Winslet is born in Reading, England to a theatrical family that includes her uncle, the late stage actor Robert Bridges. From an early age, she is inspired to act by her grandparents, who run a local theater. "It's in my family to act," she tells the New York Times in 1995. "I always knew that this was what I wanted to do." At 11, she gets her first paycheck pitching Sugar Puffs cereal in British commercials before appearing in the British series Shrinks and Get Back.
By 16, a 5'6 ½" Winslet tops the scale at 185 pounds. "I just knew I wouldn't work if I stayed that way," she tells PEOPLE in 1998. After slimming down, she works on the BBC-TV children's sci-fi show Dark Season, where she meets actor and TV writer Stephen Tredre, 28, who she begins dating. They eventually move in together in London, and she calls Tredre "the most important thing in my life after my family." After nearly five years together, their romance ends and Winslet has a three-month romance with actor Rufus Sewall.
After leaving school to pursue acting and appearing in various British stage productions, Winslet makes her feature debut as Juliet Hulme (right) in director Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures. "Her intensity," Jackson tells Entertainment Weekly, "made everybody else auditioning for the part pale in comparison."
Winslet, 20, costars with Emma Thompson (left) as Marianne Dashwood in Ang Lee's adaptation of the Jane Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility. Variety calls Winslet "outstanding as the high-flying romantic who gets her wings burned" and praises the film as "almost too much of a good thing." She earns her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress and builds her resume with more period pieces, playing Ophelia in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet and a Thomas Hardy heroine in Jude. The following year, she is named one of PEOPLE's 50 Most Beautiful.
Winslet is cast as the sensitive socialite Rose in James Cameron's blockbuster Titanic opposite Leonardo DiCaprio (right). The film, which earns more than $1.8 billion worldwide, makes both actors movie stars. For her performance, Winslet earns her second Oscar nomination, this time for Best Actress. But her success is paired with tragedy when her first love, Stephen Tredre, dies of bone cancer. Winslet skips the premiere of Titanic to attend his funeral in London.
"Before Titanic yes...I had been nominated for an Academy Award, but I had never been sort of world-famous," she tells the New York Times. "When I thought about becoming an actress, I never had fantasies about being a movie star." She follows Titanic with risqué choices like Hideous Kinky and Holy Smoke with Harvey Keitel (left). "After Titanic, she chose…the work over the money," says Keitel.
Winslet marries assistant film director Jim Threapleton (left), whom she met in Morocco while on the set of Hideous Kinky. They wed in a pub in her hometown of Reading, England. "It was quite amazing," Winslet, who wore a white Edwardian-style gown, tells PEOPLE. "It was the most amazing day of our lives."
Winslet gives birth to her and Threapleton's daughter they name Mia (right). But the following September, Winslet announces her separation from Threapleton. "There is no malice at all," she tells PEOPLE. "Jim and I have great respect for each other."
At the New York premiere of her latest film Iris, in which Winslet plays the younger incarnation of the title character with Judi Dench, she steps out with American Beauty director Sam Mendes (left). "He's a good man," Winslet tells PEOPLE. "You can say I said that with a large smile on my face." In addition to her new man, Winslet receives another Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Iris.
A digitally-slimmed Winslet appears on a UK edition of men's magazine GQ. The faux physique ensues a wave of controversy, with Winslet even criticizing the mindset of equating sex appeal with thinness: "What is sexy? All I know from the men I've ever spoken to is that they like girls to have an arse on them, so why is it that women think in order to be adored they have to be thin?" In 2007, she sues and wins libel damages from a British magazine that claimed she saw a diet specialist.
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