‘In terms of love… I’m a hook, line and sinker girl’ Kate Winslet – all or nothing
WITH SIX OSCAR NOMINATIONS, THREE MARRIAGES AND THREE CHILDREN TO HER NAME, KATE WINSLET POURS EMOTION INTO EVERY ROLE AND HAS BEEN CALLED THE ‘BEST ENGLISH-SPEAKING ACTRESS OF HER GENERATION’. BUT WILL THE ROLE OF HAPPILY EVER AFTER BE HER MOST CHALLENGI
as far as celebrity weddings go, it was a low-key affair for the British couple: an intimate ceremony in New York on a crisp December day in 2012. With just handful of witnesses present, the bride was walked down the aisle by her ‘best friend’. So far, so un-newsworthy, which was probably what Kate Winslet was hoping for. But look a little more closely and the story is what one paper called ‘tabloid gold dust’.
Meet the cast. The man who gave Kate away was Leonardo DiCaprio. Her husband: Ned RocknRoll (originally Abel Smith), the nephew of billionaire Richard Branson who works on the Galactic Travel side of Virgin. Then the meetcute: the sparks of Kate and Ned’s romance were kindled in a dramatic house fire on Branson’s private Caribbean island, Necker. The property burnt to the ground but everyone escaped unharmed. It was the third time down the aisle for the 38-year-old star, not that unusual on the celebrity scene, but when she announced her pregnancy five months later (also her third, each one from a separate marriage), the gossip columns geared up for attack. ‘Third time lucky for Calamity Kate Winslet?’ asked The Telegraph, in a spiky column saying, ‘[T]he actress… always has a baby – but just the one, mind – with every husband to keep it fair’ and decreeing ‘it just looks tacky’. Kate hit back in a Glamour interview. ‘I’m really sorry to the nation’s press that I fell in love and got pregnant.’
Despite her critics, Kate takes her role of mother, to Mia (14), Joe (11) and Bear Winslet (18 months), seriously. ‘People go, “Oh, my God! Those poor children! They must have gone through so much,”’ she told Vogue. ‘Says who? They’ve always been with me. They don’t go from pillar to post; they’re not flown here and there with nannies.’ She’s turned down offers of theatre roles, saying she’s ‘not willing to miss bedtime seven nights a week’. When Jason Reitman, director of Labor Day (out this year), insisted that it was Kate and only Kate who he would accept for the main role, she declined as she had already planned to dedicate the year to family. So he did what any sensible director would do – and pushed out filming by a year to wait for her. In interviews during her almost 20-year career, Kate has come across as refreshingly unpretentious: a sincere, up-for-a-laugh go-getter, who’s not afraid to drop an f-bomb here and there. ‘It’s Waitrose, [then] the Oscars. It’s bonkers,’ she once said of her life. ‘Honestly, I push my shopping trolley past the aisles of gossip magazines and I often just go, “Who the f*** are all these people and what the f*** are they doing?”’ She calls a spade a bloody spade, and has won legions of female fans for her take on body issues. Famously nicknamed ‘Blubber’ by playground bullies, she asked for an apology when GQ slimmed down their cover of her with the powers of Photoshop in 2003 and on Oprah, the famous TV host congratulated Kate on her figure, saying, ‘God bless your real breasts! ’After Bear was born, Kate went on The Ellen DeGeneres Show (Ellen gave her T-shirts saying ‘Baby Bear’ and ‘Momma Bear’) and explained Ned’s unusual surname. ‘People who know Ned know that he’s very much about irony and living life and having fun, so he
changed it to RocknRoll.’ She also shared Bear’s middle name: Blaze, in memory of the fire where it all started. She’s a woman who takes things in her stride, without taking herself too seriously. The industry, however, takes her very seriously. Many a director has eulogised her skills, most recently director Neil Burger – Kate starred in his soon-to-be-released futuristic movie, Divergent. ‘She really is, to my mind, the best actress of her generation and there’s a reason, ’he told People. ‘She’s a pro.She’s completely present.’ A journalist for The Telegraph concluded that she’s adored by everyone she works with: ‘I couldn’t find anyone – journalists, PRs, directors, actors – who has a negative word to say.’ Always the consummate professional (she is, after all, the youngest actress ever to garner six Oscar nominations), Kate found herself in an unprecedented situation while shooting Revolutionary Road. The role required love scenes with on-screen husband DiCaprio (their first film together since Titanic), while her real-life husband Sam Mendes directed behind the lens. ‘I could hear him behind the monitor going, “OK Leo, grab her thigh. Press your fingers into her back harder…!”’ she recounted on the David Letterman show. Letterman quipped, ‘Is that even legal?’ Joking aside, Kate described her husband as ‘supportive’, adding, ‘I’m really lucky... things are pretty good right now.’ Sam and Kate had married in 2003, in a quiet ceremony in the Caribbean, when Kate was eight weeks pregnant. They had dated since 2001, two months after Kate and her first husband, Jim Threapleton, divorced. ‘Trading up’ was how the tabloids trumpeted the news. Sam had a reputation as commitment-shy but Kate was happy. ‘He’s a good man,’ she told People, soon after she met Sam. ‘You can say that I said that with a large smile on my face.’
And things kept getting better. At the 2009 Golden Globes Kate won two awards, for Revolutionary Road and The Reader. In her gushing acceptance speech she told both Sam and Leo that she loved them. Those gruelling months of filming Titanic as young 21-year-olds navigating the waters of mega-stardom had created an intense bond. ‘We have a special magic,’ Leo told The Express in 2013. ‘We have never not been friends since that time.We laugh at the same things. She never lets me take myself seriously... I speak to her all the time. But friends – not lovers.’
In 2008, she’d graced Vanity Fair’s cover wearing nothing but a white coat with the coverline: ‘Do I Want An
Oscar? You bet your @#*%ing Ass I Do! ’A year later, she took one for her role in The Reader, as Hanna Schmitz, a former Nazi concentrationcamp guard who has a love affair with a teenager. Women in doomed relationships have formed the backbone of Kate’s glittering career: Sense and Sensibility, Titanic, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind… the list goes on. In Revolutionary Road, she played a wife in a disintegrating marriage. Soon after, life was imitating art. In March 2010, Sam and Kate’s divorce went public, with rumours that actress Rebecca Hall had played a part in the break-up.They had actually split months before, separating as quietly as they had married.
Describing herself as ‘an emotional husk’, Kate threw herself into back-to-back filming, taking on the TV series Mildred Pierce, Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion and Roman Polanski’s Carnage in one year. ‘Thank God I could do that, at that time in my life. It saved me but it also totally exhausted me,’ she told
The Telegraph. Divorce proceedings were underway when she was filming her Emmy award-winning role as Mildred, ironically a story about a woman navigating life as a divorcee in the Great Depression. She still had the spirit to joke around with her leading man, admitting in interviews that Guy Pearce had been her ‘teen heartthrob’.
Kate grew up with acting in her blood. Her grandparents set up the Reading Repertory Theatre Company and her parents, Roger and Sally, were actors who took on other jobs to make ends meet. ‘Dad never had a career that could fund our family in any way,’ she told The Telegraph, not that she, or her two sisters and brothers, felt hard done by. ‘We lived in a lovely terrace house and we all had each other. Still do.’ The family remains close. It’s not unusual for Kate to take the entire family to her movie premieres: at the Finding Neverland after-party (2004), her dad took to the stage and started a singalong (he’s the lead singer of a band called Bidgie Reef & The Gas). Kate’s parents have been together for more than 40 years and Kate was young when she first fell in love during her first big acting gig, as the lead in BBC series Dark Season. She was 15 and a student at Red Roof Drama School; her costar Stephen Tredre was 27.‘He was the most important person in my life next to my family,’ she has said. Stephen was by her side as her career gained momentum: with her first film role in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (she beat 175 other actresses for the part); then Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, alongside Emma Thompson. Then there was the film that would change it all, Titanic, which hit the big screen in 1997 and became the highest grossing film ever made. By then, Stephen had broken up with Kate due to their romance’s tragic subplot. He had bone cancer and died the week before the movie launched; Kate missed the London premiere to go to his funeral. ‘It was unbelievably heartbreaking,’ she has said. ‘Stephen let me go, and that as an act of love from one human being to another was overwhelming.’ Less than a year after his death, she married assistant director Jim Threapleton, whom she met on the set of Hideous Kinky in Morocco (she refused to go the blockbuster route after Titanic, turning down Shakespeare in Love and choosing more arty titles). Her wedding was a simple one: married by the minister who had christened her and a reception at their local pub, where guests dined on bangers and mash. Mia Honey was born in 2000, but the couple broke up a year later. ‘I was dealing with the pain of having lost Stephen. Jim was just a regular guy,’ she told The Independent.
So maybe this third-time-lucky marriage will be her happy ending? Emma Thompson seems to thinks so, explaining: ‘Ned meets the cyclist/camping buddy/” Let’s climb Everest next” bit of Kate very successfully.’ Looking back at an interview about Mildred Pierce, it’s as if Kate is talking about herself, the lines between work and life blurring once more. ‘She’s not a man-eater,’ Kate said of the role. ‘It wasn’t as though she had three men on the go at the same time. She wanted to be loved very much, to be committed to one person.’ Here’s hoping her future roles include some happy-ever-afters.
2013: LABOR DAY
2008: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD
2004: FINDING NEVERLAND Clockwise from far left Kate with Gemma Jones, Emilie François and Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility; a scene from Finding Neverland; with Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road; with Josh Brolin in
Labor Day; with Theo James in Divergent; with DiCaprio in Titanic.
1995: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
THIRD TIME LUCKY IN LOVE break-up); daughter Puma, age 10, with The DOC; and Mars, age 5, daughter of Jay Electronica. Mom says: ‘I need a partner I can depend on who I can love and grow with. But I do understand the nature of these men I’ve been with and men in general.They have a need to chase.’
MEL B This former Spice Girl has three daughters from two marriages and a fling with actor Eddie Murphy (he denied paternity until a DNA test confirmed it). The Brood: Phoenix, age 15, with dancer Jimmy Gulzar; Angel, age 7, with Eddie Murphy; Madison, age 2, with Stephen Belafonte, who she’s still married to. She’s also stepmom to Giselle Belafonte. Mom
said, after Madison was born: ‘This time I’ve done it with my partner and it feels like I’ve finally done it right.’
Left, from top Kate with her parents, Roger Winslet and Sally Bridges-Winslet at the 81st Academy Awards, 2009; with first husband Jim Threapleton, 2000; with second husband director Sam Mendes, 2010; with third husband Ned RocknRoll, 2012.