Kate Beckinsale: ‘Underworld’ role was a ‘personal experiment’

Jan. 21, 2012 | 1:01 p.m.
kate5 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale, star of the "Underworld" films. (Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times)

awakening1 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale stars as Selene in "Underworld: Awakening." (Joe Lederer/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures)

awakening3 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale stars as Selene in "Underworld: Awakening." (Joe Lederer/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures)

daughter Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

India Eisley plays the hybrid daughter of Selene and Michael Corvin in "Underworld: Awakening." (Joe Lederer/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures)

ealy Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Michael Ealy plays Detective Sebastian, a human cop who gets swept into the battle between Lycans and vampires. (Joe Lederer/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures)

ealy2 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Michael Ealy plays Detective Sebastian, a human cop who gets swept into the battle between Lycans and vampires. (Joe Lederer/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures)

vamps Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Theo James, front, plays David, a young vampire who leads a violent resistance in "Underworld: Awakening." (Joe Lederer/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures)

awakening2 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale stars as Selene in "Underworld: Awakening." (Joe Lederer/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures)

premiere1 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Len Wiseman and Kate Beckinsale arrive at the premiere of "Underworld Awakening" in Los Angeles on Jan. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

comic con2 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale speaks to the Hall H crowd at Comic-Con on July 22, 2011 in San Diego. (Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times)

evolution2 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale reprises her role as vampire Selene in the 2006 sequel "Underworld: Evolution." (Doug Curran/Screen Gems)

evolution1 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale reprises her role as vampire Selene in the 2006 sequel "Underworld: Evolution." (Doug Curran/Screen Gems)

evolution3 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale reprises her role as vampire Selene in the 2006 sequel "Underworld: Evolution." (Doug Curran/Screen Gems)

underworld4 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale as Selene in the 2003 film "Underworld." (Egon Endrenyi/Screen Gems)

underworld2 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale as Selene in the 2003 film "Underworld." (Egon Endrenyi/Screen Gems)

underworld3 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale as Selene and Scott Speedman as Michael Corvin in the 2003 film "Underworld." (Egon Endrenyi/Screen Gems)

underworld1 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale as Selene in the 2003 film "Underworld." (Egon Endrenyi/Screen Gems)

kate4 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale, star of the "Underworld" films. (Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times)

kate2 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale, star of the "Underworld" films. (Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times)

It’s difficult to reconcile Kate Beckinsale, the slender, silky-voiced actress leaning gracefully on a coral chaise at the Montage Hotel, with Selene, the cold-faced vampire woman who blasts hot metal into the bodies of her werewolf enemies in “Underworld: Awakening.”

In the film, which hit theaters Friday, Selene punches through somebody’s torso. In the Beverly Hills hotel on a recent January evening, Beckinsale absently tucks a soft curl behind her ear as she talks about diving into the vampires-versus-werewolves franchise for the third time. She emanates femininity. That’s how directors saw her a decade ago, when the “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Pearl Harbor” actress was turned down for parts because she appeared too innocent and soft.

“I’d had some feedback from casting directors kind of saying, ‘We don’t know if we really want to see her for this part, ’cause it’s a cop, and she’s really very delicate and British and fragile,’” Beckinsale said. “And I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something about that. I’ve got to play something that has a little bit more edge to it.”

underworld4 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale as Selene in the 2003 film "Underworld." (Egon Endrenyi/Screen Gems)

So, for “kind of a personal experiment,” she took a role that had more than a little edge, and a lot of bite. In “Underworld,” Beckinsale played an immortal assassin, or Death Dealer, locked in a generations-old blood feud with the Lycans, or werewolves.

“We kind of updated the vampire thing, which has always historically been rather old and old-fashioned and involving crucifixes and stakes and things, and brought quite a big arsenal of modern weaponry and cool stuff with it,” she said. It’s partly why “Underworld” has endured, she said, even as vampire-werewolf movies proliferate.

Clad in a skintight latex suit and double-fisting Beretta pistols in the franchise’s fourth installment, “Underworld: Awakening,” Beckinsale looks as ageless as she appeared in the first film in 2003. Her youthful visage, which led her to seek the role of Selene, is exactly what allows her, now 38, to convincingly reprise the character seven years later.

“I don’t know how long that’s going to work,” she said with a laugh. “The costume, and the hairstyle, and the amount of working out I have to do all came flooding back very quickly.”

Although the “Underworld” films aren’t beloved by critics, the franchise became a cult favorite, and along with her portrayal of vampire hunter Anna Valerious in “Van Helsing,” the role of Selene furnished Beckinsale with a reputation as one of Hollywood’s few female action heroes focused more on stunts than on sex appeal.

“I do think people like to see it working with a female lead. I think the guys like to see it, but I think the girls like to see it too,” Beckinsale said. “These movies are very entertainment. We’re not madly thinking we’re getting Oscars for them or anything, but there is something extremely gratifying about exactly that. The greatest heroines in these kinds of movies are few and far between, and they are exactly the ones that aren’t sort of winking in a sexy way at the camera.”

Beckinsale’s template for Selene, she said, is Sigourney Weaver’s performance as Ripley in the “Alien” films and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in the “Terminator” franchise.

“Beyond that, there’s been a lot of attempts, I think, with a female lead where they kind of blow it by trying to make them too archly sexy or too aware of their sexuality,” she said. “And that’s one of the things I really like about this, is that if you do find her sexy, it’s not essential, and it’s not really on purpose. It’s not something she’s doing.”

That’s not to say her fans don’t find Selene sexy. The vampire character has her own action figure. Young men turned out in droves to see Beckinsale and the filmmakers discuss “Awakening” at Comic-Con in July. And the new movie, despite receiving mediocre reviews, is expected to beat out the competition at the box office this weekend.

kate4 Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

Kate Beckinsale, star of the "Underworld" films. (Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times)

“I think that we were completely accidentally rather ahead of the vampire-werewolf obsession that seems to have swept the world,” Beckinsale said. “There hadn’t really been a kind of really big vampire movie since ‘Blade’ when we did the first one. I remember being pitched ‘Underworld’ by Len, actually, and him saying, ‘You know, there’s been some really cool vampire movies … and there’s been some good werewolf movies, but they’ve never really had them in the same movie fighting against each other.’ And of course, that seems unthinkable that anyone would say that now, ’cause it’s so commonplace, but at the time, it was rather a radical idea.”

“Awakening” shakes up the balance of power between Lycans, vampires and humans. After Selene wakes up in a laboratory, she discovers 12 years have passed, humans are now aware of the Immortals’ existence, they’re trying to eradicate the “virus” that causes vamps and werewolves, and her species is nearing extinction. She also learns she has a daughter — a hybrid child who can rip out a werewolf’s throat with her bare hands — played by India Eisley, the young actress who played Shailene Woodley’s little sister in “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”

The film brings new directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein to the franchise. (Wiseman, who co-wrote and produced “Awakening,” had his hands full directing “Total Recall.”) It also brings a fair amount of computer graphics to the series.

“I had never really come into contact with any CG on an ‘Underworld’ movie, and so that was a little bit like, ‘Oh no! That’s our whole hallmark is that we don’t have CG,’” Beckinsale said. “But unfortunately, one of the characters is this gigantic, massive uber-Lycan, and we couldn’t find anyone willing to wear a suit that big.”

Like the other “Underworld” films, “Awakening” finishes with much left unresolved. Does that mean Beckinsale will don the latex suit for another sequel?

“I love this character,” Beckinsale said. “I really am proud of the fact that I’ve gotten to play this kind of rather iconic empowered, empowering woman. I don’t want to only play one character for the rest of my life, sure, but as long as I feel like I can keep mixing it up, that’s what I’ve wanted to do since the beginning is just keep doing different things. As long as I can do that, I’d be happy to.”

– Noelene Clark

RECENT AND RELATED

blade Kate Beckinsale: Underworld role was a personal experiment

‘Underworld’ star: Latex suit is like ‘a giant condom’

‘Blade’: ‘Lost’ star stakes claim to vampire hunter

‘Buffy’ movie looking for new writer

Sucking the evil out of vampires

John Landis celebrates monster movies

Bill Nighy on being a zombie, a vampire, and a squid

‘Stake Land’ director talks vampires and Americana

‘Let Me In’ star: ‘I scare myself when I watch the movie’

‘Priest’: Not your mother’s vampire movie

‘Phantasm,’ the 30-year reunion interview

Comments


24 Responses to Kate Beckinsale: ‘Underworld’ role was a ‘personal experiment’

  1. I keep wanting the Underworld movies to be good but mostly they seem kind of boring.

  2. john says:

    This one rocks the house.

  3. john says:

    “You’re brilliant darling, completely and utterly brilliant.”

  4. guest says:

    she is the best actress to fill this role, she does it well and would watch any movie that she played in..
    she's a babe with a bite

  5. PCKR says:

    If the series continues without Michael…it is pointless. HE was the point of the original movie and they lost track of that. Sad.

  6. Sophie says:

    So if she was being turned down for these roles how DID she land the original Underworld role? The Underworld franchise is style over substance. That this is her claim to fame is not that impressive…

    • Mickey says:

      Sorry, her claim to fame is Pearl Harbor

      • Charlotte says:

        For me her "claim to fame" is Last Days of Disco, Cold Comfort Farm and Haunted. I've followed her career ever since. I don't always like her choices but her wide range of roles is never dull.

        @[jealous]Sophie, I think maybe Wiseman had a crush on her and specifically offered her the role of Selene. Which is a character in a franchise that most actresses would LOVE to have!

  7. Jake Evers says:

    I cannot imagine another woman doing it better. I can hardly wait to see the next installment. She's just too good.

  8. Jeff says:

    There’s nothing boring about Kate that’s a handsome woman

  9. Jerena Raye says:

    If u paid it attention….they kinda a re-introducing her character back since she wasn’t in the last….and since things changed it makes for a new storyline still incorporating off the old…and the hints show Micheal’s struggle and adjustments will be the next movie….so I say good job because this actually brings up the storyline and gives u more, making u ask questions of what will happen next…like are the Vampires secretly doing the same thing? What about this new character, will Seline’s interest change on the search for Micheal? ….I like this movie and they did a damn good job for this addition!!!

  10. Kai says:

    I'm an Underworld fan because of the "love story" that drives it. I fell in love with the Vampires because of Bram Stoker's Dracula, directed by Frances Ford Coppola. It's the story of unrelenting love. And "Underworld" is as well. The love between the Selene and Michael the hybrid drives the films. The back story that gave us the foundation that led us to Selene and Michael was incredibly beautiful. Even the Lycans appeared beautiful. Instead of being the antagonist they were suddenly the protagonists and we the viewers felt compassion and empathy for them. We understood their plight. Saw the latest Friday and I can't wait for the next

  11. Bryan says:

    I love what Beckinsale has done in theses movies and i hope she continues to make them because she is good in all of them.

  12. MayHem says:

    For those who are critical may I say that this is an action fantasy action and more fantasy film. The reason to watch it, is, Ms. Beckinsale's hot body in a black shiny rubber suit. The rest is just add-ons.

  13. FetishHeels says:

    I'll pay $12 to watch Kate Beckinsale in latex and a corset for 90 minutes. Wish she was running around in thigh high boots with 6" heels too. But that's be a bit far fetched for the fighting scenes, if not beautiful to watch. Oh, there's a story to it too?

  14. Jimmy G says:

    Hope this was filler for the next movie….. have been a fan from the start wasn't happy yes kate is hot… this better be the set up for a great new underworld movie because this was luke warm. :o(

  15. Fr. Dennis Kriz, OSM says:

    I do wonder if the appeal of a Beckinsale's character is that it is "the Jungian anima being let out to play," and I would suggest that even young women take notice. Young men are always being asked to "get in touch with their more feminine side." Characters like Beckinsale's and their overwhelming popularity with young men may be an invitation to young women to "get in touch with their action hero side." Beckinsale's is an enormously popular character, and honestly, any woman who stoops to go to a "comic con" convention becomes instantly enormously popular as well.

    Fr. Dennis Kriz, OSM http://frdennismoviereviews.blogspot.com/2012/01/

  16. sherri says:

    kick-ass Kate. I love to see women who aren't afraid to break a nail. You can out these women in any kind of movie. I like kate she can do a great american accent. I saw her in contraband. Who else can get her face mashed into a mirror without worrying about it.

  17. Vvv says:

    WTF is baretta !!!!!!

    • flipsyde336 says:

      i dnt know if u ask that if u really didnt know but a beretta is a semi auto pistol that we use in the army that officers carry as a side arm along with there m16. i have never seen fully automatic beretta like that b4 though but anything is possible though if u modify it.the movie is awesome but i didnt like the ending..i wish scott speedman was in there though instead of a guy they stuck in there that didnt even look like him..the computer imagery in the beginning was awful..my buddies drunk could have done better programming than that…

  18. picahuesos says:

    Hola! Me encantan las pelis de inframundo, sobre todo el personaje de kate, selene, es mi personaje favorito de toda la saga, y espero algun día poder conocer a kate (por cierto, me llamo andrea).

  19. Pandorra says:

    Loved the movie, can't wait for the next one and Kate is a must for the lead.

  20. keith g says:

    Kate B. must continue The Underworld Trilogy…

    If you guys write her out…

    You may as well throw all of your good work down the shitter…

    Because Kate is The Underworld Franchise Best…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Close
E-mail It
Powered by ShareThis