Kate’s first screen test as Titanic‘s Rose DeWitt Bukater was not with Leonardo DiCaprio, but with Jeremy Sisto. After hearing Gwyneth Paltrow, Gabrielle Anwar, and Claire Danes had passed on the part of the young socialite, Winslet eagerly lobbied for the role. That meant she sent director James Cameron notes on a daily basis from England, and her agent likewise did all she could to encourage Cameron to give Winslet a chance.

Eventually, Kate indeed was invited to audition in Hollywood. But as impressive as this first screen test was, Cameron was hesitant to cast Winslet as he was looking for someone more along the lines of Audrey Hepburn. But because she “had the thing that you look for,” according to the famous director, he continued to give Winslet a shot; when she later screen tested with Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate was so taken with DiCaprio’s performance that she advised Cameron, “He’s great. Even if you don’t pick me, pick him.” Still fighting to play Rose, Winslet sent Cameron a rose with a card signed “From Your Rose” and by calling him. One day she called his cell phone and urged him further, asserting, “You don’t understand! I am Rose! I don’t know why you’re even seeing anyone else!” Her talent and persistence eventually landed her the part.

The epic romantic film went on to be nominated for fourteen Academy Awards–and one of those nominations was for Winslet’s performance. The film was also the first to gross over a billion dollars–and eventually raked in over two billion across the globe.

The English actress and mother of three will be turning 40 in October and says she’s looking forward to it. “I’m very excited about it. The last couple of years I’ve done a lot; had the baby, creatively it’s been a really interesting, diverse, and fulfilling time for me and so I kind of feel that when I get to that 40th birthday, I will have earned it.”

Did you ever just know you were perfect for a part? How hard did you fight for it?