NEW YORK – Kate Winslet pulled off the expected Sunday night, winning the Academy Award for best actress for her quietly powerful performance in “The Reader.”
Winslet was giddy and emotional as she accepted her trophy.
“I’d be lying if I haven’t made a version of this speech before,” she said. “I think I was probably eight years old and staring into the bathroom mirror and this (Oscar) would be a shampoo bottle. But it’s not a shampoo bottle now.”
She thanked her husband, director Sam Mendes, and their two children. And she also thanked her father, saying “Dad, whistle or something ’cause then I’ll know where you are.” He whistled back from his seat at the Kodak Theatre.
“You just don’t think that these dreams that seem so silly and so impossible could ever really come true,” Winslet said backstage.
This is the first Oscar for Winslet, who’s been nominated five other times for her roles in “Titanic,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Iris,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Little Children.”
But the British actress seemed a shoo-in to win this year: She gained Oscar momentum after snagging a best supporting actress award at the Golden Globes for her role as a former Nazi camp guard in “The Reader,” as well as best dramatic actress for her role as an unhappy housewife in “Revolutionary Road.”
Winslet, 33, received more recognition on the awards circuit for “The Reader.” Her portrayal of Hanna Schmitz – a woman having a passionate affair with a teenager who encounters her again years later while she is on trial for Holocaust crimes – was raw and restrained, netting her additional trophies at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and British Film Academy Awards.
The best-actress category was loaded with strong contenders: Meryl Streep was another front-runner with her 15th acting nomination as a prickly nun in “Doubt.” Anne Hathaway played against her wholesome image as a toxic narcissist who leaves rehab to wreak havoc on her sister’s wedding in “Rachel Getting Married.” Angelina Jolie dug deep to portray a mother of a missing child in “Changeling.” And Melissa Leo was powerful as mom who forges an unlikely friendship in “Frozen River.”