Kate Winslet on ‘horrible’ fame after ‘Titanic’: ‘My life was quite unpleasant’

In a recent interview, the British actress talks about enduring intense media scrutiny, her friendship with Leonardo DiCaprio and why she has no regrets

Leonardo DiCaprio y Kate Winslet en Titanic
One of the most recognizable scenes from 'Titanic,' starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.20th Century Fox
María Porcel

It was the end of 1997, in December, when the movie Titanic hit theaters. A pair of young actors — far from being stars — walked excitedly down the red carpet. They were British actress Kate Winslet and American actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who would become — beyond the sunken ship — the soul of the blockbuster hit, which made more than $2.2 billion in ticket sales and had a profound impact on pop culture. James Cameron’s film was a hit from day one, and launched the two young actors to stardom. Winslet was 22 years old, DiCaprio was 23. Posters of their faces were plastered on the rooms of teenagers across the world. And that was difficult for Winslet. In fact, “being famous was horrible,” she confessed in a recent interview with fashion magazine Net-a-Porter.

The actress, 48, has grown professionally since then, and has been able to diversify her career, but moving past her role as Rose DeWitt Bukater — the capricious rich girl who fell in love with the homeless artist Jack Dawson — was not easy. In the interview, Winslet points out that her eldest daughter, Mia Threapleton (who she had with British film director Jim Threapleton) is already 23 years old — older than she was when she filmed Titanic. In fact, she turned 21 while filming.

“It’s different now. Mia is very much her own person. [Young women now] know how to use their voice,” said Winslet, who shared that she had a more difficult experience when she shot to fame in the late 1990s. “I felt like I had to look a certain way, or be a certain thing, and because media intrusion was so significant at that time, my life was quite unpleasant.”

“Journalists would always say, ‘After Titanic, you could have done anything and yet you chose to do these small things’… and I was like, ‘Yeah, you bet your fuckin’ life I did! Because, guess what, being famous was horrible.’ I was grateful, of course. I was in my early twenties, and I was able to get a flat. But I didn’t want to be followed literally feeding the ducks.”

In a podcast interview in 2021, the actress said she felt “intimidated” by the intense media attention, saying she went into “self-protective mode” as soon as the hit movie came out. “It was like night and day from one day to the next. I was subject to a lot of personal physical scrutiny, I was criticized a lot and the British press were quite unkind to me. I felt bullied if I’m honest,” Winslet told Marc Maron on his podcast “WTF With Marc Maron.”

Winslet also shared that she felt too young and inexperienced to cope with that level of fame, and to accept important parts. “I was still learning how to act, I felt I wasn’t ready to do lots of big Hollywood jobs.”

Winslet now has 70 movies behind her, but in 1997 she had only done a handful. They were albeit notable films such as Heavenly Creatures, by Peter Jackson, Sense and Sensibility alongside Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, where she played Ophelia. But nothing comparable with the immense fame she achieved thanks to Titanic. According to Winslet, it was after marrying Threapleton, giving birth to her daughter Mia in 2000, and focusing on raising her child that the media scrutiny began to ease and become more bearable.

“Oh, it’s such a ridiculous word!” she responds when asked about fame today. “I wear it really lightly. It’s not a burden, any of it. [Titanic] continues to bring people huge amounts of joy. The only time I am like, ‘Oh god, hide,’ is if we are on a boat somewhere.”

In fact, Winslet says that she does not regret any step in her career, nor does she covet any role she may have missed out. “I have been so thrilled for the person [who has] done it. ‘Yes! You’ve done that.’ No regrets. None at all. I just don’t think like that.”

Winslet — who in March will launch The Regime (HBO), a TV show where she plays a dictatorial political leader — also spoke about her long-lasting friendship with DiCaprio. The actress — who is not on social media (nor are her older children) — did not know that about the popular meme in which DiCaprio is seen looking admiringly at Winslet. The caption reads: “Find yourself someone who looks at you the way Leo looks at Kate.”

When questioned about the meme, Winslet burst out laughing. “[He’s looking at me like that because] he just knows I can see right through it all,” she said. “I think when you experience something so seismic, so young… we really went through that together.”

Winslet spoke about the high-pressure environment on set in a 1997 interview with The Los Angeles Times. “The first day started at 5 a.m. and went on to 1 a.m.,” she said. “Nothing could have prepared me for it. There were quite a few 20-hour days. And two-thirds of it was night shooting — because the Titanic sunk at night. It was every man for himself on the set — you had to ensure that you snatched some sleep during the day, with a black eye mask on. Sometimes you’d find yourself having lunch at 2 a.m. or breakfast at 4 p.m. It was very disorienting.”

“You’d have to pay me a lot of money to work with Jim again,” she said, in reference to James Cameron. It would be 25 years before Winslet would shoot another movie with the director.

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