A Tribute To Kate Winslet In Titanic, The Performance That Makes The Movie Work

From the minute Kate Winslet steps on screen in "Titanic," we are transfixed by her. In a true Hollywood moment, Rose lifts her head and the swoop of her giant hat reveals her hopeful teenage face. The audience marvels at her classic beauty while she looks up at the ship of dreams that will change her life forever. 

Kate Winslet earned an Oscar nomination for her nuanced portrayal of Rose DeWitt Bukater in the blockbuster romance, but the role was no easy feat. James Cameron acknowledges the difficulty of the part in The Daily Mail:

"A 19-year-old girl who was going to carry a film of that scale on her shoulders, it's a huge responsibility. You're standing on set surrounded by 2,000 extras and all the lights and cameras are pointed at you. If you don't pull it off, it doesn't work."

/Film describes the "Titanic" characters as "personality-driven archetypes on the largest canvas money can buy." However, Kate Winslet's commitment (along with her co-star Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson) brings gravitas to her stereotypical rich girl role. Kate Winslet's performance has a heartfelt naturalism that grounds the sweeping romance. She makes cheesy lines like "Jack, I want you to draw me like one of your French girls" completely believable. The emotional waves of her character, from her claustrophobic sadness to her blissful liberation, come across as deep and palpable as the ocean. Like the paintings her character admires, Winslet takes Rose's broad strokes and adds many layers and meaning. 

A well brought up girl

Kate Winslet makes Rose's deep dissatisfaction with her tight-corseted life empathetic for the audience, even when she is bratty. One notable scene takes place at a fancy meal before she attempts to jump off the back of the boat. "Outwardly, I was everything a well brought up girl should be. Inside, I was screaming," older Rose narrates. 

You can almost hear those screams in her vacant, forlorn stare into the distance. Her loneliness in the middle of a crowded room is clear and mirrors how everyone has felt at one point in their lives. Winslet's big blue eyes are the window into her character's soul. You can see them shift from hollow boredom to twinkling excitement whenever she is with Jack. 

Winslet flawlessly illustrates the well-mannered mask that Rose wears in her upper-class society and how it slips in Jack's presence. She uses her body to convey how Rose is torn between two worlds. As much as she yearns for the freedom Jack has, she cannot easily shed her refined upbringing. This appears in small, haughty gestures and her straight-laced walk. When Jack asks if she loves Cal, Rose calls him "rude and uncouth and presumptuous." No one in first class is ever so direct with their words. 

Only a skilled actress such as Winslet could authentically present Rose's internal struggle to break free of the aristocratic chains that bind her. Beneath her thoughtful expressions and careful movements, you can see the fire of rebellion that Jack loves so much about her. It flickers inside of Rose and slowly grows. 

Rebel rebel

Over the course of the Oscar-winning "Titanic," Kate Winslet peels away the restrictive layers of her character to reveal her rebellious nature. The prim and proper Rose is really a fun-loving girl who dances with wild abandon and is not shy about being drawn nude with the Heart of the Ocean. Winslet is radiant in her scenes with Jack. You can see Rose's spirit being set free in her bright, bubbly laugh and sparkling eyes.

Winslet is great at being goofy, but she also emerges as a fierce action star in the latter half of the film. Winslet taps into an inner strength and has a steely attitude that makes Rose a fearless heroine, especially when she stands up to Cal and fights to survive the sinking ship. 

"Titanic" set the standard for Kate Winslet's future roles. She often plays vivacious women who defy societal norms. Much like Rose, they are confined to traditional roles but seek more from life. We see this in "Little Children" when Sarah Pierce has an erotic affair to save herself from domestic boredom, or when April from "Revolutionary Road" yearns for something more than 1950s suburbia. In "Mare of Easttown," Winslet's grizzled detective breaks the rules to doggedly pursue a mystery. Through her emotionally complex performances, Winslet creates passionate female characters who want more than their current circumstances and will do anything to get it. 

Always in character

Working with James Cameron on "Titanic" was not easy for Kate Winslet. She put her entire body and soul into the performance. The young actress was bruised, chipped her elbow, and developed hypothermia during the physically and emotionally taxing shoot. Winslet was also so attuned to her character's inner life and circumstances that she ad-libbed some of the greatest moments in "Titanic." 

According to the original script, the scene where Rose thanks Jack for saving her life was mostly improvised by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. In the exchange, they daydream about riding horses, drinking beer, and Rose learns how to "spit like a man." The scene demonstrates Rose and Jack's playful connection. They have similar high-spirited personalities and want to experience as much of the world as they can. The script also called for Rose to jab Cal with a hairpin, but Winslet adds more feistiness by spitting in Cal's face instead (via Yahoo!). 

One of the most heart-wrenching and memorable ad-libs takes place when Jack and Rose cling to the back of the ship before it sinks. In spite of all the fear and chaos, Rose smiles and says, "This is where we first met." This small, improvised line is a testament to how immersed Winslet was in her role. Even though Jack and Rose's doomed love is cliché and progresses quickly, Winslet makes it genuine and completely enthralling. She does this through her sensitive understanding of Rose's feelings. By shading her character with rich emotional detail, Kate Winslet's performance makes the "Titanic" love story soar.