Will Kate Winslet finally take home an Oscar this Sunday? Back when Winslet was just 22, she became the youngest actress to receive two Oscar nominations – an honor (and a curse perhaps) that she’s repeated for her next four nominations. Already a double winner at the Golden Globes and SAG, this year could be her year. But as she told TDO, she doesn’t really have an acceptance speech planned. “One thing I’ve learned this award season is that I’m not really cut out for it,” she said. “I’m too emotional to lose and I’m clearly too emotional to win.”
I caught up with Winslet a couple weeks ago while she was taking a breather in between shows. When I mentioned to my friends that I had been granted the amazing opportunity to interview her, they all responded in the same way – by declaring their own regard for the actress. In fact, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t like Kate. Often described as an actor’s actor, Winslet’s rise to fame has been a result of her truly becoming an expert in her chosen craft. Her genuine demeanor and level-headed nature are also incredibly admirable. While watching clips of Winslet’s interviews to prep for my own, I never saw the actress be anything less than warm and gracious…humble even. And when we talked, Winslet was incredibly nice, funny, honest, and self deprecating.
Winslet has stated on multiple occasions that she considers Meryl Streep to be her hero and one of her favorite actresses. So we started our conversation there. “Oh my God,” she says, “Just to be mentioned in the same breath as Meryl is an incredible thing for me.” Winslet’s admiration of Streep extends beyond simply having a role model to look up to on the job. “She’s such an important figure for women of my generation, the thirty somethings, and more importantly the twenty somethings, because she is a highly skilled, unique woman who is aging so gracefully, and naturally, and beautifully. She’s a real person and that to me is what makes her so iconic.”
Much like how she feels about Streep, Winslet herself is widely considered to be one of the few natural beauty icons. She has been outspokenly critical of Hollywood’s perverse obsession with body image. Once a self-described “fat girl,” her own weight battles were often the subject of media scrutiny. However, unlike some of her contemporaries, Winslet has never buckled under the pressure to be extraordinarily thin – instead, actually criticizing publications for Photoshopping her on their covers. Now at 33, Winslet looks the best she’s ever looked – radiant and healthy. She is also less shy about showing off her figure. “This award season, people have been saying to me, ‘Wow, you look like you’re rocking it out a bit, you’re looking kind of sexy.’ I’m not trying to go for any particular look, but the one thing I am doing is getting my legs out there a bit more. In the past I’ve been a little more restrained and covered up but someone said to me recently, ‘Kate, you have good legs!’ so I decided to go for it with the Herve Leger dress and the Balmain dress I wore to the premiere of Revolutionary Road. I’m having a little bit of fun and really enjoying it because at the end of the day, these are very rare moments, and if you can’t enjoy them and feel confident when you’re out there being so scrutinized and so widely photographed, there’s just no point in putting yourself through it.”
There’s a long list of designers lining up hoping to dress Winslet. At the time I talked to her, she had not yet picked out an Oscar dress, though I suspect the lucky duo may be Mark Badgley and James Mischka. (Badgley and Mischka have told TDO that they are dressing one Best Actress nominee and though they were not able to mention names, I imagine that they would be a top choice for Winslet, who has traditionally favored classically beautiful gowns.) Until we see her red carpet entrance tomorrow night, however, my favorite of her looks has been the blue Narciso Rodriguez she donned at the SAG Awards. Winslet agrees, calling Rodriguez one of the most talented designers of all time.
At some point before the interview, I had gotten nervous thinking about speaking to Winslet. If you had told me three years ago, or even three months ago, that I would be chatting with her one on one, I simply wouldn’t have believed it. I had gone to the theater multiple times to see Titanic, I’d followed her looks on the red carpet year after year, watched her as Ophelia during bouts of teenage angst and played Sense and Sensibility when I felt girlishly romantic. I even blogged about her on my personal site after this year’s Golden Globes, all the while never suspecting that I would actually be having a conversation with Winslet. But as my friend reminded me – being a movie star is simply her job and she is at the end of the day, human like you and like me. So I wanted to find out about the other side of Winslet’s life: what kind of things would she still like even if she weren’t famous? And what is it like to be Kate the person once she steps off the red carpet and kicks of her high heels?
When she’s not working, Winslet and her husband Sam Mendes split their time between the States and England, where they are both from. Winslet takes her children to school, enjoys a good cup of coffee and an occasional meal out. She named Craft as one of her favorite places in New York where she and her friends would go for a really nice treat. Before she fully dedicated her life to the big screen, Winslet worked at a delicatessen and (a very little known fact) as a market researcher at The Economist for the year between filming Heavenly Creatures and Sense and Sensibility. She doesn’t really have any special beauty secrets. Aside from having access to top beauty experts, Winslet simply operates by knowing what works for her, listing an example of having to cut her chocolate consumption after she noticed that they make her break out. “I try to be kind to myself,” she says, “and enjoy things in moderation.” Her children are beginning to understand what it means to have a famous mother and even when people stop her on the streets, Winslet takes it all with an incredible amount of graciousness. “It makes me really happy,” she says, “because I really love my job.”
Outside of acting, Winslet has been a Lancome ambassador for almost two years as the face of Tresor. In fact, I still remember blogging about the announcement of Winslet’s new role back in June of 2007 and then watching the press conference in Paris from my work computer. What has working with one of the world’s most well known prestige brands been like for Winslet? “It’s been fantastic and being asked to be the face of Tresor was tremendously flattering because I was filling the shoes of someone like Isabella Rossellini, and I remember seeing those ads and those commercials when I was a child. Ironically, my mother used to wear Tresor when I was a kid. My parents didn’t have a lot of money and that was the one thing she would ask my father for as a Christmas present and that bottle of Tresor would last her for a year. It was the first perfume I actually tried and so for me there’s something very nostalgic about it. In terms of working with Lancome as a company, I very much agree with their philosophy of beauty coming from within. You look at someone like Isabella and Juliette Binoche, and those are very warm, very real women who emulate the feeling of beauty from inside of themselves and not just from the outside.”
As I wrapped up my time with Winslet, I realized that she had spent the good portion of our conversation talking about her admiration of others around her rather than her own achievements. That sort of modesty from someone as incredibly accomplished as she is at once unexpected and refreshing. Many of my friends wanted me to ask her what it’s like to work with Leo again (“If anything, he’s more of a gentleman, he’s kinder, he’s funnier. He’s a man now and with that has become a very compassionate, very humble, very solid human being.”), but I couldn’t imagine how anybody wouldn’t have a good relationship with Winslet. Anyone who has seen one of her movies has been touched by her. She has made us laugh and made us cry, made us giddy and made us think. She serves as both an inspiration to young actors who seek to learn the art and to young women who hope to emulate her style, her grace, her sense, and her sensibilities.