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Kate Winslet Is Esquire's (UK) November (2015) Cover Star
“Ooh, lovely,” says Winslet, once she’s been in to inspect them. Her son Joe, 11, slumps on the sofa, while her husband Ned Rocknroll – whose surname you can find an explanation for elsewhere – buys coffee before briefing her on the latest potty-based activities of 18-month-old Bear. The reports of the latter elicit significantly more convincing enthusiasm in his wife than the new floor in the bogs. Because Kate Winslet, even though she’s one of our greatest international exports, and has been working as much, if not more, than ever in an acting career that began over two decades ago, has a real life too.
This month, Winslet turns 40. In some ways it’s a surprise that she’s not older. Not because she looks it. She looks like what she is: a healthy, happy, 39-year-old woman with cupidinous lips, a Baroque beauty spot on her right cheek, expressive brows and soulful eyes with just the hint of crow’s feet. A woman who’s had three children and three husbands: director Jim Threapleton, with whom she had 14-year-old Mia; Sam Mendes, father of Joe, who directed her in Revolutionary Road and with whom she lived in New York for nine years; and Ned, Bear’s dad, a former marketing executive at his uncle Richard Branson’s company Virgin Galactic, whom she married in 2012 and to whom she remains happily so. A woman, in short, who is comfortable in her politely sun-weathered skin. It’s a surprise she’s not older because she’s had such a long, distinguished career, and has been such a constant presence; a beacon of British quality in a sea of silicon Hollywood silliness. Really, it’s a wonder she’s not turning 60.
Winslet’s real life began on 5 October, 1975, in Reading, the second of four children born to actors who worked other jobs to make ends meet. But her public life started, as far as most us are concerned, when she was 17 and cast in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (1994) as a giddy, Sapphic murderess, a performance that earned critical oohs and sighs and forced the wider world to take note. Since then, her career has taken in, among many, many other projects: Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation ofHamlet (1996), in which she took the role of the hapless Ophelia; Michel Gondry’s eccentric comedy Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), where she surprised everyone as Jim Carrey’s blue-haired ex-love; Stephen Daldry’s moving drama The Reader (2008), in which she played a former Nazi camp guard, who starts a relationship with a 15-year-old boy and for which she won an Oscar, her sole win despite receiving a record five nominations by the time she was 31; and Mildred Pierce, the sumptuous 2011 HBO TV series, in which she played the titular beleaguered divorcée and for which she won an Emmy. Oh, and she also starred with Leonardo DiCaprio in what was, for over a decade, the most globally successful film ever made.
After Ned has taken the children home, and Winslet has jumped gamely into the passenger seat of my wheezing Vauxhall Corsa (before I have time to check my insurance covers me for “conveyance of A-list actors”), we drive to a nearby stretch of sand to borrow a beach hut owned by a family friend. She unbolts the doors and bangs around in the cupboard for something to eat, unearthing some hot chocolate granules in a tin. “Maybe they’ve gone off,” she says, only after having necked a large handful. Then, stretching out on the porch of the beach hut, looking out at the sea, she explains where she’s at.