May 21, 2016


'England can be a little proprietorial about its actresses. Reading between the lines of the stellar reviews (“the most entertaining performance in Kate Beckinsale's career,” “Kate Beckinsale is back to her best” “the meatiest part Beckinsale’s been given”), it’s not hard to detect a note of gentlemanly regret for the amount of werewolves she’s been forced to slay over the years. In the post-Hunger Games world, the idea of our leading Shakespereans perfecting their American accents and kicking butt in female-led actioners is par for the course: Kate Winslett attached her name to the Divergent franchise, and Emily Blunt signed up for more Edge of Tomorrows with Tom Cruise. Beckinsale was in many ways the first, proving her blockbuster mettle in Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor in 2001, before embarking on the Underworld films at a time when English actresses were still following the Emma Thompson model: one American film, then back to London for a recuperative spot of Shakespeare and a cold compress for the forehead. Beckinsale not only didn’t do that but she then left her English actor boyfriend Michael Sheen, to marry her Underworld director Len Wiseman — boo hiss!  — a neat triple blow to national pride. She   embraced American action auteurs, Los Angeles and vampire film franchises in one move, and paid for it in coverage that painted her as the English girl who had lost her head in Hollywood — a red carpet ditz.   “It's a really weird window of time,” she says. “It was at the time where if you moved to LA you were immediately an ass, in England. It was something that you had to apologize for constantly to press, to your family. It was immediately like, "You're going to become a dick. I was somebody who mainly seemed to walk around the red carpet, which was completely not the case. I spent 90 percent of my time rushing home to look after my kid, which was excellent protection. Nobody wants to try and shag the woman who's wearing a Baby Bjorn.” It’s not hard to see why Scorsese cast her as Ava Gardner in The Aviator. Beckinsale’s mixture of boldness, raunch and slight edging of camp harkens back to another, older tradition of female stars at the movies — the board, the dame, the vamp, as embodied by such Home Counties glamor queens as Liz Taylor, Joan Collins and Jane Seymour. Her favorite film is All About Eve, with Bette Davis letting loose one smart bomb after another.   “It's really fun seeing her with the paparazzi at Sundance. It was like a 1930's movie star,” says Stillman, “I've never seen so many flash cameras. I’m still blinded.” — from my interview for The Sunday Times

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