Sheís a wife, a mother and our hottest young movie star - and she fits back in her old leather trousers. How does Kate Winslet do it?
By Polly Williams. Photographed by Jason Bell. Styled by Cheryl Kanten
Kate Winslet emerges barefoot from the studio dressing room. She is nonchalantly wearing a Dolce & Gabbana corset and her own knickers. Plain white cotton knickers. An incongruous mix, but somehow appropriate. Movie star glam or unapologetically wholesome; Kate slips easily, consciously, between the two skins. She examines the Polaroids, and cracks a typically self-deprecating quip, "Isnít anyone going to tell me how fabulous I look?"
She can try and play it down all she likes, but the girl canít help it: sheís a sensation. Her skin is honeyed after a recent Tuscan holiday with husband Jim Threapleton and 10-month-old daughter Mia. She has shed the four stone she put on during pregnancy. Although sheís retained her fecund peachyness, weight loss highlights her cheekbones, her strong jaw - and wide eyes with their green-grey irises that flash like mirrors in dusky light. She wiggles her hips like Jessica Rabbit. "This is my first proper shoot since the baby, since getting back into me," she says, radiating the kind of contentment thatís impossible to fake.
"An actorís happiness has to come from something other than work," she says, in her briskly cheerful BBC voice (spookily similar to that of her mentor, Emma Thompson, but with more exclamation marks). As if on cue, the origin of Winsletís happiness arrives and Kate descends on Mia - "my little monkey!" - then husband Jim with a passionate tenderness that feels almost intrusive to witness. She happily admits that her career comes second.
Born into a family of actors - "a pack of nutters, really" - in Reading, Kateís first big break came at age 17 with Heavenly Creatures. Three years later, she was Oscar-nominated for her role in Sense and Sensibility. International superstardom followed with Titanic. Rather than cashing in with another big-budget behemoth, Kate took a less commercial route. It paid personal and professional dividends. On the set of Hideous Kinky, she "fell in love at first sight" with a "glorious-looking boy", the third assistant director, Jim, who she married a year later. Her next performance in Holy Smoke displayed formidable range, and Kate remains the only young British actress who can open a film internationally. Emma Thompson comments, "I feel so proud of her for not sauntering off into the Hollywood sunset, as she so easily could have done, and instead concentrating on things that stretch her. Sheís a beautiful girl, but when that beauty becomes irrelevant, as it does about age 40 in America, sheíll be around. I want to see Kate in 30 years. If she carries on the way sheís going, it will be spectacular."
Kateís made an interesting choice with this monthís Enigma. Set among Bletchley Parkís code breakers during the Second World War, she plays the bespectacled, dumpy friend of Saffron Burrowsís fragrant bombshell. Itís a distinctly unglam role. Enigma director Michael Apted comments, "She was prepared to go all-out, take a chance and play an ugly duckling. Most movie stars wouldnít. But sheís very much both a movie star and an actress."
Kate, typically, is more flip. "I was the perfect person to play the frumpy friend, because I was frumpy. I was five months pregnant, but I didnít have a proper bump. I just got really round, well... fat. When I first watched Enigma, I was like, ĎWhy didnít anyone tell me just to stop eating?í" Kate swigs from her Evian. "But I loved playing Hester. Itís a triumph of the film that the incredibly intelligent, dashing hero [played by Dougray Scott] goes for the frumpy friend, not the perfect blonde."
While determined to enjoy pregnancy, it was tough. "I didnít understand myself as a pregnant person; emotionally and mentally you change." Kate "didnít give a stuff" about weight gain. Nevertheless, "My bottom looked like purple sprouting broccoli, other body parts resembled squashes. I was an absolute sight, I really was," she insists. "How can you feel blooming and sexy when you look like the back end of a bus?" Kate leans forward conspiratorially, "People tell you the weight drops off afterwards. Hell-o! It does not! After delivering Mia, I thought, great, now I can wear my leather trousers. I cried when they wouldnít go past my calves."
Not wanting to diet, but wanting rid of it, Kate visited a nutritionist. She used "facial analysis" - interpreting the texture of skin, eyes, hair - to pinpoint food intolerances. "I was very cynical, but she gave me an eating plan. The weight absolutely dropped off! My skinís much better. I never feel tired. I just feel great. Never felt better." She can still eat potatoes and butter, "so itís absolutely not a diet". (For lunch, she brings out Tupperware filled with a rather joyless chicken salad. Later, relaxing from her plan - "It gets a bit boring, doesnít it?" - she nibbles pepperoni and cheese off someone elseís pizza.) Kateís arms are toned from lifting Mia. She goes to the gym at least twice a week, and swims. "Iím a little bit smaller than I was before I had her. I donít want to lose any more weight. Iím there now." Still, pregnancy has left trophies. "Look at my war wounds!" She proudly yanks down the top of her knickers to display her stretch marks - "believe me I used every cream going" - and fondly prods a skin crumple on her belly. "My boobs are floppier, too," she notes, looking down her enviable cleavage, more with curiosity than lament.
Part of Winsletís appeal is that she falls just short of perfect blonde perfection. She was nicknamed "Blubber" at drama school, and though she went on to triumph - "I didnít have an inner confidence, but I did have an inner determination" - she is uncomfortable at the suggestion that sheís an acclaimed beauty, "Oh God, donít say that. Iím not though, really, am I? Itís the characters Iíve played." Remnants, perhaps, of the teenager who "had so many insecurities about the way I looked, how I moved, what I wore."
These days, sheís wearing her favourite black Daryl K trousers, "theyíre so flattering and I can dress them up or down," and her favourite shoes, worn-to-death biker boots. She adores heels "for about two minutes, then I hate them because they hurt," and sheís mad about her many dressing gowns. Despite not being "a frock person", she loves Dolce & Gabbana: "they really design for women." Jim helps with getting ready to go out, "Heís like a girlfriend. He says, ĎYes that works, turn up the cuffs, and, no, Kate, your bum does not look big in that.í"
Jim and Mia anchor what Emma Thompson calls Kateís "passionate, quixotic nature". While Mia has overtaken Jim as love-subject, anyone who watched husband and wife dance at Elton Johnís recent White Tie and Tiara ball could see they are besotted. Winslet says their difference in status is not an issue, they rarely talk about money, "I know weíre very lucky." Having a baby has "strengthened the relationship", although, "there are highs and lows and at times itís rough." Mia contracted whooping cough at Christmas, "So frightening, this tiny thing, rattling and coughing." Theyíve only had one night on their own since Miaís birth, when Jim whisked her away to a hotel for a night, "very romantic". They share childcare, and, apart from a brief interlude, thereís been no nanny. "I feel really proud of that." Kate had to go to LA for four days in March, leaving Mia. "It was such agony. I took the Babygro she slept in the night before I left and sniffed it on the plane and slept with it every night."
There is an undeniably raw humanity in Kate. Itís obvious in her mothering. (She enjoyed giving birth, "Nothing else in the world comes close.") Itís there in her films, especially the nude scenes - her robust, sensuous body still looks touchable on the flat screen. (She, however, finds nude scenes absurd, "What a way to earn a living!") Kate works hard at being normal.
"I could have locked myself up in a fortress, but I wouldnít have been happy." Fame is "definitely not" reassuring. "If you donít watch it, you start to become a different person." So Kate watches it. Sheís more likely to be spotted buying organic vegetables (which she purees for Mia) in her local Waitrose than partying at Attica. She worries about not being a good mother. She worries about work drying up. She believes nothing differentiates her from her thespian peers, itís just that she got lucky. "Itís a lottery." If she hadnít been an actress, she would be a make up artist. "Iíve always been fascinated by make-up, the way you can change faces, the chemistry." (Kateís make-up bag holds a Nars foundation, Shiseido mascara and a crumbly old Colourings lip pencil.) Normal though?
"Sheís completely mad," says Emma Thompson. "But itís quite healthy. I always think of her as my contemporary. I only realise Iím about 50 years older when she phones and says, ĎI went out with my mates last night and got in at 5:30 am.í I would be hospitalised. Sheís a remarkable person, hugely exuberant with such energy."
Indeed, back at the studio, Kate gyrates along to Missy Elliott, drinks Champagne, and swears like a trucker: funny, bawdy and she says, "a little bit bonkers." She determinedly refuses to be the fragrant star. Enigma co-star Tom Hollander comments, "Sheís defiantly anti-precious and surprisingly laddish for one so feminine." Ironically, all her efforts to be ordinary merely underline one fact: at 25, with the world at her feet, Kate Winslet is anything but.
Enigma opens on 28 September.
This article was added on August 26. Special thanks to Farida for emailing me scans of the article!