It’s always exciting when you first behold a young actor or actress on-screen and recognize that you’re watching a star in the making. That’s what happened to me back in 1995, when I went to see Ang Lee’s first English language film, “Sense and Sensibility”, based on Jane Austen's book.

Playing Emma Thompson’s fiery, headstrong sister was a young player I’d never seen before, who literally stole the picture. Her name, I quickly discovered, was Kate Winslet.

Kate's special gifts were spotted early on. With both her parents and grandparents prominent in the English theatre, it seems she was a natural from the get-go.  She was acting professionally at age 11, starred in her first film at 17, was Oscar-nominated at 20 (for “Sense”), then tapped by the Academy again just two years later for a movie that made her an international sensation at 22.

That feature, of course, was James Cameron’s “Titanic” (1997), a record-breaking movie that’s enchanted millions of viewers, though I wasn’t one of them. Still, Kate’s winning portrayal of Rose (and that incredible wind-up) helped redeem some (for me) pretty glaring shortcomings in character development and script.

After Oscar night in 1998, when this young actress had to be asking herself, “What do I do for an encore?”, she had the right instinct. To her credit, for the most part Kate has avoided vacuous Hollywood blockbusters, focusing instead on smaller, smarter pictures worthy of her abilities and intelligence.

As of this writing, with six Oscar nods and one win to her credit, Kate Winslet is an actress at the peak of her powers- no longer a precocious ingénue, but a seasoned pro who’s unsurpassed at tackling nuanced, complex female characters. She proved this once again in 2012, winning a Golden Globe and an Emmy for the acclaimed mini-series “Mildred Pierce”, based on the James Cain novel (and Joan Crawford movie) of the same name.

Doubtless Kate will hit a few more career peaks in the years to come. I — and many others — look forward to seeing it happen.