She and Sam Mendes became the model of amicable Hollywood splits.

By Isabel Jones
Apr 15, 2021 @ 12:43 pm
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Kate Winslet, Sam Mendes
Kate Winslet, Sam Mendes
| Credit: Justin Goff/UK Press via Getty Images

Who: Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes, 55, and Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet, 45.

How They Met: It was business before it was pleasure. The pair met in 2001 to discuss Winslet's possible involvement in two productions Mendes was directing at the Donmar Warehouse theater in London. Though Winslet knew her schedule wouldn't accommodate the plays, "You're not going to say 'no' to meeting with Sam Mendes, are ya now?" The actress told Vanity Fair that while she "didn't want to do the plays," she "definitely wanted to get [Mendes's] phone number." Winslet's friend and former co-star Emma Thompson ultimately played cupid when she later invited both parties over for a barbecue.

TBT: Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes
Credit: Evan Agostini/ImageDirect

Mendes and Winslet began dating soon after the actress separated from her first husband, Jim Threapleton, leading to much tabloid speculation that there was some overlap between the relationships. Winslet wasn't surprised by the media's narrative. "We knew that they would say we had been having an affair," the Titanic star told The Guardian in 2004. "We weren't stupid. Though, of course, it wasn't true."

In May 2003, less than two years after Mendes had confirmed the relationship, the couple eloped while on vacation in the West Indies. They welcomed their son, Joe, later that year

Why We Loved Them: For a while, the relationship seemed kismet. I mean, these two were literally born in the same hospital! They wore matching suits (see below)! They were both reportedly afraid of flying!

TBT: Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes
Credit: SGranitz/WireImage

Plus, it boded well for the relationship that Winslet found small acts of love romantic. "I'm not one for big, grand gestures," she told Harper's Bazaar, explaining that she was impressed by "Sam calling me at three in the afternoon, saying, 'I'm coming home now. I'm done for the day.'"

When They Peaked: 

It takes a very special relationship to withstand a partner having simulated sex with Leonardo DiCaprio. 

The American Beauty director cast his wife opposite her Titanic co-star and close friend in domestic drama Revolutionary Road

In 2008, Mendes told The Guardian that he'd direct DiCaprio and Winslet's sex scenes from a different room, shouting from around the corner, "Leo, don't bang her head so hard against the kitchen cabinets!"; "Could you not do it for so long this time?"

He said DiCaprio would respond with follow-ups: "Like how long?" and he'd counter, "About 45 seconds," to which the actor would push further. "Really? Only 45 seconds?" 

"I chose to ignore the obvious inference," Mendes recalled. "I said: What's wrong with 45 seconds? That's a long time. Anyone would be lucky…"

TBT: Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes
Credit: Lester Cohen/WireImage

Winslet had a more visceral reaction to the scenes. 

"I had a total meltdown," Winslet said of the experience. "Sam was there lining the scene up. I'd get things like, 'Press your hands into his back! No, his back!' You just have to deal with it. Leo was remarkably fine with the whole thing."

Though Mendes and Winslet announced their divorce about a year after the film was released, by all accounts the experience appeared to bring them closer. 

Mendes told Reuters that he was happily surprised to see "how much fun" Winslet was on set. "She's very warm with the crew, a very good company leader, and I found myself actually a bit in awe of that sometimes," he said. 

TBT: Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes
Credit: KMazur/WireImage

"I was just relieved that it was better than I had hoped, and that we didn't have any major rows," he continued. "Put it this way, if you spend 14 hours-a-day staging enormous rows and fights between a married couple on a movie set, the last thing you're going to do when you go home with your wife is to have a row."

"The split is entirely amicable and is by mutual agreement," the pair's lawyer said in a statement. "Both parties are fully committed to the future joint parenting of their children."

A year later, Winslet told Harper's Bazaar UK that she refused to "shit-fling" when it came to her ex.

"One thing I will say about me and Sam is that it's fine, it's really fine," she insisted. "We're grown-ups at the end of the day, and however hard it's been for me, it's been equally hard for him. And we have a child together who we both love — and raising him together, jointly and without any conflict, is absolutely key."

TBT: Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes
Credit: J. Merritt/FilmMagic

Divorce aside, Mendes had Winslet's back when she came under attack in 2013. 

A U.K. fathers' rights group came for the actress after she told Vogue, "My kids don't go back and forth; none of this 50/50 time with the mums and dads – my children live with me; that is it."

Fathers4Justice then launched an ad featuring Winslet's face accompanied by the words, "Kate, every child deserves their father this Christmas."

Mendes reportedly fought back against the group, stating, "It is inappropriate for this organisation to involve my family and I when they know nothing of our personal circumstances. Whilst I fully support fathers' rights, I can happily state this has never been a concern for me or my son."

TBT: Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes
Credit: Eric Charbonneau/VF/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

In 2015, Winslet said she prided herself on withholding details about her divorces with the public. 

"No one really knows why my first marriage didn't last; no one knows why my second didn't," she told the WSJ. Magazine. "And I'm proud of those silences."

Where They Are Now: 

Mendes wed musician Alison Balsom in 2017 — they welcomed daughter Phoebe that same year.

The director went on to score three Oscar noms in 2020 for this acclaimed World War I film 1917. He's currently attached to Empire of Light starring Olivia Colman.

Winslet remarried as well, tying the knot with Richard Branson's nephew, Edward Abel Smith (formerly "Ned RocknRoll") in 2012. They welcomed son Bear Blaze in late 2013. 

Next up for the Oscar-winning actress is HBO Max limited series Mare of Easttown, in which Winslet plays a detective in small-town Pennsylvania. The series launches April 18. 

#TBT: Check in every Thursday as we throw it back to some of our favorite celebrity couples of all time.