Kate Winslet and Richard Branson
Stephen Lovekin/Getty, Venturelli/Getty
10/21/2011 at 05:00 PM EDT
When Kate Winslet
was abruptly awakened in Richard Branson's Caribbean home to screams of "fire
!", she admits she didn't react entirely predictably.
"It was genuinely very scary. We woke up at 4:30 in the morning to yelling that there was a fire," she told the host of The Graham Norton Show
, which airs on BBC America on Oct. 29 at 10 p.m.
"I jumped up and ran immediately towards the fire but then realized we might die so turned around, told my children to go in and shut the door and then thought, 'Now what do I do?' "
Much has been made of Winslet's heroism
in carrying her host's mother, Eve Branson, out of the burning house, which was destroyed by the inferno. But first, Winslet says, she gave some though to her attire.
"I ran into the bedroom and put on a bra," she says. "In disastrous moments like that, you do the strangest things. I started to put on a bra and thought 'No, that’s going to take me too long,' so off came the bra, on came the t-shirt, I grabbed the children and I picked up Granny."
Winslet, 36, is predictably modest about her role that night, when she and her children Mia, 10, and Joe, 7, escaped, along with 16 other guests from the eight-bedroom Great House on Necker, Branson's private island in the British Virgin Islands.
"No, I didn’t save her life," she says. "I carried her down the stairs is the truth of it."
She explained, "We were all at the top of some very slippery stone steps and in the middle of a hurricane – it was so dramatic, there was lashing rain and it really did feel like being in a movie. In truth, I carried Eve Branson down the stairs."
"I have to say Eve Branson is an extraordinary stoic, powerful lady and she could have totally made it out on her own," she added. "I just helped that tiny little bit."