It’s hard to find many people in show business who have had better careers than Kate Winslet. She has been churning out A+ performances in critically acclaimed movies since the mid-90s. More than two decades and seven total Oscar nominations later, it’s easy to look back and see her career as one long victory lap, but it apparently took her a long time to make it in Hollywood, or at least feel like she had made it. Not even the unprecedented success of Titanic was enough to convince her she belonged.
Kate Winslet talked about her feelings and her lack of early comfort in Hollywood during a discussion with The Los Angeles Times for its Envelope Actresses’ Roundtable. This year’s conversation featured Winslet alongside Rashida Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Vanessa Kirby and Andra Day, and during the chat, Winslet opened up and talked about how Titanic wasn’t enough for her because she felt so out of place and felt like she didn't look the same as other actresses. Apparently it wasn’t until the success of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, which is an amazing movie by the way, that she was able to relax…
The honest answer is I was scared of Hollywood. A big, scary place, where everyone had to be thin and look a certain way. And I knew that I did not look that way or feel like I fit there, so if I was ever going to belong, I had to earn my place. And to me, I hadn’t earned it. Titanic might have been a fluke. I had done Heavenly Creatures. I had done Sense and Sensibility, which I was nominated for an Academy Award for at the age of 19, but still I had this feeling of 'maybe that was just luck.' When I became a mother at 25, all of that stuff evaporated completely. Then two years after she was born, I was asked to do Eternal Sunshine [of the Spotless Mind]. I do believe that was a huge turning point in my career, because from then on people suddenly went, ‘Oh, she can do that?!’
Kate Winslet is a great example of how sometimes we oversimplify people’s career trajectories. There wasn’t any one single movie that made Winslet’s resume, and there wasn’t any one single moment where we all collectively decided she’s one of the best actresses we have. Those reputations are built over the course of many years and many movies. She was nominated for Sense And Sensibility at 19 and of course Titanic was Titanic, but there are plenty of actors who have a great five year stretch and eventually lose their way.
The Little Children star is also a great example of why people are often best charting their own careers. Winslet could have taken her early success and started churning out paycheck movies. It probably would have made her a lot more money, at least initially, but over the long haul, she’s maintained her reputation by doing the projects she wanted to. That doesn't mean every single acting job she takes is meant to win Oscars, but that's part of her appeal too. It has prevented her from getting typecast, getting overexposed or making a series of blah studio movies that her fans aren’t into.
Good for Kate Winslet doing things her own way. Good for her for being true to herself and never trying to fit in in Hollywood. She deserves all the success she’s earned, both because she’s really talented and because she never tried to take the easy path, even if it meant more short-term money.