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Kate Beckinsale Interviews

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii, May 18, 2001--In this summer of 2001, Kate Beckinsale finds herself in a similar predicament to fellow Brit (and fellow Kate) Kate Winslet. After years of building a respectable art-house repertoire, she's got a starring role in what could potentially be the biggest commercial movie of the year. Her name is on World War II-themed posters, her face graces magazine covers and her life is being probed by prying reporters.

And like Winslet, who got married and had a child in the wake of Titanic's success, 27-year-old Beckinsale is also focused on motherhood (her daughter with actor Michael Sheen, Lily, is 2 years old) and a peaceful life. Hollywood.com spent a few minutes with summer's newest breakout star to get the dish on her side of Pearl Harbor.

Tell us about life pre-Pearl Harbor.

Kate Beckinsale: I'd just finished my first job back from having a child, The Golden Bowl, and I got sent a bunch of scripts. I loved this script. I thought it was amazing, it made me cry, and I really wanted to do it. And then before I knew what happened I was in Hawaii and it was the biggest movi--you can't even imagine.… It's taken me the last year to really realize what I've gotten myself into.

What have you gotten yourself into? Is the attention overwhelming?

Beckinsale: In a funny way, it isn't. I sort of believe that's not really me, it's [my character] Evelyn. I know that's really wanky to say that, but I don't really see me. My child, whenever she sees an attractive dark-haired woman on television, even if it's a supermodel, she kind of goes, 'Mommy!' And I love that…I'm not worrying if anybody's gonna go see it the way I usually am. At the end of the day you still feel like an actor going to work. I guess it might give you a taste for it.

In the attack scene, the nurses also find themselves dodging bombs and gunfire. How real was it?

Beckinsale: They have these scary safety meetings, and they hand you earplugs so you're slightly deaf. You can't rehearse it…they can tell you what's gonna happen and you have to do it. [The scariest thing was] they said, 'Please bear in mind, some people laugh when they get nervous. Please don't do that.' That was what I was the most scared of doing. There's 100 extras and fountains collapsing, and there's me cackling.

We understand the girls were required to wear all that stiff underwear of the period, the torpedo bras and such.

Beckinsale: They were big, flappy knickers, so sometimes we would cheat and leave them off. And we got our comeuppance, actually, 'cause there was an aerial shot with a helicopter that blew our skirts up--and that happened to be the day that we'd all gone commando.

We know it can't be hard, but explain how you manage to fall in love with both Ben Affleck, who plays Rafe, and Josh Hartnett, who plays Danny, in the same movie.

Beckinsale: I think Ben is the love of her life. He's funny and smart and butch and handsome. I think the relationship with Josh's character is grand passion in the same way, more like when you've lost somebody there is that moment afterwards when you need to reaffirm life a little bit, particularly if you both have this person in common. I think it's much more of a comfort thing that wouldn't last forever. It's all about the circumstances. I don't think she would've gotten together with Danny outside the circumstances, much as she thinks he's sweet.

Have you enjoyed coming back to Hawaii to do all this publicity?

Beckinsale: It's nice to come back here and not have anything explode.

Cutting edge. (English actress Kate Beckinsale)(Interview)

Author/s: Dina Rabinovitch
Issue: July, 1998

The English actresses who make it in America invariably give the impression that they enjoyed idyllic teenage summers of strawberries, tennis, and horseback riding; then attended Swiss finishing schools before heading to RADA. With her exquisite features, cut-glass accent, and air of aristocratic lassitude, Kate Beckinsale would appear, at first glance, to be no exception to this rule. First noticed in this country as the sweet Hero of Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing (1993), she was perfectly soignee as the protagonist of Cold Comfort Farm (1995) and Emma (1996). This spring, she was outstanding as a chirpy medical student from a rich background who slums with a couple of con men in the comedy Shooting Fish, and a supremely bitchy (and effortlessly East Coast) publishing peon in Whit Stillman's, The Last Days of Disco.

But, if usually cool and laid-back, Beckinsale doesn't recreate the same persona each time. She has the rare ability to make "posh" sympathetic by suggesting the neuroses--vulnerability, neediness, low self-esteem--that explain her privileged characters' resorting to slyness or cruelty. Even when she's playing a likable woman, Beckinsale isn't blithe; she imports qualities of patience and understanding that most screen acting is too busy to bother with. Perhaps one reason Beckinsale can put such a remarkably different face on each of her characters is her own emotional sophistication. The daughter of actress Judy Loe and beloved sitcom star Richard Beckinsale--who died of a heart attack at thirty-one when Kate was five--she has had to plumb the depths of her psyche as thoroughly as any twenty-four-year-old. A highly sensitive teenager, she won writing competitions that helped her get into Oxford University. Her writer's eye seems to have given her a developed sense of irony, although in person, she's neither as knowing or cutting as, say, The Last Days of Disco's Charlotte. During our conversation at the West London cafeteria where she once worked as a waitress, Beckinsale sometimes stopped short in the middle of a sentence and laughed at herself. It's the same self-awareness that makes her performances so vital.

DINA RABINOVITCH: Kate, tell me, did you just fall into acting?

KATE BECKINSALE: No. I think if your parents are in the business, it's always a question. Either you do go into it, or you quite dramatically don't. If I have children I am going to make sure people don't ask them, "Are you going to be an actor?" My mother said I could be anything I wanted except a policeman.

DR: It's lucky you didn't turn out to be a policeman then.

KB: I think I'm overqualified.

DR: You studied French and Russian at Oxford. Did you share a place with friends, like in The Last Days of Disco?

KB: Oh, no. I'm terrible at sharing. I need to have the option of lying flat on the carpet, pretending I am not in. I couldn't bear having flatmates who say, "Oh, yes, she's upstairs, go on up." That's the great thing about Michael [Sheen, Beckinsale's actor boyfriend]: he's an accomplice. He comes over and lies on the carpet with me.

DR: I suppose your need for privacy might be the result of growing up with a lot of step-siblings?

KB: Well, I was nine when Mum started living with Roy [Battersby, the director], and he had one daughter and four sons. They all came to stay for long weekends and holidays; they were around a fair bit. At first I didn't like boys: They seemed like these terrible foul-mouthed creatures. I was very pious and good at the time. Now of course, I've turned into the one who swears more than anybody. And I wouldn't be without my step-family.

DR: Your father died nearly twenty years ago, but he's still mentioned all the time.

KB: Yes, but that is also because he died young--he never went off the boil in his career. It's a very difficult thing, losing a parent, but I think there's an added complication for me, because he was so well-loved and he had this very open charm that made people feel they had a personal relationship with him.

DR: You went through quite a rough patch in your teens.

KB: I had a fair old bit to sort through. I was anorexic, weighing five stone [seventy pounds] at fifteen. I always felt that anorexia was the form of breakdown most readily available to adolescent girls. Its place and role in the family is very interesting: There is usually one person in the family who unknowingly becomes the catalyst for things--almost the scapegoat in a way--to stop the whole structure from collapsing. After I got better, I kept quiet about it for a long time. But then I began to think that a lot of people don't recover as well as I have, and I think I understand quite a lot about it, so I mentioned it in an interview with Company magazine. But the way they handled it was to say, "Isn't she thin? and, oh, how terribly tragic," and of course by then it had been several years since I'd had anorexia. It then became one of those things that follow you around. It made me feel quite funny talking about it.

DR: But you got through it.

KB: I had five years of intense Freudian analysis, which I don't think a lot of girls of my age do. I was never threatened with force-feeding. My family didn't respond to my anorexia as a physical illness, which was terribly important. Anorexia is a red herring, and I think if you address the red herring you're fucked, because everything that is going on underneath carries on. I know girls whose parents were kneeling on their chests and pouring ice cream down their throats. My parents would never have done that, even though they probably wanted to.

DR: Were you the only Brit on The Last Days of Disco?

KB: I was very much the foreigner working in an American accent. I think Whit [Stillman, the director] thrives on people not knowing exactly what they are doing. But where he is really very clever is that, in his films, you don't get a sense of the confusion we felt on set; people seem to know exactly what they are doing, I know when I watched [Stillman's] Metropolitan [1990], I thought, How did he get everybody to do that, to be so deadpan?

DR: How did he get you to do it then?

KB: Well, it's funny, there wasn't talk about motivation, but he would say things to me like, "Get yourself to America." [laughs]

DR: What did you make of Charlotte, your character?

KB: I thought she was pretty odious and pretty good fun, and it was enjoyable to play her.

DR: I'm struck by how very different you are from her.

KB: I think if you choose to play a part you must acknowledge some hideous part of yourself that is vaguely similar. I don't think that I am like Charlotte, but I wouldn't have been able to play her if I didn't understand her a bit. It's one of the risks of being an actor: You have to face the fact that you've got nasty pieces of work inside you.

DR: Is fame easier to deal with when you have famous parents?

KB: Michael and I were talking about this, and I said to him, "I don't want to get to the point where I can't go on the bus," and he said, "You never go on the bus." And I said, "I know, I know, but I don't want to have to take cabs." It's no fun that way.

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