Kate Winslet thinks Tom Cruise is ‘fed up' hearing about her 'Avatar' underwater record

Patrick Ryan

Kate Winslet is never letting go of James Cameron

Twenty-five years after they shattered box-office records with 1997's "Titanic," the Oscar-winning actress and director have reunited on "Avatar: The Way of Water" (now in theaters), the highly anticipated sequel to 2009's "Avatar."

In the eye-popping sci-fi epic, Winslet plays the sagacious Ronal, an alien queen and healer who leads the oceanic Metkayina clan. When humans return to the planet of Pandora and begin to ravage its forests, human-turned-Na'vi Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his family find shelter with Ronal's tribe, which teaches the Sully brood how to fight and communicate underwater. 

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Ronal (Kate Winslet, left) and husband Tonowari are leaders of the Metkayina clan in "Avatar: The Way of Water."

Winslet, 47, says she was "immediately on board" when Cameron approached her about the role, which was entirely done with motion capture technology. 

"I'm a mother now, and he knows who I am as a parent as well as an actor," Winslet says. "And he certainly knows how far I can be pushed and the challenges that I'm happy to meet, so it made sense to me why he would consider that I might be interested in Ronal. Because that's who she is: a mother and a leader living with integrity and truth, and also physically very robust and resilient." 

In the months leading up to production, Winslet trained extensively in free-diving to learn how to hold her breath underwater for the film's many sequences of Ronal riding "skimwing" (a sort of flying fish) and speaking to "tulkun" (the Pandoran version of a giant whale). Her husband, businessman Edward Abel Smith, practiced alongside her for support. 

"Ned is an extremely fit, healthy person and is capable of a great many things," Winslet says. "He trained with me so that if I needed to practice without our instructor there we were safe because you really can't do it by yourself. It's the same as scuba diving: You have to have a buddy. It's a sport, it's a skill, and your body adjusts to be able to do that thing. So having Ned there was very important." 

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Kate Winslet on the red carpet at the London premiere of "Avatar: The Way of Water" earlier this month.

The grueling work paid off for Winslet, who held her breath underwater for seven minutes and 14 seconds while filming "Avatar 2." She broke a record previously held by Tom Cruise, who lasted six minutes underwater shooting 2015's "Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation." The actress says she hasn't heard from Cruise about besting his time. 

"Poor Tom," Winslet says with a grin. "I mean, I don't know Tom at all – I've never met him in my life – but I'm sure he's getting very fed up of hearing this story of how I broke his record. I loved it, though. ... I was amazed how good I was at it and how I just kept getting better." 

Winslet's co-star, Sigourney Weaver, insists there was no breath-holding competition among the "Avatar" cast. 

"We were delighted for Kate that she did that," Weaver says. "My husband (theater director Jim Simpson) and I both did 6 ½ minutes, which was astonishing to us and our teacher, Kirk Krack, who teaches the Navy SEALs. Everyone had a personal best." 

'Yeah, I'm definitely dead':Kate Winslet held her breath for 7 minutes filming 'Avatar 2'

Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio, left) and Rose (Kate Winslet) are doomed lovers aboard the "Titanic" in James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster.

As the first of four planned sequels, expectations are high for "Avatar 2" to approach the $2.7 billion global box office for the first film. But Winslet says she has always had faith in Cameron, even as a 21-year-old relative newcomer shooting "Titanic," which was plagued by budget overruns and delays. 

"It was a really, really hard shoot, but I don't remember actually hearing the rumors about 'movie in peril,' " Winslet says. "I was just there to play the role as best I could, and I always trusted Jim's vision for it without questions. Plus, our sets and everything – we could all see it was very impressive, and we could feel it was extremely groundbreaking, powerful, interesting stuff. And as an actor, there's always the element of, 'Oh, well, a bit of a wing and a prayer, and hope this turns out OK.'" 

Winslet watched "Avatar 2" for the first time at its London premiere onDec. 6. Before then, she had only seen a few still images of Ronal, which she eagerly shared with her three children: Mia, 22, Joe, 19, and Bear, 9. 

"All of us were like, 'Wow, that's what she's going to look like! God, how cool!' " Winslet says. "It really does look like me: That really is my mouth and they have my beauty mark. But it's really fun for (the kids) to see that stuff. Mia and Joe remember and loved the first film, so they're incredibly excited."