Kate Elizabeth Winslet (born October 5th, 1975) is an English actress and occasional singer. She has received multiple awards and nominations. She is the youngest person to accrue six Academy Award nominations, and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for The Reader (2008). Winslet has been acclaimed for both dramatic and comedic work in projects ranging from period to contemporary films, and from major Hollywood productions to less publicised indie films. 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 has been nominated for an Emmy Award for television acting.
Raised 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 her first notable critical praise. She achieved recognition for her subsequent work in a supporting role in Sense and Sensibility (1995) and for her leading role in Titanic (1997), the highest grossing film at that time.
Since 2000, Winslet's performances have continued to draw positive comments from film critics, and she has been nominated for various awards for her work in such films as Quills (2000), Iris (2001), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Finding Neverland (2004), Little Children (2006), The Reader (2008) and Revolutionary Road (2008). Her performance in the latter prompted New York magazine to describe her as "the best English-speaking film actress of her generation". The romantic comedy The Holiday and the animated film Flushed Away (both 2006) were among the biggest commercial successes of her career.
Winslet was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children in 2000. She has been included as a vocalist on some soundtracks of works she has performed in, and the single "What If" from the soundtrack for Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001), was a hit single in several European countries. Winslet has a daughter with her former husband, Jim Threapleton, and a son with her second husband, Sam Mendes, from whom she is separated. She lives in New York City.
Born in Reading, Berkshire, Winslet is the middle of three daughters of Sally Anne (née Bridges), a barmaid, and Roger John Winslet, a swimming pool contractor. Her parents were "jobbing actors", which led Winslet to comment that she "didn't have a privileged upbringing" and that their daily life was "very hand to mouth". Her maternal grandparents, Linda (née Plumb) and Archibald Oliver Bridges, founded and operated the Reading Repertory Theatre, and her uncle, Robert Bridges, appeared in the original West End production of Oliver!. Her older sister, Anna, and younger sister, Beth, are also actresses.
Raised in an Anglican household, Winslet began studying drama at the age of 11 at the Redroofs Theatre School, a co-educational independent school in Maidenhead, Berkshire, where she was head girl. At the age of 12, Winslet appeared in a television advertisement directed by filmmaker Tim Pope for Sugar Puffs cereal. Pope said her naturalism was "there from the start".
Winslet's career began on television, 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 movie Anglo-Saxon Attitudes in 1992, the sitcom Get Back for ITV and an episode of medical drama Casualty in 1993, also for the BBC.
In 1992, Winslet attended a casting call for Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures in London. Winslet auditioned for the part of Juliet Hulme, a teenager who assists in the murder of the mother of her best friend, Pauline Parker (played by Melanie Lynskey). She 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 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." Speaking about her experience on a film set as an absolute beginner, Winslet noted: "With Heavenly Creatures, all I knew I had to do was completely become that person. In a way it was quite nice doing [the film] and not knowing a bloody thing."
The following year, Winslet auditioned for the small but pivotal 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 tai 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 ($23.8 million in current year dollars) the film became a financial and critical success, resulting in a worldwide box office total of US$135 million ($194.5 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 US$2 million ($2.8 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 mid-1996, Winslet began filming James Cameron's Titanic (1997), alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. 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 US$1.843 billion ($2.6 billion) 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.