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January 2006
Underworld 2: Evolution: An Interview with Kate Beckinsale

Underworld 2: Evolution: An Interview with Kate Beckinsale

By Brad Balfour

For Kate Beckinsale and Len Wiseman, this year bodes well, despite having a somewhat rocky kick off for their sequel to Wiseman's vampire-versus-werewolf war epic, "Underworld" (the film company is having only last-minute screenings for critics, as if they are reticent to promote the film full blast). Finally, they've gotten "Underworld: Evolution" out before the public and this viewer proclaims not only better than the first, it is a great genre film--one that successfully fleshes out the backstory, smoothes the rough edges exhibited in the first and once again displays Kate (that is Beckinsale) in fine, latex-clad form.

As fanboys everywhere are jealous that fellow fanboy Wiseman has won the ultimate prize--Beckinsale as his wife--we have his film as consolation.

And good consolation it is, as Beckinsale, the death dealer Selene, and Scott Speedman as Vamp/were-hybrid Michael Corvin fight to survive the onslaught of uber-vampire Marcus who wants to free his super-werewolf brother from captivity in order to terrorize the world. In speaking to blackfilm.com, Beckinsale goes over her character, how much her family was involved in the production, and what her future films.


DID YOU CONTRIBUTE MUCH TO THE CHARACTER/SCRIPT IN THIS ONE?

KB: I've never been involved with a movie from the moment it's a germ of an idea, right through the whole editing process and the special effects and all that stuff. So it was a great thing for me, right when we were starting to talk about story, I was definitely a part of that. I wasn't like a Yoko Ono, sort of controlling, a scary thing going on, but I was definitely consulted and involved. I couldn't be really, because it was sort of taking place in my living room most of the time. But yeah, it was nice to actually... I really wanted, if we were going to have a second strike at it, to open up Selene's character a little bit. So I was glad that was sort of what Len [Wiseman] had in mind as well.


DO YOU FEEL YOU'VE IMPROVED ON THINGS FROM THE FIRST FILM?

KB: It was a difficult job, you know, acting-wise, the first movie, because what you're trying to achieve with that character is, basically, the whole thing is sold on her being this bad ass, and a Death Dealer, but she's actually quite low on the food chain, so above her is Kraven, above that is Viktor, she's always a little bit subordinated, but in a movie like "Blade," they're usually not below 17 other people, and having to toe the line all the time, so it's actually quite difficult to make her as strong a character, and at the same time not over balance where her role was in the pecking order. So this time it was a little easier because they have struck out, Selene and Michael, much more on their own. And you do get more of a sense of what's happening, because in the first movie, she was wrong most of the way through it, confused and back footed, and that actually is really good fun for an actor, if your character has to do a real about face, but, obviously in terms of the context for the movie, we weren't able to go into that as much, as me as a completely over involvedit was nice to have done that in the second one.


HOW INVOLVED WERE YOU WITH THE GENRE BEFORE STARTING?

KB: Not so much. I was very much into action movies. It's a symptom of having had a child quite young and not being able to get a babysitter very often and get your adrenaline rush from, you know, watching people leap off tall buildings and things, and so I always really enjoyed that. I wasn't so much of a fantasy, horror--and that is really how I read the first script, was more of an action movie that happened to have a backdrop of the vampire, werewolf stuff.


IS IT SURPRISING TO YOU THAT YOUR CHARACTER WAS THAT INNOCENT IN HER YOUTH?

KB: That's actually my little girl [laughs].


SELENE SEEMS SO INNOCENT.

KB: That's an interesting thing, I don't think anyone's born tough. I think you learn tough, for whatever horrible reason, so for me yes, that's always sort of in the back of my mind, but it's nice to have the chance to show it.


HOW WAS YOUR DAUGHTER IN TAKING DIRECTION?

KB: We were quite worried, because obviously I didn't think she wouldn't take either of us that seriously on the set, and we both envisioned it as a situation where it'd be almost like trying to get her into a snowsuit, which is "No, I won't, I won't." And everybody here will be terribly embarrassed. But she suddenly became highly professional, to the point of even... I think Len called her over and said, just in this one, can you just look over your shoulder? And she said, "Uh, could you call me Selene?" It was really cute. But I certainly didn't insist on being called Selene, so she didn't get that from me.


HOW OLD IS SHE?

KB: She'll be seven at the end of this month.


SO IT WORKED OUT. DOES SHE WANT TO BE AN ACTOR?

KB: Actually the plan worked quite well. I think the lure of the donuts in the beginning, on the craft service table, was quite heavy. And still is, exactly. And then just the sheer boredom of having to do it over and over again, so now she wants to be a writer. [laughs]


HOW HARD IS IT TO DROP YOUR WORK WHEN YOU GO HOME, ESPECIALLY SINCE YOU'RE MARRIED TO THE DIRECTOR?

KB: More difficult, I mean, I don't sit there biting people or anything, it's nothing like that, it's more--especially when you're part of a script--it can be quite an organic process, filmmaking, where you need to kind of tweak things as you go along. It was quite tiring, because I did find I had more involvement in scenes that I wasn't in.


YOU'RE TRYING TO LIVE YOUR LIFE AND IT'S GOING AROUND IN YOUR BRAIN.


KB: I know, I'm banned from my local Sav-on for elbowing people in the throats constantly [laughs]. No, it's actually not too bad; this is a character that I'm quite familiar with, and I think actors always like to think they don't bring the character home, and then their family all laugh and tell you otherwise, but I don't feel too much like that.


WHAT ABOUT WEARING THE SKINTIGHT LATEX JUMP SUIT?

KB: At home? No, not often [laughs].


WAS THE SUIT OPPRESSIVE THOUGH?

KB: It's actually extremely comfortable costume, surprisingly enough. You do panic a bit when you've got Latex for several months ahead of you, and there's not a scene where she turns and gets into sweats or anything. It's pretty much that. So, it gives you a little gasp, but actually it tends to sort of hold everything together and stop it moving. [laughs]


HOW TRICKY IS IT TO DO A LOVE SCENE IN FRONT OF YOUR HUSBAND?

KB: Well, it wasn't too bad, I mean, we were able to sort of block out the moves together, obviously, because he actually was allowed to touch me at home [laughs]. Len was. And sometimes I'd let him. And then, we sort of put it off a bit, because Scott [Speedman]--who has become quite a family friend--I think it's sort of easier to do something like that with somebodyǬ you haven't had Fourth of July barbecues with and things like that. So we kept finding we were postponing it to the following week. Actually, when we came down to do it, Len and I were all right, and Scott was just tortured. I think it was worse, much worse for him. He's the one who has a moveable part.


DID HE HAVE A GIRLFRIEND AT THE TIME?


KB: She wasn't there, he was quite quiet about that sort of stuff. I don't know whether it would have necessarily been--I don't know if it moved to the girlfriend's...


WHY DO YOU THINK THIS GENRE, AND THIS FILM IN PARTICULAR, ATTRACTS GREAT BRITISH ACTORS LIKE YOU AND BILL NIGHY AND DEREK JACOBI?

KB: That's what we wanted the first time around. That's why we had Michael Sheen and Bill, because obviously, with vampires, you've really got an opportunity to cast people that could be believable for having been around for hundreds and hundreds of years, and you need people who have a certain weight and gravitas to them. So it makes a difference, It's nice that not everybody has got their own MTV special. Just me. [laughs]


ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE ACTION FIGURES THAT LEN HAS?

KB: Those things that are not to be called toys? Yeah, he's actually very good. We did watch "40 Year Old Virgin" and screamed and laughing. Just because it is a bit like that in our house, except that he does keep them at his office, it's not like they're just gazing down from the living room walls.


HE'S A BIG FAN BOY.

KB: What we say in our house is the geeks shall inherit the earth. [laughs]


DID YOU HAVE TO DO A LOT OF STUNT WORK YOURSELF--WHICH WAS THE TOUGHEST SCENE TO SHOOT?

KB: Yeah, I did. There was one scene, that originally Len wanted me to jump off a cliff, and then just the sheer panic of killing his wife, he called that one off. But most of the other stuff, it was the same as on the first one, where I was allowed to do it. Len really likes us to do as much as we can, because it's more interesting for the audience to see us risking life and limb. And we had this brilliant stunt team, so it didn't feel unsafe. What will happen is, everyone gets very geared up for when you have to do a big jump or a big wire stunt or something, and the times when you hurt yourself is when you're just turning a corner in a corridor. I think the first punch I threw, I hit the side of the camera and it really hurt. But it's always the least interesting thing. Whenever I'm jumping off 50 feet, it always goes better for me. [laughs]


IS THERE A MASTER PLAN FOR A NUMBER OF FILMS YOU"LL DO, OR DO YOU WAIT FOR THE BOX OFFICE?

KB: It's a combination of both. When Len and Danny [McBride] sat in that front room, scraping together as many coins as they could to go to subway, they planned on three, never thinking that any of them would actually happen, or hoping that they would. And they always conceived that the third one would be some sort of prequel, set in Medieval times, and I don't think I'd be invited to do that one anyway, so I don't know. I think it is very dependent on whether people actually go.


RIGHT NOW LEN IS PLANNING ON A TRILOGY?

KB: People are talking about it a lot, and He's not wanting to--obviously I completely speak on his behalf, but I'm going to anyway, since he's not here--I think he would love an opportunity to not just be doing creature movies. It can be very oppressive, given that he likes to do things so practically, having a guy in a six foot rubber wolf suit is tough going, and he's not that guy. He happens to have started with "Underworld," but he's not got the fangs and the cloak at home, so I think before that happened, he'd actually quite liked to try some other stuff.


DO YOU THINK THEY'D DO A THIRD FILM WITHOUT YOU?

KB: Well it entirely depends on when it would be, If Len does three movies first, I'm not sure my ass will be in any state to get into that suit again, I'll be 45 or something, I don't think anyone wants to go and see that. But I don't know. It's one of those things I guess we'll just sort of wait and see what happens.


IF THERE WAS A THIRD FILM. WHAT WOULD BE INTERESTING FOR YOU ABOUT THE CHARACTER?

KB: I'm a little bit confused, because of it being a prequel, I think it would be before I was even a vampire, so I would probably be sort of in wafty frocks and having highlights and things, which obviously doesn't feel very Selene to me at this point.


IS LEN EVER SURPRISED THAT IT WORKED TO HAVE YOU IN THIS ROLE; DID HE ALWAYS HAVE YOU IN MIND?

KB: He didn't at the time, no, and I think what convinced him was a movie I did called "Last Days of Disco," in which I was actually quite bitchy, and he saw something that he responded to. Once he's seen something and decided something, he does have confidence in it. So I don't think he panicked too much about that. Now that he knows me better, he realizes what a gigantic acting stretch it actually was. I'm such a girly girl, he now finds it amusing, whereas before he just thought I Ķ



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