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Kate Winslet Film and Career

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Kate Winslet was 17 years old when she made her auspicious film debut as an extroverted but tubercular young girl who constructs a murderous fantasy world with her best friend in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (1994). Since then, her rise to stardom has been sure and steady, with acclaimed roles in films such as Sense and Sensibility and Titanic.

Possessing a voluptuous, old-fashioned beauty that lends itself to costume dramas, Winslet has also been hailed for proudly standing in stark contrast to her more emaciated colleagues, proving that unconventional beauty and Hollywood success can indeed go hand in hand.

Born on October 5, 1975, and raised in Reading, England, Winslet was surrounded by the theater from birth. The daughter of stage actors and granddaughter of a repertory theater manager, she followed in the family footsteps at age 11, when she began studying drama. She made her professional debut on television as a spokeschild for a popular British cereal and went on to attend a performing-arts high school. Following graduation in 1991, she launched her stage career, appearing in adaptations of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and Peter Pan.

After the success of her performance in Heavenly Creatures (a role for which she beat out 175 other actors), Winslet was cast as a princess in Disney’s A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995). That same year, she played the willful, passionate Marianne in Ang Lee’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. She earned a number of kudos for her work, including an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

She continued to receive good reviews the following year for her roles in Jude and Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Hamlet, but did not rocket to major stardom until she played the romantic lead opposite Leonardo Di Caprio in James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster Titanic (1997). Nominated for an Oscar for her performance, Winslet became the youngest actress to garner her second Oscar nomination.

Following the overwhelming success of Titanic, the actress surprised many observers with her next project; rather than go for another high-profile film, she instead chose to star in Gillies MacKinnon’s small independent Hideous Kinky (1998), which cast her as a young hippie who takes her children to Morocco in order to pursue spiritual enlightenment. Aside from the good reviews she got for her performance, she also got a husband out of the film: In 1998, she married James Threapleton, Hideous Kinky’s third assistant director. Though the marriage wouldn’t last long, romance returned to the young starlet’s life when she announced that she was dating American Beauty director Sam Mendes in late 2001.

In 1999, she played another young woman in search of spiritual enlightenment, this time in Jane Campion’s Holy Smoke. Starring as an Australian girl who joins a Hindu sect on a visit to India, Winslet’s role required her to do many things, including standing naked and urinating in front of Harvey Keitel, who played the man hired by Winslet’s parents to cure her of her fixation.

Such difficult requirements didn’t prove a problem for the actress, who had, thus far, built a glorious career on doing the unexpected. After following up the next year as a laundress who is the Marquis De Sade’s sole link to getting his erotic works to the outside world in Quills, Winslet was once in the spotlight for her Oscar nominated performance as a youthful Iris Murdoch in director Richard Eyre’s Iris.

In 2003 Winslet could be found in yet another biopic, this time cast opposite Kevin Spacey in the film The Life of David Gale. Based on the experience of a University of Texas professor and avid anti-death-penalty activist who finds himself facing execution after a false conviction, Winslet portrayed the reporter who broke the story in a desperate attempt to discover the truth behind the mysterious and brutal crime for which Gale was convicted. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide

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