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Actor Profile: Kate Winslet

Ever since her early 90's debut, Kate Winslet has remained one of Hollywood's best actresses. Here are some of our favourite performances.

Actor Profile: Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet, one of the most known faces in show business and one of the most revered actresses, has spent the last 26 years establishing a rounded and inspiring career. She’s an actress with the ability to exude a multitude of emotions without even speaking, and who manages to be charismatic and timeless in all her endeavors.

Another reason for her success is the way she makes audiences relate, and this is just a portion of what makes her so easy to watch. With 7 Oscar nominations, one win, and 55 acting credits, this talented woman has consistently provided us with inspiring performances.

The Journey To Stardom

Kate Elizabeth Winslet was born in Reading, Berkshire UK on October 5th 1975. After her start in TV series such as Dark Season and Get Back, her first feature role came at age 17 in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures. This dark 1994 drama, based on true events, followed two obsessively close friends (co-starring Melanie Lynskey).

The two share a tight bond through sickness and separation, and spend much of their time indulging in fantasies. When threatened to be separated, they concoct a murder to ensure the survival of their friendship. Winslet, as the fifteen-year-old outspoken Juliet Hulme, was spirited (and somewhat cruel) and this intricate performance put her on the map.

Actor Profile: Kate Winslet

Heavenly Creatures (1994) – source: Miramax Films

In the 1995 Ang Lee directed Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility, she plays Marianne Dashwood, middle sister and hopeless romantic. Winslet has proven time and time again that she can play characters with grace and wit, especially in a period film and often with an effortless believability. This classic story earned her first Oscar nomination for best supporting actress, and though she didn’t win, an impression was made.

As a younger version of the British writer Iris Murdoch in the 2001 film Iris, Winslet’s part is pieced against the older one, struggling with Alzheimer’s disease played by Judi Dench. Despite being paired with Dench, she is no way feels sub par. The two both execute their performances admirably and subtly, in a way that makes it plausible that they could be the same inspirational woman.
It’s a film about time and love, and it’s an honorable tribute to a talented woman. Winslet also scored another best supporting actress Oscar nomination for the role.

Quite A Match

Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio are two of the best still working in film. They have paired twice, and both were resonating roles. I’m always hopeful that they will make it a third someday.
Many had already seen the two in other notable features, but when Titantic hit theaters in 1997 and became the juggernaut in sales and praise (it won 11 Oscars), everybody knew their faces.

Actor Profile: Kate Winslet

Titantic (1997) – source: Paramount Pictures & 20th Century Fox

Winslet played the younger version of Rose, (older played wonderfully by Gloria Stewart), a passenger in first class aboard the fated ship. The trapped and suffocating Rose meets Jack (Dicaprio), a third-class voyager who won the ticket in a card game, unexpectedly one night.
An instant curiosity changes to a friendship, which blossoms quickly into a romance. This isn’t a happy love-story, though their convincing characters and the emotionally charged circumstances make for an unforgettable tale.  Rose, earning her an Oscar nomination for best actress (her first leading), was so memorable because of her strength and resilience. Winslet did that.

The two paired once more in Sam Mendes’ 2008 effort Revolutionary Road, and this time the romance was quite different. A palpable chemistry still exists between the two actors, and Winslet gives a harrowing performance as April, an unhappy but hopeful housewife. The film touches on the destruction of a marriage and the monotony of suburban life. Again, they share a calamity, but this one is of their own making.

The Everyday Woman (Or Anything But)

The Mildred Pierce 5 part Miniseries (2011) directed by Todd Haynes, allowed Winslet a chance to explore a myriad of emotions, and tackle the complexities over the course of a woman’s life. A struggling mother, concerned with her daughters (one later played by Evan Rachel Wood) future Winslet gives a heartfelt and powerful portrayal. Amid the great depression we see her move through loss, love and triumph.

Actor Profile: Kate Winslet

Mildred Pierce (2011) – source: HBO

As a dissatisfied housewife in the 2006 adaptation Little Children (directed by Todd Field), her role as Sarah Pierce earned Kate her third leading actress Oscar nomination. Starring opposite Patrick Wilson (also fantastic), Sarah is a dissatisfied mother who sparks up an affair with Wilson’s Brad, a father who seems to be comparably lost. Her infidelity (compared often to Madame Bovary) is only part of the film’s unique story (there is also the matter of Jackie Earle Haley as a child predator) but with Sarah’s naturalism, it’s the role you connect with immediately.

In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Winslet once again struck us with her diversity and zeal. This zany story about the up and downs of relationships captures the beauty and tragedy of love in all its shades. The bold Clementine (Winslet) and reserved Joel (played wonderfully by Jim Carrey) fall in love, and then fall in love again after they each get their memories of one another removed. It’s a poignant and funny film with great chemistry between its two leads.

Actor Profile: Kate Winslet

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – source: Focus Features

As the stoic Hanna, we see Winslet in the performance that finally won her an Oscar, in the 2008 movie The Reader. As the quiet, gruff German woman that unpredictably falls in love with a young boy, Michael (David Kross) she astonishes.

Hanna was previously a Nazi guard at a concentration camp, and in the second part of the tale we see her in court for that mistake. An older version of Michael provides us with a basis of morality to watch with. This woman, his first love, whom which he would read to for hours after making love, is also… this? This film provided her the opportunity to give an unbridled and commanding performance.

Actor Profile: Kate Winslet

Steve Jobs (2015) – source: Universal Pictures

In Danny Boyle’s 2015 biography Steve Jobs, Winslet portrayed marketing assistant Joanna Hoffman. The film uses experiences over 14 years with the Apple co-founder and as Joanna she matches Michael Fassbender beat for beat. With Aaron Sorkin’s witty dialogue, the two are incredibly engaging. There is a sincerity in her depiction and as always, we witness her natural talent for screen-stealing characters. This also nabbed her another best supporting actress Oscar nomination.

Roles For Thought

It’s worth noting that Winslet has tried out a variety of different roles. Her resume moves from blockbusters to indies, with a significant collection of period films (Including playing Ophelia in Hamlet). She’s made us laugh, cry, and genuinely care.

In the YA film adaptation Divergent (and its sequel Insurgent) she played the villainous Jeanine Matthews, head of the Erudite faction. She’s cold and conniving, and wickedly engaging. In Jane Campion’s Holy Smoke (1999) Winslet acted alongside Harvey Keitel as the risky, bold Ruth. Her vulnerability is again shown in the 2006 romantic comedy The Holiday, which despite its flaws still manages to deliver some laughs and pull on some heart-strings.

In the 2004 drama-romance Finding Neverland, she gives us a stunning portrayal that is at times is heartbreaking, but still brimming with magic. With the 2011 thriller Contagion she plays an epidemic intelligence officer from the CDC investigating a recent outbreak. This taut feature is convincingly disturbing because of the realistic threat of contagious diseases. Winslet is just a part of the assemble cast collected here, all whom put forth a great effort.

In Roman Polanski’s Carnage she’s the mother in one of two feuding parents whose niceties rise to absurdities in the confines of an apartment. What starts as a calm conversation about a mutual incident involving their kids turns into a hilarious showdown of childish proportions.

Actor Profile: Kate Winslet

The Mountain Between Us (2017) – source: 20th Century Fox

As an actress who is still very busy with new and exciting roles, Winslet continues to elevate each movie she’s in. She recently starred with Idris Elba in The Mountain Between Us and plays alongside Justin Timberlake in Wonder Wheel. She has also been announced for 2020’s anticipated sequel Avatar 2, reuniting her with Titanic director James Cameron.

With her gutsy bravado and winning style, I’m sure there will be many more additions to come.

What do you think? What are your favorite performances of hers?


Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.

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Kristy Strouse is from a small town in Maine, but frequents the world (and beyond) in her daily exploration through her love of film.