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Kate Winslet’s Eternal Star Shines on Santa Barbara

Kate Winslet’s Eternal Star Shines on Santa Barbara

On Tuesday night, the 20th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival
presented Academy Award nominee Kate Winslet with the Sapphire Inspired
Award for Outstanding Performance of the Year.

Winslet was chosen based on her exceptional performances in 2004 as Sylvia
Llewelyn Davies in “Finding Neverland” and Clementine Kruczynski, the
uninhibited girlfriend of Jim Carrey in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless
Mind,” for which she received her second best-actress Oscar nomination.

Winslet’s tribute was the fourth in four nights following Hollywood
A-listers and fellow Oscar nominees Annette Bening (Montecito Award) and
Leonardo DiCaprio (Platinum Award). Sir David Attenborough was honored
Monday night with the first Attenborough Nature Filmmaker Award. Actor Kevin
Bacon will receive the Riveria Award Friday night before the festival wraps
on Sunday.

In contrast to the crush of photographers and screaming girls that greeted
DiCaprio at the Arlington Theatre Saturday night, Kate Winslet arrived at
the Lobero Theatre and greeted her fans with relative ease. Dressed in a
smart white pantsuit from Dolce & Gabbana, Winslet looked slim and radiant
as she walked the red carpet to her seat inside.

Film commentator Pete Hammond, the evening’s moderator, called Winslet "the
eternal sunshine of the Santa Barbara Film Festival."

“It’s quite a remarkable career even though it’s only really been about ten
years since her first film,” he said. “You don’t realize that because of the
depth of work and the extraordinary work that she’s done. She’s not even

Winslet received her first Academy Award nomination at the age of 20 for
supporting actress in 1995’s “Sense and Sensibility” and her fourth this
year at 29 which has made her the youngest actor to receive multiple
nominations, surpassing Marlon Brando.

At 17, Winslet’s film career took off when she was cast by director Peter
Jackson to play Juliet Hulme in “Heavenly Creatures.” “I was a stocky kid
and not a likely candidate for the movies at that time,” said Winslet. “When
‘Heavenly Creatures’ came around, I loved the characters and the story so
much. When we were making the movie I was so completely excited and gripped
by the experience.”

On how she landed the role of Marianne Dashwood in “Sense and Sensibility,”
Winslet remembered her agent saying, “The part they want you for isn’t big
enough. Why don’t you go in there and talk about the Marianne character,
don’t talk about the other character.” Winslet convinced all that her
personality and interests best suited Marianne. She got the part and a slew
of major award nominations followed.

In 1997, Winslet was cast as the heroine Rose Dewitt Bukater in “Titanic,”
the biggest movie of all time. She garnered her first best-actress Oscar
nomination and became an international sensation.

“The script was absolutely brilliant. I kept my first copy of the script,
which was Jim Cameron’s treatment, over 200 pages long. I remember reading
it and afterwards in pencil wrote ‘I fucking love this.’”

Winslet helped convince DiCaprio to become involved when they met for coffee
in Cannes. “'I’m not going to do this if you don’t do it,'” she told him.
“'It’s going to be really fun. I’m nice to work with.' I had to keep
persuading him until he felt guilty for not doing it. Thank God he did.”

Hammond mentioned that when DiCaprio was asked by Oprah Winfrey a few weeks
ago who was the best kisser he’s been with on screen, DiCaprio replied,
“I’ve just got to go with Kate Winslet—a good old classic—just because we
did it more times than anyone could imagine.”

“He’s lying,” exclaimed Winslet. “It was like a brother-sister relationship.
Completely passionless. By the numbers.”

Following the success of “Titanic,” Winslet embarked on a series of eclectic
and challenging roles in films such as “Hideous Kinky,” “Holy Smoke!,”
“Quills,” “Iris,” “Enigma,” and “The Life of David Gale.”

Winlset is married to director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) and the couple
has a four-year-old daughter Mia and one-year-old son, Joe. She leads a
simple life and chooses to do her own grocery shopping. “I don’t work that
much. I do one film a year.”

Scheduled for a summer 2005 release is John Turturro’s big-screen musical,
“Romance & Cigarettes” where Winslet plays opposite James Gandolfini. As a
revealing clip of her singing and dancing elicited cheers from the audience,
Winslet held her hands over her eyes, occasionally peeking at the monitor.

“I was actually glued into that bra,” she laughed. “I was nursing full-on. I
would look in the mirror about to go on set and think: ‘To pump or not to

Roger Durling, Artistic Director of the festival, presenting the award, said
Winslet as a widow with four children in "Neverland" was "a radiant mix of
grief and innocence." He called Winslet "the biggest and most potent special
effect in 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.' Desperate to be loved but
a total mess, she pulls out all the stops in this performance."

Accepting the award, Winslet said: "I promise I'll keep doing crazy, risky,
dangerous things."
By James C. Davis
Photos by Eric Issacs

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