The other Winslet girls: It's not easy being the struggling actor sisters of Hollywood darling Kate

By Alison Boshoff
Last updated at 12:35 PM on 20th February 2009

On Sunday night, Kate Winslet will 'do' the red carpet outside the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles.

There will be the usual Oscars hoopla, borrowed diamonds, hair and make-up, and a beautiful dress, all the better to dazzle the assembled crowds and global TV audience.

But, perhaps surprisingly, there will be moments in the evening when she will feel a pang of guilt, a private catch of pain.

The youngest Winslet sister Beth, above, refuses to cash in on her sister's fame

The youngest Winslet sister Beth, above, refuses to cash in on her sister's fame

For whether she is named Best Actress this year or loses out, some 5,000 miles away her two sisters, both actresses, will be watching her on television and leading lives about as far from the backslapping and free champagne as you can imagine.

Beth and Anna Winslet still live modest lives in their middle sister's home town, Reading. They have spent a full ten years being outshone by Kate's brilliance.

Their parents, it seems, regard Kate's fame as a blight and a quirk of fortune.

They struggle with it, saying things like 'There are no stars in this family', by which they hope to indicate an equal loyalty to all three of them.


Kate, meanwhile, feels guilty that she has succeeded where they have not.

'It's like, why me and not them?' she muses.

She says sometimes, shopping in New York, she picks up a piece of designer clothing and thinks: 'This would buy my sister a car.'

And so while Beth and Anna toil in obscurity, and struggle with intermittently ropey finances, the middle sister is a gleaming, gilded creature, with a manor house in the Cotswolds, a triplex penthouse in New York and all the adulation she can handle.

She is this year nominated for the sixth time for an Oscar. Her sisters, meanwhile, can count among their recent professional achievements a part in an obscure pop video and theatre workshops in the beer gardens of pubs.

The eldest sister Anna Winslet runs a small theatre production company with her husband Edmund Harcourt

The eldest sister Anna Winslet runs a small theatre production company with her husband Edmund Harcourt

Indeed, the story of Kate and her sisters, made all the more piquant by their extremely close physical resemblance, is a salutary tale about the effects of fame.

Kate's great good fortune has not made their lives easier. Indeed, having three acting Winslets has been so ticklish and awkward that, for a time, Anna, the eldest sister, considered changing her name.

Beth also contemplated giving up acting, the profession she loved, and going into nursery work and baby massage  -  jobs which have helped supplement her patchy income as a jobbing actor.

Friends say both have refused to read scripts which Kate has sent them, or to be set up with potentially useful contacts.

It's not because they dislike their sister but, quite creditably, they have been determined from the first to progress on the basis of their own talents, and not hers.

Both declined to speak directly this week for that very reason. The rule is that if it's about Kate, even remotely, they won't talk. And Anna in particular has no desire for the limelight.

So why are there three acting Winslets? The first fact to be acknowledged is that the Winslets are very much a family of luvvies.

Kate's maternal grandparents Oliver and Linda Bridges founded Reading Repertory Theatre.

Kate's mother, Sally, had a career on the stage and her father Roger added small parts in TV shows including The Bill and Casualty to his intermittent theatre work.

Both attended the Baftas with Kate this year and Sally was spotted exclaiming 'Perfect!' after her daughter's relatively low-key acceptance speech.

Kate said: 'It was always about the love of the work. It was about how you were going to be lucky if you got the episode of Casualty you were up for. Or "Wow. Did you hear? Kate's got a voice-over." It was the joy in the small moments.'

As you might glean from this account, Roger and Sally Winslet were not particularly successful.

Kate remembers they lived 'on a shoestring'. They plugged the long periods of 'resting' with part-time jobs. Roger's career was also blighted by a boating accident.

Kate's life on the red carpet is a far cry from her family's life in Reading

Kate's life on the red carpet is a far cry from her family's life in Reading

'It was very hand to mouth,' Kate recalls. 'I remember my dad getting up and going to deliver the post, as well as being the guy who helped tarmac the roads. He would drive a mini van.

'He did whatever he needed to do to make ends meet. He was a jobbing actor, like most actors. I didn't have a privileged upbringing, so I didn't have glamour in my face at all. If my mum brought home a lipstick, it was gone within a week because me and my sisters were all so f***ing thrilled that there was a lipstick in the house!'

They did not get a video recorder until she was 12, when her father bought a second-hand one from a friend in a pub. The children shared bedrooms and slept in bunkbeds.

Materially, the rest of the Winslet family do not seem to have moved on a great deal.

Kate may have a £12 million fortune, but there is scant evidence it has trickled down to the rest of the clan in Berkshire.

Her father, who drives an old green Vauxhall Vectra, is certainly an unpretentious character. He lives in a red-brick Edwardian house, having traded up four years ago from the tiny rented two-bedroom terrace where the family were raised and lived during the early years of Kate's success.

Kate's sister Anna and her husband Edmund Harcourt now live at the old family house, which is on a rather dingy street. They have been married for ten years, but have no children.

Beth Winslet starred in the obscure 1999 film Bodywork

Beth Winslet starred in the obscure 1999 film Bodywork

Anna has taken a very different path from Kate and says privately that she does not envy Kate. She's not interested in designer clothes and her husband said she does not even have a mobile phone. But she is every bit as into her acting.

Anna, like Kate, attended Redroof's theatre school. While Kate was sent aged ten, her older sister had to wait until she was 17.

The school's principal, June Rose, said: 'Anna has had really bad luck. She is certainly as talented as Kate - albeit in a different way - but she never got the breaks.

'I selected Kate, and not Anna, to read for the part of Juliet in Heavenly Creatures because somehow I could just see Kate and nobody else doing it.'

Anna, 36, runs a production company with Harcourt, Hogarth Productions. It takes touring theatre productions into pub gardens.

They have made films with youth offending teams on alcohol and drug addictions. She has also been in dozens of theatre productions, including the bizarrely titled Thalidomide!! The Musical.

She was in a film, a drama thriller called Somnolence, last year - her first celluloid venture in four years - yet to be released.

Beth, meanwhile, appeared in a pop video last year for Christopher D Ashley, an electro pop musician. Also starring in the video is her boyfriend, Henry Steedman, who is a photographer based in Reading.

Anna and her husband Edmund, above, toured with the 'Mikron' floating theatre company

Anna and her husband Edmund, above, toured with the 'Mikron' floating theatre company

He took the still picture of her, naked and smoking a cigarette, which is used as the cover of Ashley's album Cruel Romantics. She looks spookily like Kate.

In the past five years she has been in eight films, most of them less than 15 minutes long. None has been released.

She embarked on early motherhood aged 22 with partner Gareth Rhys Jones. Their child, George Bryn Mawr Winslet Jones, was born within a month of Kate's eldest, Mia, in 2000.

As with Kate's union with Jim Threapleton, she and Rhys Jones did not last.

Four weeks ago she and Steedman had their first child, Pearl.

There are sensitivities in play here.

Sally Winslet said, in an unguarded moment after Kate became famous: 'We are utterly sick of all the attention that Kate's career has brought.'

She went on: 'Anna is a very talented and hard-working actress who deserves to make it on her own.'

They will cheer her in Reading, though, if she wins, for the Winslet family loyalty is strong.

'They are close,' says a friend of Beth's 'but her success sets them apart.'

Come Sunday, that distance might just get a little bigger still.


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not debate this issue live on our message boards.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

You can't blame Kate if she's the one with the talent. Say what you want about her she is a very good actress and just because you have siblings doesn't mean that they will have or even deserve the same success! It seems many celebrity siblings think they can ride the coat tails of the more famous sibling; some can pull it off because the do have some talent of their own but that simply is not always the case!


Click to rate     Rating   96

It takes strength to stand alone and not accept help but it takes greater strength to swollow your pride and say hey, can you give me a hand here? Maybe pride forbids them to say, Kate got this part for us. Sad.

Click to rate     Rating   123

We've all got the same BIG features. Hardly English Roses.

Click to rate     Rating   218

Frankly it seems to me that Kate is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't. If the sister Beth is so talented then she should have read the scripts that her sister sent to her and used that as a launchpad to showcase her own unique talents. It seems to me that they are comfortable with obscurity (nothing wrong with that). They are afraid to step into the limelight. Kate wasn't and it brought her fame. That was her choice. Go Kate!

Casey Affleck shot a film with his famous brother Ben as the producer (Good Will Hunting) and has been Academy Award-, SAG Award - and Golden Globe- nominated.

Click to rate     Rating   25

If they want to succeed as actors they might try moving to London, NYC, or LA for a start - not sure how much work is available where they live..... also, being sent a script to read for is NOT getting the part nor is it that much 'help' it just gets them seen - not cast - that, they have to do on their own merit. they are cutting off their nose to spite their face it seems to me!

Click to rate     Rating   14

Sucess is earned and worked for - if they are any good they will make it. They should stop using their sisters name (Anna is married but chose to keep her maiden name) and they may be compared less as seen as an individual.

Click to rate     Rating   10

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