A handful of actresses carry such a wellspring of inner grace and presence that they appear destined for celebrity from birth. Natalie Wood had it, as did Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly; many would doubtless place Kate Winslet among their ranks. A tender 11 when she commenced her formal dramatic training, 19 when she debuted cinematically, and 20 when she received her first Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, Winslet never "ascended" to stardom; she became a star overnight. The possessor of an hourglass-figured, full-lipped beauty that lends itself effortlessly to costume dramas, Winslet was roundly hailed by the press for standing in stark, proud contrast to her more conventional Hollywood peers.
Born on October 5, 1975, and raised in Reading, England, as the daughter of stage actors and the granddaughter of a repertory theater manager, Winslet inherited the "drama bug" from her folks. After training exhaustively as a child and securing professional representation she went on the air as a spokesgirl for a popular British cereal, and later attended a performing-arts secondary school. Following an early graduation in 1991 (prior to the age of 16), Winslet launched her regional stage career, highlighted by roles in adaptations of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and Peter Pan. It would be difficult to imagine a more auspicious film bow than the role of Juliet Hulme in Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures -- or a more difficult one. This characterization -- that of an extroverted adolescent who constructs an incestuously exclusive fantasy world with her best friend (Melanie Lynskey) -- put Winslet on the map, and opened the door for follow-ups in international megahits such as Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility (1995), as the willfull, passionate Marianne; and James Cameron's Titanic (1997), as the object of Leonardo Di Caprio's affections, Rose DeWitt Bukater. She received dual Oscar nominations for those roles, but, surprisingly, failed to net either one.