Gotham Awards: Gotham Tribute

What do you do after starring in the most successful movie of all time? If you’re Winslet, you scale back — but you don’t disappear.

After 1997′s “Titanic,” Winslet ignored all the conventional career blueprints and retreated from mainstream Hollywood, taking on indie projects like “Hideous Kinky” and Jane Campion’s “Holy Smoke” and occasionally stepping back into the awards-season limelight with prestige pics such as “Quills” and “Iris.”

Nine years later, what most agents would have called a risky move has spawned a career marked by industrywide respect and the unconditional love of audiences and critics.

She holds the record for most Oscar nominations (four) of any actor before the age of 30, and now, at 31, could be looking at a fifth citation for her work in Todd Field’s “Little Children.” (She’s also been nominated for four Golden Globes and won a BAFTA.)

Now Winslet is gearing up for the release of Sony’s “The Holiday” — a romantic comedy also starring Cameron Diaz, Jack Black and Jude Law, and easily her most commercial project since “Titanic.” A return to the mainstream, perhaps?

“I’ve always sort of acted on instinct when it comes to material, and it was just a purely instinctive decision,” Winslet says. “It was really only after loving the script as much as I did that I thought, ‘Oh god, it’s a romantic comedy, isn’t it?’ ”

But then technically, so was 2004′s wondrously warped “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” in which she played Clementine, an endearing and exasperating chatterbox whose mood swings were as unpredictable as her hair color. The role earned Winslet her fourth Oscar nomination.

“It wasn’t really until ‘Eternal Sunshine’ that I think I personally found my contemporary feel,” says Winslet, who has earned a reputation as a period-piece princess for her work in films such as “Sense and Sensibility” and “Finding Neverland.” “The lid was really taken off in so many ways, just through playing that character and working with Michel Gondry. It was just a liberating experience.”

This year, Winslet has been more visible than ever, thanks not only to “Little Children” and “The Holiday” but also “All the King’s Men” and animated pic “Flushed Away,” in which she gave voice to a blowzy sewer rat.

Though some actresses may complain — with good reason — about the paucity of strong roles in today’s Hollywood, Winslet isn’t one of them.

“Quite honestly, I haven’t had that experience, and I think I’m very lucky. I cannot complain,” she says, then quips, “When I’m 35 and everything’s full of shit, talk to me again. I may feel differently.”

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