Flopping down on a sofa at New York's Waldorf-Astoria, fanning herself and wondering if a spot of deodorant is in order, Winslet eyes the tray of coffee on the other side of the room and shakes her head. When her friend arrives, she wants him to focus. ''I better bring that over or trust me, he will be up and down five times,'' she says with a motherly cluck.
These two know each other well. Twelve years ago they strapped on a pair of harnesses and leaned innocently into the prow of a doomed ship. The Titanic sank, box office soared. Then what was the most expensive movie ever made went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time. Suddenly the young stars couldn't escape their sudden fame. ''We did Titanic and then Leo went off, and I thought, 'Oh, dear Lord, protect him,' '' says Kathy Bates, who played the Unsinkable Molly Brown. ''Because Hollywood can be so destructive. I guess I worried less about Kate, because she was in the English system and I knew she'd have wonderful parts that would keep her feet on the ground. But I knew through it all, they'd be truly, truly friends to each other.''
Hollywood has been panting to rekindle their romance on screen ever since. However, the duo decided long ago that their days of star-crossed swooning were behind them. It wasn't until Winslet read Richard Yates' novel Revolutionary Road, a classic tale of '50s suburban regret about a young married couple desperate to escape the dreariness of their lives, that she figured a reunion was in order.
When DiCaprio enters the room, still looking boyish in his jeans and black Nikes, Winslet can't help but beam. (On the set of Revolutionary Road, the pair would sometimes pretend to interview each other, each posing as a journalist giddy to know what it's like for the Titanic stars to be back in each other's arms.) Winslet, 33, married with two young children, has racked up five Oscar nominations. DiCaprio, 34, still single, still reliably in the company of a supermodel, has three nods to his name. ''The thing that is amazing for me is they started off on equal footing and they're still on equal footing,'' says Winslet's husband, Oscar- winning director Sam Mendes, who took the helm of Revolutionary Road. ''If you think about Star Wars there's an example of a movie that was seismic in the culture at the time there's a big difference between what happened to Harrison Ford and what happened to Mark Hamill.''
When Winslet talks of luck, DiCaprio bends toward her and barks in a creaky patrician accent: ''Key word, dear. Lucky! Keep using it.'' She elbows him as if he's her rascally little brother, and they're off. Enjoy their banter while you can. ''I think they'll go on doing a movie together only once every 10 years,'' says Mendes.
NEXT PAGE: ''We have a level of understanding which I really don't have with another actor that I've ever worked with at all,'' says Kate on reteaming with her Titanic co-star.