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Kate Beckinsale on Love & Friendship

May 10, 2016

By: Lynn Barker

You might be familiar with actress Kate Beckinsale from the Underworld films or as the heroine in the epic movie Pearl Harbor but she has a background in Shakespeare and period dramas. She is a hoot in her new film Love & Friendship based on a Jane Austen novella called “Lady Susan”. If anybody knew how to write complicated, interesting women it was Jane.

A happy Lady SusanA happy Lady SusanCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

In the film, beautiful Lady Susan Vernon has a rep for being promiscuous and goes to a relative’s home with her daughter, deciding to find husbands for both of them before more word spreads. Her character is kind of like those mean girls in school that you can’t help but like or be attracted to because they are so pretty, witty and clever but they’ll do just about anything to get their way. 

Kate talks about her mountains of witty dialogue in the movie, the perils of wearing 19th century costumes, if she is anything like Lady Susan when it comes to her own teen daughter and lots more! Check it out.

Q: When you saw the amount of dialogue you would have, were you concerned?

  • Kate: I think the thing I was concerned about most was that we had twenty-seven days to shoot the movie and that’s not much when there’s so much talking and especially when so much of the talking is me. Whit (Stillman, the director) likes to change stuff on the day so that was a bit more challenging on this film. It’s sort of like a mental agility test. But by the end of the movie I was pretty sure I didn’t have Alzheimer’s because it worked out. Actually, we finished in twenty-six days because I was good at my lines, I saved them a day.

Susan and Alicia plotSusan and Alicia plotCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

Q: Your character has a nice relationship with Chloë Sevigny who plays Susan’s friend. Were you self-conscious about having so much dialogue whereas she was mostly listening to you?

  • Kate: I was always worried about the other people in the scenes because there’s quite a lot of it, especially the interior scenes. There were quite a few days in a row where there would be literally me banging on for like thirty minutes. Then the other person would have one line then I’d go off again. I thought “One of these days I’m going to turn around and one of these actors is going to be asleep” but they weren’t.
  • It was lovely to have a relationship with Chloë on screen. I love to see female relationships that are like that. It’s not that common. They just completely approve of each other. They’re not in competition. The real love story is of our friendship. There’s no judgment. There’s acceptance and Chloë's character says so many times in the movie “Well, nobody deserves you” as if it’s just a fact and I just accept it like “Yes, you’re right”. There’s something very nice about seeing that kind of female friendship even though they’re plotting terrible things and being pretty ruthless. I really liked doing that with her.

Susan (Kate Beckinsale) with BFF Alicia (Chloë Sevigny)Susan (Kate Beckinsale) with BFF Alicia (Chloë Sevigny)Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Q: How do you feel about your Lady Susan character? She isn’t exactly the kindest person but we are so drawn to her.

  • Kate: I really am attracted to characters that people don’t write that often, not women that you necessarily want to go on holiday with for two weeks but that you’re kind of fascinated watching because they are difficult or cheeky and sort of meddlesome. Lady Susan is just sort of ruthless but you sort of want to cheer her on rather than hang out with her.  

Q: What was a typical day like in terms of hair and make-up? Did you get to set early?

  • Kate: We had fairly early calls because we were shooting in Dublin and it was February and March so we really only had a few hours to shoot in daylight. Make-up was about thirty seconds because I didn’t wear much and hair was a bit longer than that but it was actually getting dressed that took the longest time. Underneath the corsets and the stays and all that business, it was really cold so we all had thermal underwear and long leggings so you were kind of this stiff snowman baby that was getting wheeled out of your trailer like Hannibal Lecter on that thing (laughter).

Susan hopes she can catch a younger manSusan hopes she can catch a younger manCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

Q: Lady Susan controls her daughter in this. How about you with your teen daughter? She’s sixteen?

  • Kate: Seventeen now and driving. When you say control I picture a horse with the saddle off raging through the desert. That’s what it feels like. No, she’s really good. She’s a good kid. I think it’s a good time (for teens to) individuate, separate whilst also having the feeling that they’re safe. I think your role as a parent becomes a bit more hands off. You don’t want to be inserting yourself into all their experiences all the time but, at the same time, you can’t detach and not be there like Lady Susan. She’s not interested in being a parent, she’s not a natural mother. Her daughter is, more than anything, an inconvenience. I think if she were transplanted to now, I don’t think Lady Susan would be rushing to have a child.

Widow Susan in mourning clothesWidow Susan in mourning clothesCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

Q: Was Susan a product of her times? Not the most liberal for women.

  • Kate: Yeah. In terms of not judging her, she’s very much a product of the period of time she’s in. As a woman, it was a very constraining period of time, especially for intelligent women. You’re not expected to get a deep education. You’re certainly not expected to have a fulfilling career. Your whole livelihood depends on having a husband who has money. That’s a very different situation. It seems to me that Jane Austen must have expressed some of her frustration with that through writing this larger-than-life character who just says “Ah, f**k everything. I’m just going to do what I like” which makes it seem very progressive now but I’m sure must speak a bit to exactly what Austen was facing as an extremely intelligent woman in that period.

Susan dances opposite younger hottie DeCourcySusan dances opposite younger hottie DeCourcyCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

Q: There are funny characters like Sir James. Did you get some good banter going back and forth?

  • Kate: He (actor Tom Bennett) is so nice and so funny . I must say he was the most dear person on the whole set.  He wasn’t at the read-through which we all went to Ireland for. He was finishing up another movie or job. Very often, if the person can’t be at the read-through, it can take them a bit of a second to feel part of the company. He was there on Skype. That can put a slight scrim between everybody who is there and the person on Skype but he derailed the read-through. He arrived with this character that is so funny, just this creature coming out of Skype all ready made and hilarious. It was just such a shock and so great. I wish he’d been there more.

Q: You have such a sharp-witted tongue in this movie. Different from “Underworld” and your other dramatic roles. Did that come easy for you?

  • Kate: That’s my absolutely favorite thing. I felt like that’s where I started out. I felt comfortable that that was my zone. Then I thought I’d better mix it up a bit and play somebody a bit tougher. ("Underworld") really took off, the thing I was doing as an experiment to see if I could do it, got a much bigger life of its own than I’d anticipated. People started associating me with a machine gun a bit more than what I’m used to doing. So there’s been an interesting journey with that but it’s very nice to come back and go “Ah yes, this is where I belong, watching little birds in the birdbath. Back to normal.

Kate Beckinsale in UnderworldKate Beckinsale in Underworld

Q: You are doing one more “Underworld” right?

  • Kate: I’ve done one more.

Q: If that’s the last one, how would you like that experience to end your legacy?

  • Kate: Oh my God, it sounds like my funeral. I thought the first one was my last one. Every single time I’ve done one people say “Are you doing any more?” “I don’t think so”. I don’t even think about it in terms of what number but it was quite fun that we got to do quite a few.

Q: What are you doing now?

  • Kate:  I’m writing a screenplay with a writer friend of mine. I bought a book a couple of years ago so that’s what I’m doing.

Kate Beckinsale in Pearl HarborKate Beckinsale in Pearl Harbor

Q: Are you going to produce the film?

  • Kate: Yeah, and be in it. I’d have to check with the producer if I’m allowed to talk about it. Not that it’s me.

Q: Is it a period piece?

  • Kate: It’s period in that it’s 1979, early ‘80’s.

Love and Friendship PosterLove and Friendship PosterCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

Love & Friendship is in theaters now!


Have Your Say

Do you like movies where women get their way? Are you a Kate fan? Do you enjoy reading Jane Austen books or seeing movies based on her novels? Leave a comment below.