and poetry, and work with a piano teacher to fit the grace of the role. Budgeted at US$16.5 million ($25.5 million in current year dollars) the film became a financial and critical success, resulting in a worldwide box office total of $135 million ($208.9 million) and various awards for Winslet, winning her both a BAFTA and a Screen Actors’ Guild Award, and nominations for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
In 1996, Winslet starred in both Jude and Hamlet. 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, played by Christopher Eccleston. Acclaimed among critics, it was not a success at the box office, barely grossing $2 million ($3 million) worldwide. Richard Corliss of Time magazine said “Winslet is worthy of […] the camera’s scrupulous adoration. She’s perfect, a modernist ahead of her time […] and Jude is a handsome showcase for her gifts.” Winslet played Ophelia, Hamlet’s drowned lover, in Kenneth Branagh‘s all star-cast film version of William Shakespeare‘s Hamlet. The film garnered largely positive reviews and earned Winslet her second Empire Award.
In September 1996, Winslet began filming James Cameron‘s Titanic (1997), alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. Gwyneth Paltrow, Claire Danes, and Gabrielle Anwar had been considered for the role; when they turned it down, Winslet campaigned heavily for it. She sent Cameron daily notes from England, and thanks to assistance from her agent Hylda Queally, Cameron eventually invited her to Hollywood for auditions. Cameron described the character as “an Audrey Hepburn type” and was initially uncertain about casting Winslet even after her screen test impressed him. After she screen tested with DiCaprio, Winslet was so thoroughly impressed with him, that she whispered to Cameron, “He’s great. Even if you don’t pick me, pick him.” Winslet sent Cameron a single rose with a card signed “From Your Rose” and lobbied him by phone. “You don’t understand!” she pleaded one day when she reached him by mobile phone in his Humvee. “I am Rose! I don’t know why you’re even seeing anyone else!” Her persistence, as well as her talent, eventually convinced him to cast her in the role.
Cast as the sensitive seventeen-year-old Rose DeWitt Bukater, a fictional first-class socialite who survives the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, Winslet’s experience was emotionally demanding. “Titanic was totally different and nothing could have prepared me for it. … We were really scared about the whole adventure. … Jim [Cameron] is a perfectionist, a real genius at making movies. But there was all this bad press before it came out, and that was really upsetting.” Against expectations, the film went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time, grossing more than $2,186,800,000 in box-office receipts worldwide, and transformed Winslet into a commercial movie star. Subsequently, she was nominated for most of the high-profile awards, winning a European Film Award.
Hideous Kinky, a low-budget romance film shot before the release of Titanic, was Winslet’s sole film of 1998. Winslet had rejected offers to play the leading roles in Shakespeare in Love (1998) and Anna and the King (1999) in favour of the role of a young English mother named Julia who moves with her daughters from London to Morocco hoping to start a new life. The film garnered generally mixed reviews and received only limited distribution, resulting in a worldwide gross of $5 million ($7.1 million). The next film Winslet starred in was Holy Smoke! (1999), featuring Harvey Keitel. Feeling pressured, Winslet has said she “never saw Titanic as a springboard for bigger films or bigger pay cheques”, knowing that “it could have been that, but would have destroyed [her].” That same year she voiced Brigid in the computer animated film Faeries.
Winslet appeared in the period piece Quills with Geoffrey Rush and Joaquin Phoenix, released in 2000 and inspired by the life and work of the Marquis de Sade. The actress served as somewhat of a “patron saint” of the film for being the first big name to back it, 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, including nominations for SAG and Satellite Awards. The film was a modest arthouse success, averaging $27,709 ($37,947) per screen its debut weekend, and eventually grossing $18 million ($24.7 million) internationally.
In 2001’s Enigma, Winslet played a young woman who finds herself falling for a brilliant young World War II code breaker, played by Dougray Scott. It was her first war film, and Winslet regarded “making Enigma a brilliant experience” as she was five months pregnant at the time of the shoot, forcing some tricky camera work from the director Michael Apted. Generally well-received, Winslet was awarded a British Independent Film Award for her performance, and A. O. Scott of The New York Times described Winslet as “more crush-worthy than ever.” In the same year she appeared in Richard Eyre‘s critically acclaimed film Iris, 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 animated motion picture Christmas Carol: The Movie, based on the Charles Dickens classic novel. For the film, Winslet recorded the song “What If“, which was released in November 2001 as a single with proceeds donated to two of Winslet’s favourite charities, the N.S.P.C.C. and the Sargeant Cancer Foundation for Children. A Europe-wide top ten hit, it reached number one in Austria, Belgium and Ireland, number six on the UK Singles Chart, and won the 2002 OGAE Song Contest.
Her next film role was in the 2003 drama The Life of David Gale, in which she played an ambitious journalist who interviews a death-sentenced professor, played by Kevin Spacey, in his final weeks before execution. The film underperformed at international box offices, garnering only half of its $50,000,000 budget, and generating mostly critical reviews, with Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times calling it a “silly movie.”
Following The Life of David Gale, Winslet appeared with Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), a neosurrealistic indie-drama by French director Michel Gondry. In the film, she played the role of Clementine Kruczynski, a chatty, spontaneous and somewhat neurotic woman, who decides to have all memories of her ex-boyfriend erased from her mind. The role was a departure from her previous roles, with Winslet revealing in an interview with Variety that she was initially upended about her casting in the film: “This was not the type of thing I was being offered […] I was just thrilled that there was something he had seen in me, in spite of the corsets, that he thought was going to work for Clementine.” The film was a critical and financial success. Winslet received rave reviews for her Academy Award-nominated performance, which Peter Travers of Rolling Stone described as “electrifying and bruisingly vulnerable.”
Her final film in 2004 was Finding Neverland. The story of the production focused on 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. During promotion of the film, Winslet noted of her portrayal “It was very important for me in playing Sylvia that I was already a mother myself, because I don’t think I could have played that part if I didn’t know what it felt like to be a parent and have those responsibilities and that amount of love that you give to a child […] and I’ve always got a baby somewhere, or both of them, all over my face.” The film received favourable reviews and proved to be an international success, becoming Winslet’s highest-grossing film since Titanic with a total of $118 million worldwide.
In 2005, Winslet appeared in an episode of the BBC/HBO comedy series Extras by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant as a satirical version of herself. 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 Romance & Cigarettes (2005), a musical romantic comedy written and directed by John Turturro, she played the character Tula, described by Winslet as “a slut, someone who’s essentially foulmouthed and has bad manners and really doesn’t know how to dress.” Hand-picked by Turturro, who was impressed with her display of dancing ability in Holy Smoke!, Winslet was praised for her performance, which included her interpretation of Connie Francis‘s “Scapricciatiello (Do You Love Me Like You Kiss Me)”. Derek Elley of Variety wrote: “Onscreen less, but blessed with the showiest role, filthiest one-liners, [and] a perfect Lancashire accent that’s comical enough in the Gotham setting Winslet throws herself into the role with an infectious gusto.”
After declining an invitation to appear in Woody Allen‘s film Match Point (2005), Winslet stated that she wanted to be able to spend more time with her children. She began 2006 with All the King’s Men, featuring Sean Penn and Jude Law. Winslet played the role of Anne Stanton, the childhood sweetheart of Jack Burden (Law). The film was critically and financially unsuccessful. Todd McCarthy of Variety summed it up as “overstuffed and fatally miscast […] Absent any point of engagement to become involved in the characters, the film feels stillborn and is unlikely to stir public excitement, even in an election year.”
Winslet fared far better when she co-starred in Todd Field‘s Little Children, playing Sarah Pierce, a bored housewife who has a torrid affair with a married neighbour, played by Patrick Wilson. Both her performance and the film received rave reviews; A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote: “In too many recent movies intelligence is woefully undervalued, and it is this quality—even more than its considerable beauty—that distinguishes Little Children from its peers. The result is a film that is challenging, accessible and hard to stop thinking about. Ms. Winslet, as fine an actress as any working in movies today, registers every flicker of Sarah’s pride, self-doubt and desire, inspiring a mixture of recognition, pity and concern that amounts, by the end of the movie, to something like love. That Ms. Winslet is so lovable makes the deficit of love in Sarah’s life all the more painful.” For her work in the film, she was honoured with a Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year from BAFTA/LA, a Los Angeles-based offshoot of the BAFTA Awards, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, and at 31, became the youngest actress to ever garner five Oscar nominations.
She followed Little Children with a role in Nancy Meyers‘ romantic comedy The Holiday, also starring Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Jack Black. In it she played Iris, a British woman who temporarily exchanges homes with an American woman (Diaz). Released to a mixed reception by critics, the film became Winslet’s biggest commercial success in nine years, grossing more than $205 million worldwide. Also in 2006, Winslet provided her voice for several smaller projects. In the CG-animated Flushed Away, 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. A critical and commercial success, the film collected $177,665,672 at international box offices.
In 2007, Winslet reunited with Leonardo DiCaprio to film Revolutionary Road (2008), directed by her husband at the time, Sam Mendes. Winslet had suggested that both should work with her on a film adaptation of the 1961 novel of the same name by Richard Yates after reading the script by Justin Haythe. Resulting in both “a blessing and an added pressure” on-set, the reunion was her first experience working with 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, which earned them favourable reviews. In his review of the film, David Edelstein of New York magazine stated that “[t]here isn’t a banal moment in Winslet’s performance—not a gesture, not a word. Is Winslet now the best English-speaking film actress of her generation? I think so.” Winslet was awarded a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her performance, her seventh nomination from the Golden Globes.
Also released in late 2008, the film competed against Winslet’s other project, a film adaptation of Bernhard Schlink‘s 1995 novel The Reader, directed by Stephen Daldry and featuring Ralph Fiennes and David Kross in supporting roles. Originally the first choice for her role, she was initially not able to take on the role due to a scheduling conflict with Revolutionary Road, and Nicole Kidman replaced her. A month after filming began, however, Kidman left the film due to her pregnancy before filming of her had begun, enabling Winslet to rejoin the film. 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. She later said the role was difficult for her, as she was naturally unable “to sympathise with an SS guard.” Because the film required full frontal nudity, a merkin was made for her. In an interview for Allure she related how she refused to use it: “Guys, I am going to have to draw the line at a pubic wig,…” While the film garnered mixed reviews in general, Winslet received favourable reviews for her performance. 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, Winslet headlined in the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce, a small screen adaptation of James M. Cain‘s 1941 novel of the same name, directed by Todd Haynes. Co-starring Guy Pearce and Evan Rachel Wood, 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, all the while trying to earn her narcissistic daughter’s love and respect. Broadcast to moderate ratings, the five-part series earned generally favourable reviews, with Salon.com calling it a “quiet, heartbreaking masterpiece”. Winslet won an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie for her performance.
Also in 2011, Winslet appeared in Steven Soderbergh‘s film Contagion, featuring an ensemble cast consisting of Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law. The thriller follows the rapid progress of a lethal indirect contact transmission virus that kills within days. Winslet portrayed an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer who becomes infected with the disease over the course of her investigation. Winslet’s other 2011 film project, Roman Polanski‘s Carnage, premiered at the 68th Venice Film Festival. An adaptation of the play God of Carnage by French playwright Yasmina Reza, the black comedy follows two sets of parents who meet up to talk after their children have been in a fight. Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz co-starred in the film, which critics felt was not as “compelling on the screen as it was on the stage”, but made “up for its flaws with Polanski’s smooth direction and assured performances from Winslet and Foster.” For her performance Winslet received a second nomination by the Hollywood Foreign Press that year.
In 2012, Winslet’s audiobook performance of Émile Zola‘s Thérèse Raquin was released at Audible.com. AudioFile ’s review said, “Kate Winslet reads as though she is relishing every morsel of the drama […] She clearly loves the book, and her pleasure in the text is infectious. She grabs listeners and doesn’t let go.” Her first 2013 release was Movie 43, an independent anthology black comedy film that featured 14 different storylines, with each segment having a different director. Winslet’s segment, titled The Catch, was directed by Peter Farrelly and revolves around a single businesswoman who goes on a blind date with the city’s most eligible bachelor, played by Hugh Jackman, only to be shocked when he removes his scarf, revealing a pair of testicles dangling from his neck. This marked Winslet’s second collaboration with Jackman, following the 2006 animated film Flushed Away. The compilation film was universally panned by critics, with the Chicago Sun-Times calling it “the Citizen Kane of awful”.
In 2013, Winslet appeared in Jason Reitman‘s big screen adaptation of Joyce Maynard‘s 2009 novel Labor Day, also starring Josh Brolin, which she declared as “a very romantic movie, though a bizarre one.” While the film was met with a generally mixed reception from critics, Winslet received favorable 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 for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Winslet then appeared in Divergent (2014), Neil Burger‘s film adaptation of the 2011 young adult novel by Veronica Roth. She appeared as erudite leader Jeanine Matthews, whom she compared to “Hitler” and on playing the antagonist first time, Winslet said, “The idea went through my head that I have never played a baddie before, I was almost kind of surprised.” Her performance met with positive response from critics; Screendaily thought that her performance was “understated”, and Indiewire noted that she was “pure poison as Jeanine Matthews.” The film grossed US$288.7 million worldwide.
In late 2014, Winslet appeared alongside Matthias Schoenaerts in Alan Rickman’s period drama A Little Chaos about rival landscape gardeners commissioned by Louis XIV to create a fountain at Versailles. Despite receiving little praise from critics, Winslet’s performance of assistant designer Sabine de Barra earned positive reviews. The Guardian noted that “Winslet manages emotional honesty within anachronistic confines,” and Vanity Fair said, “She glows with ambition and ache, playing a woman with a tragic past seeking refuge in the meticulousness and inventiveness of her work.” The same year, she also narrated Roald Dahl‘s children’s novel Matilda, for which AudioFile in its review said, “She (Winslet) saves her panache for her characterizations. While Winslet’s Matilda is modestly soft-spoken, she scales her vocal register as the ranting Wormwood parents, booms as Miss Trunchbull, and breathily voices the adored Miss Honey.” She won the Odyssey Award for her performance.
Winslet started 2015 by reprising her role of Jeanine Matthews in the second installment of the Divergent trilogy, entitled The Divergent Series: Insurgent, making it the first sequel she has ever appeared in. Forbes described her performance as a “murderous tyrant” while TheWrap said the film “Perks up” during her scenes. The film grossed US$295.2 million worldwide.
She next appeared in Danny Boyle‘s Steve Jobs (2015) alongside Michael Fassbender, about backstage events before three different product launches. Winslet received critical acclaim for her portrayal of Joanna Hoffman, Macintosh marketing chief, Job’s right-hand woman and work wife. Indiewire noted it as “buried under makeup and a distinctive Polish accent, Winslet’s chameleonesque transformation”, Time Out called it “steady and brilliant” and HitFix said “Winslet gives one of the best performances of her career providing Hoffman with a gravitas that isn’t always in the script.”
As of September 2015, Winslet has various film projects in different states of production. She has completed John Hillcoat‘s crime-thriller Triple Nine, in which she appears as a Russian-Israeli mafia moll, described by Hillcoat as “a really glamorous, nasty piece of work” and Jocelyn Moorhouse‘s The Dressmaker based on the novel of same name, in which she stars as a femme fatale in the title role. In addition, she is set to appear in Jesse Peretz‘s comedy-drama Juliet, Naked, based on Nick Hornby‘s 2009 novel of the same name.