NEW YORK – 'It's a bloody lot of old crap."
That's how Kate Winslet dismisses the media obsession about her weight -- sparked most recently by that extensively airbrushed image on the cover of British GQ.
The 27-year-old actress and mom, wearing towering heels, a skin-tight basque and a sultry expression, was transformed into a Playboy model with impossibly skinny thighs and a stomach as flat as an ironing board.
"I'm not 6 feet tall for a start, I'm 5-foot-6," Winslet told The New York Post. "And I look about 100 pounds in that thing."
Winslet swears she doesn't know how much she weighs -- "probably 130 pounds," she guesses -- and she can't believe how many people care.
But she's willing to accept part of the blame.
"The reality is, maybe all this focus on me and my figure and tra-la-la-la-la is my own fault," says Winslet, who's now in New York filming Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, written by Charlie Kaufman and co-starring Jim Carrey.
"After I did Titanic, I realized that there was a lot of pressure on women to be a certain size to be successful as an actress.
"And I thought, 'Isn't that insane?' So I just came out in an interview and said, 'Look, I'm doing well at the thing that I love doing and I'm not starving myself.' And from then on, it has plagued me."
Even Variety, in its review of The Life of David Gale, which hits theaters Friday, paused to note that Winslet had "slimmed down."
So -- the $64,000 question -- how does Winslet look in real life?
She looks great. Normal. As she rolls her own cigarettes and complains about the dry winter air sapping moisture from her skin, she looks like a very beautiful size 10.
Granted, that's a few notches up the rack from the rest of Hollywood, where size 0 is the norm for A-list stars.
David Gale director Alan Parker scoffs at the notion that he asked Winslet to shed pounds for her role as a hard-nosed news magazine journalist who interviews death-row prisoner David Gale (Kevin Spacey).
"We had no discussion about her size," he says. "When she arrived for the film, she looked pretty great to me."
The British press, though, has been far less kind: Already critical of her weight, Fleet Street accused her of being a bad mother when she divorced Jim Threapleton, an assistant director and father of her 2-year-old daughter, Mia, and shacked up with Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes.
"I'll tell you what that felt like -- it reminded me of being a fat kid at school, doing nothing wrong, being really nice to everybody, and being bullied and being unable to fight back," she says.
"It's really, really hurtful. I cried. A lot."
She's had to read plenty of lies about her relationship with Mendes, she says, including the "news" that he had given her a ruby engagement ring.
"Hello! I've never owned a ruby anything, and Sam has never given me a ring," she says.
But it's no rumor that they're still in love: Mendes, who made theater history last Friday when he became the first triple winner at Britain's prestigious Laurence Olivier awards, reduced Winslet to tears with his acceptance speech:
"I want to say thank you to my partner, Kate, because [his plays] are about love, and it helps when you direct them to have some personal experience of it."
But, Winslet says, Mia remains her No. 1 priority.
"If I'm going to go to work -- which is a big thing for me, because I don't want to leave the house in the morning half the time because I've got Mia at home -- it has to be something that I really care about."
David Gale was such a project. Winslet researched the subject of the death penalty thoroughly, and spoke to several high-profile female New York journalists.
"They were very useful to me," she says. "I really couldn't have done it without their advice.
"And," she laughs, "the one thing I really learned is there's no such thing as 'off the record.' "