The Stunning Transformation Of Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet's storied film career began when she was just a teenager, but she still has a hard time comprehending the fame that has come along with it. "It seems daft that I'm famous and I've not really got to grips with that," she once said, as shared by Express.

While it might seem daft to someone living it, it's not hard to see how Winslet's enormous talent and eye for fascinating roles have paved an enduring path through Hollywood that's distinct from her peers. She can easily slide from blockbusters like "Titanic" and "Divergent" to offbeat projects like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and indie films. And then she's back to the period pieces that defined her early work.

But perhaps something about that disbelief has shaped her acting itself. "Obviously, she's incredibly skilled, but she's also someone you always feel you can identify with, and I think that says a lot about the kind of person she is," former costar Saoirse Ronan told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's sort of in [her] bones." Let's take a look at Kate Winslet's journey from her humble roots to her life as one of the most sought-out actors in the biz.

She comes from a family of thespians

When you watch Kate Winslet on screen, her natural ability to morph into characters leaves no doubt that she was born to act. She would likely agree. "It's in my family to act," she told The New York Times. "I always knew that this was what I wanted to do." She grew up in Reading, England, where her grandparents had a repertory theater. Her father, Roger John Winslet, was an actor, as well as her uncle Robert Bridges, who was a cast member of the original West End production of "Oliver!"

But her family's roots in the theater weren't all that glamorous. She described her father as a "jobbing" actor, who took on odd jobs to support his family, per The Sun (via Hindustan Times). "I come from a family of actors who lived their lives, and still do rather stubbornly, on a shoestring," she said, noting that money was tight. With this in mind, Winslet kept her job at a deli after landing her first movie role, thinking she'd need to fall back on it between gigs, according to BerkshireLive.

Along with a love for acting, Winslet credits her father for instilling her strong work ethic. "He would always say to me, 'You know what, baby? You have got to keep on keepin' on. You can only do your best, and your best is good enough, kid,'" she shared. "He still says it to me now. It's wonderful to have that."

Her first acting gig was in a cereal commercial

Kate Winslet's first paid acting gig was a commercial for a cereal called Sugar Puffs in 1987. But at 11, she learned the hard way that sometimes your work ends up on the cutting room floor. "My first-ever job, I was indeed in a Sugar Puffs commercial, but you didn't see me on screen," Winslet told Empire, adding "I was the left arm, in the right of frame."

Apparently, "Good Morning America" tried to surprise Winslet with a clip of her early work with Sugar Puffs, but the pigtailed redhead in the commercial was not actually Winslet. A clip of the morning show moment shows the Brit being seemingly too polite to correct host Diane Sawyer. "Very strange. Very strange moment there," Winslet said with a straight face before the conversation moved on.

Though the "GMA" clip doesn't include it, Winslet told Empire that she corrected the show's team. "I said, 'that's actually not me.' On live television. They didn't like me too much for that," she shared. Perhaps that moment ended up on the cutting room floor as well.

She was bullied when she was young

It's hard to imagine stunning Kate Winslet being picked on by anyone, but before she found fame, she had a rough time in school. Per Evening Standard, she spoke about her experience at the youth empowerment event WE Day UK. "I had been bullied at school," she told the crowd of children. "They called me Blubber. Teased me for wanting to act. Locked me in the cupboard. Laughed at me." And it wasn't just children who piled on. She shared that a drama teacher once advised her she'd have to "settle for the fat girl" parts when she was 14, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Hollywood isn't exactly known for body positivity, and the constant scrutiny of her weight didn't stop as a teenager. She told Rolling Stone that while filming "Titanic," a film in which she has a famous nude scene, director James Cameron nicknamed her "Kate Weighs-a-Lot" on set.

Despite the unfair standards set upon women, Winslet learned to never hold herself back. She assured the WE Day audience that, like her, they could overcome their fears. "I learned to embrace my flaws, to make no apology for who I am. I dug deep, and I decided that I simply wouldn't listen when they said that my body didn't fit," she said (via The Insider).

Her second film earned her an Oscar nom

Kate Winslet's foray into film was met with praise from the outset. According to IMDb, she appeared in a few television series before landing a leading role in 1994's "Heavenly Creatures," a critically acclaimed movie about murderous teens set in the '50s. Her career took a sharp turn when she landed the part of Marianne Dashwood in Ang Lee's 1996 adaptation of "Sense and Sensibility."

Starring in a Jane Austen period piece alongside heavyweights like Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman was intimidating to the young actress. Winslet remembers asking Lee how she did on her first day of shooting, hoping for some encouragement. "He put his hand on my shoulder and he went, 'Ah, you'll get better,'" Winslet said to radio host Eleanor Wachtel in 2020 (via E-Talk).

Lee recalled needing to tamp down some of Winslet's passion to get her into the role. "Sometimes young actors use too much strength and end up giving weaker performances," he told The New York Times. "It was a very fulfilling experience as a director to see Kate blossom. She came a long way and progressed so much." Lee put Winslet on a regimen of piano lessons, calming tai chi exercises, and Austen-era reading assignments to help her relax and develop the "grace" needed for the part. In the end, she smashed it, and ended up getting nominated for a supporting actress Oscar and winning BAFTA and SAG awards for the role.

This blockbuster put her on the map

Not too long after the success of "Sense and Sensibility," Kate Winslet won the role of a lifetime — and she didn't even audition for it. Or at least not in a typical fashion. Twenty years after "Titanic" released, Winslet told The Hollywood Reporter's "Awards Chatter" podcast (via ET) that director James Cameron asked her to travel to Los Angeles and begin screen testing, skipping regular protocol with casting directors. She prepared for scenes and was filmed in costume. After a second camera test, she landed the part — and never found out why Cameron picked her.

"Titanic" had an enormous budget, and it was filmed over five months of grueling days on set, with plenty of injuries (via CBS News), including Winslet getting hypothermia in the freezing water. With its release, she was poised to become a true Hollywood star alongside her costar Leonardo DiCaprio, who had just reached heartthrob status after starring in "Romeo + Juliet."

After a record-breaking release, Winslet described how her life changed as "night and day from one day to the next" on Marc Maron's podcast (via People). But superstardom wasn't always fair to the actress. "I was subject to quite a lot of also personal physical scrutiny, and criticized quite a lot," she said. "The British press were actually quite unkind to me." She purposefully chose smaller films after "Titanic" to focus on her acting ability and to escape the media circus.

She met her first husband at work

Following her star-making role in "Titanic," Kate Winslet's next project was decidedly smaller, but no less impactful in the direction her life would take. Per WSJ Magazine, she met assistant director Jim Threapleton on the set of indie film "Hideous Kinky," and the pair fell in love. She described being smitten when locking eyes with him on set (via Hello!): "I knew that was it and there was nothing either of us could do about it." They married when Winslet was just 23 in 1998, and two years later, welcomed their child, Mia. But they ended up divorcing in 2001 in what their statement called "an absolutely amicable separation."

Later Winslet met director Sam Mendes, and moved her small family to New York City to be close to him. They married him in 2003 and had a child, Joe, together. Though they seemed like the ultimate Hollywood power couple at the time, they divorced in 2010. Winslet is protective of her private life, and she has tried to avoid tabloid coverage of her past relationships. "No one really knows why my first marriage didn't last; no one knows why my second didn't," she said. "And I'm proud of those silences."

In 2012, Winslet married Edward Abel Smith (aka Ned Rocknroll), and after welcoming a child, Bear, in 2013, the couple is still going strong. "He's the superhot, superhuman, stay-at-home dad," she told The New York Times. "He looks after us, especially me."

Kate Winslet became a mother at 25

Kate Winslet has spoken bluntly about the media's harsh treatment of her after "Titanic" released. As she shifted into roles she found intriguing (as well as into married life), the birth of her first child, Mia, also helped put things into perspective for the actress. "All that stuff kind of evaporated a bit, in terms of being watched and whether I cared about it," she said, as People reported. "My focus was my child, and that was all that mattered."

Through two more marriages, Winslet's family grew, first with her son Joe and later Bear, as noted by WSJ Magazine. And as she's navigated through career and relationship ups and downs, being their mother was a steady constant. "You have to carry on as a mother, no matter what, and that's what I've always done," she told Harper's Bazaar.

Today, she's able to fully enjoy her blended family, and she's finding just being with them to be especially satisfying as a mom. "I really love hanging out with my kids. They're terrific people," she said, according to the Daily Mail. "They're kind of happy in who they are, too, and that's all you can really hope for them — that they love being themselves."

She became known for choosing unique roles

Kate Winslet had her choice of roles after "Titanic" hit theaters, but she opted for a different career path. According to Variety, Winslet was offered the starring role of Viola de Lesseps in 1998's "Shakespeare in Love," but turned it down (Gwyneth Paltrow ended winning an Oscar for the role). Director John Madden recalled meeting with Winslet about the part: "She was ecstatic about it. And then a week later, she called up and said, 'I don't think I can.'"

Hollywood was knocking, but Winslet chose to use the opportunity to shape her career on her own terms. "I remember having this overwhelming feeling of, 'Oh, my God, if I'm ever going to have to hang on to the seat of my pants, it's now,'" she told Entertainment Weekly. "Not in terms of losing my mind, but sticking to my guns and hanging on to what was most important to me in terms of work, regardless of the size of budgets and regardless of what a role could do for me in the long run."

Sticking to her guns has given Winslet incredible range in her career, pushing her limits as an actress in indie flicks, as well as blockbusters and prestige films. As a result, she can comfortably switch from the manic pixie dream girl Clementine in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" to Ophelia in "Hamlet." ”I've never really had a plan,” she told The New York Times Magazine, ”other than to do interesting work."

She's made Oscar history (several times)

In 2009, Kate Winslet won her first Oscar for her performance in "The Reader." "I'd be lying if I haven't made a version of this speech before," she said in her acceptance speech, joking that, as a child, she'd say a speech into the mirror while holding a shampoo bottle in place of the golden statuette. "Well, it's not a shampoo bottle now!"

In total, as of this writing, she's been nominated seven times, beginning with her first nod in 1995 for her role in "Sense and Sensibility." Though she taken home the top prize once, she's made history at the Academy Awards several times. Her long list of awards makes Winslet the youngest actress to receive five Oscar nominations at age 31 (as well as the youngest to receive six by age 33!), according to Gold Derby. And according to Guinness World Records, she's also attached to the record for most characters played by two actors in the same film being nominated. In 1997, both Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart were nominated for playing Rose DeWitt Bukater in "Titanic." Later in 2001, both Winslet and Dame Judi Dench were nominated for playing Iris Murdoch in the film "Iris."

She saved her future relative in a fire

While vacationing in the British Virgin Islands in 2011, Kate Winslet experienced something right out of a Hollywood film. According to ET, Winslet, her children, and her then-boyfriend were staying on Necker Island, the private island owned by Sir Richard Branson, when the vacation house caught fire in the middle of the night during a wind and lightning storm. The home was completely destroyed, but luckily none of the 20 guests were hurt. And Winslet was partly to thank for that, as she helped Branson's elderly mother out of the burning building.

"My mum is 90 and can walk, but it was more just to speed the process up than anything else," Branson told The Telegraph (via ABC News). "But anyway, she was great. She swept her up into her arms and got them out of the house as fast as possible."

In an interesting twist, another guest staying with Winslet was Branson's nephew, who went by the name Ned Rocknroll at the time. She later joked that seeing him with a headlamp and less disheveled than the other survivors made him stand out. "He was the only dude to have a head torch and a pair of shoes, everyone else left everything behind," she told ET. "I took a bra and passports and my children." She added, "So I married him! I was like, 'I'll go for the guy with a head torch!'"

She received royal honors

Sure being recognized at prestigious awards shows is nice, but Kate Winslet's enormous talent has enchanted all the way to Windsor Palace. In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II granted Winslet with the honor of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (or CBE) for "services rendered to drama," CBS News reported. CBEs are the highest ranking award bestowed by the Order of the British Empire (outside knighthood), and are given out twice a year. A committee chooses honorees and then sends the list to the prime minister, before lastly the queen to sign off on them.

"The sense of gravity is enormous and you very much feel you are being acknowledged by the whole country in a way," Winslet said when accepting her honor, per BBC News.

While receiving the award, Winslet and the queen made small talk about acting as well as parenting. "I said yes, I liked it," Winslet recounted telling the queen of her career, "but not as much as being a mother. She said, 'It is the best job.'" So along with being a beloved A-list movie star, Kate Winslet is also friendly with the queen.

This is how close Kate Winslet is to getting an EGOT

Only 16 people have reached EGOT status – meaning they won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award — but Kate Winslet could be joining their ranks. Along with her Oscar for "The Reader," Winslet has won two Emmy Awards: one for her role in 2011's "Mildred Pierce," and again a decade later for "Mare of Easttown." She also nabbed a spoken word album Grammy back in 2000 for the children's audio storybook, "Listen to the Storyteller."

If you're not familiar with that last honor, well, neither was she. She told late-night host Jimmy Fallon that the award was a total surprise at the time. "Someone kind of called me afterwards and said 'Hey, we all won Grammys.' I was like, 'wh-wh-what? What are you talking about?'"

So that leaves a Tony award, and if it's up to her middle child, Winslet will be hitting Broadway ASAP. Per Reuters, she said her son Joe "is just obsessed with records," and wants her to pursue a Tony. "So since he has learnt about this EGOT thing, he's like, 'Mum you've gotta do it.'"