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It was the highest-grossing film of all time to that point, after which she eschewed parts in blockbusters in favour of critically acclaimed period pieces, including Quills (2000) and Iris (2001), which were not widely seen.
The science fiction romance Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), in which Winslet was cast against type in a contemporary setting, proved to be a turning point in her career, and she gained further recognition for her performances in Finding Neverland (2004), Little Children (2006), Revolutionary Road (2008), and The Reader (2008).
She found the script brave and was challenged by the idea of portraying an unlikable, manipulative woman.
David Rooney of Variety wrote, "Showing the kind of courage few young thesps would be capable of and an extraordinary range [...] from animal cunning to unhinged desperation, [Winslet] holds nothing back." The following year, she played a fictitious mathematician involved in the cracking of the Enigma ciphers in Michael Apted's espionage thriller Enigma.
The director Ang Lee wanted Winslet to play the part with grace and restraint—aspects that he felt were missing from her performance in Heavenly Creatures—and thus asked her to practice tai chi, read gothic literature, and learn to play the piano.
She prepared for the part by reading the transcripts of the girls' murder trial, their letters and diaries, and interacted with their acquaintances.
The workload allowed her only four hours of sleep per day and she felt drained by the experience.
Winslet did not view Titanic as a platform for bigger salaries.
While promoting Heavenly Creatures in Los Angeles, Winslet auditioned for the minor part of Lucy Steele for a 1995 film adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility, starring and written by Emma Thompson.
Impressed by her reading, Thompson cast her for the much larger part of the recklessly romantic teenager Marianne Dashwood.