ENGLISH actress Kate Beckinsale steps into the athletic role of Lori, first played by Sharon Stone in the 1990 film directed by Dutch director Paul Verhoeven with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the leading role.
“It is a different time and ours does feel like such a different movie, even though there are some beats that are the same,” she says of the remake, now directed by her husband Len Wiseman.
“It has been so much fun,” she adds. “I haven’t played a villain before, which is weird because I think all English people eventually do — aren’t villains in American movies always English? It was kind of a treat and I loved working with Len again.”
Beckinsale’s career began in the mid-1990s, and she made her film debut in Much Ado About Nothing (1993) while still a student at Oxford University. She then appeared in British costume dramas such as Prince of Jutland (1994), Cold Comfort Farm (1995), Emma (1996) and The Golden Bowl (2000), before she came to international renown in 2001 with her performances in the blockbuster Pearl Harbor and the popular rom-com Serendipity. Other big movies include The Aviator and Click. “I love doing all kinds of movies,” she says.
Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Beckinsale.
It must feel very different from the first film, where Sharon Stone, of course, played the role. Is that the case?
It is a different time and it does feel like such a different movie, even though there are obviously so many beats that are the same. There’s a kind of tongue in cheek aspect to that original movie, and to their fight sequence — I mean, it is high kicks and workout clothes, and it’s very enjoyable, but it doesn’t really have a place in the tone of our movie.
So presumably there’s no pressure?
I think having grown up in London, by the time I was 20 I had seen about nine different Hamlets, and five different Cinderellas and three different A Winter’s Tale, so I don’t feel incredibly precious about seeing somebody else’s version of a story that I’m already familiar with. There’s such a tradition of retelling things. It doesn’t feel sacrilegious in the same way.
It must have been a quick turnaround between Underworld 4 and Total Recall?
I got the phone call two weeks before my role was supposed to begin. So I finished Underworld and there were then four days between finishing that and starting a scene on this. It was a very quick turnaround, and I think if I hadn’t been working with my husband, it would have been a really tall order. I know how he works, he knows me, and we’ve got a shorthand that was extremely useful in that kind of compressed time frame. The other thing about working with Len is that as an actor you’re rather selfishly not worrying about how stressed out the director is! If you’re married to them and living with them, you have a little bit more insight into the big picture.
You’ve become something of an the action star. Does that suggest that times have changed in Hollywood?
I do feel quite proud about that. I know that when I started out acting, I was 17 and I made all these statements about how I didn’t want to play a weak woman. It is a stupid thing to say when you’re that age, but I did have a desire to not just be the girl who was always being rescued. And I think as a woman watching those kinds of movies, you do think ‘Why couldn’t she have rescued herself?’ or something like that. So when Underworld came up, one of the things that I did was to look at successful female action heroines, of which there were not that many. Obviously there was Sigourney Weaver as Ripley (in Aliens films) and there was the Sarah Connor character in Terminator. But there wasn’t really very much that wasn’t overly sexualised and kind of winking, saying, ‘Look, aren’t I sexy doing this?’ And now I feel like there’s a little bit more for women in that way, and I feel like it’s been nice to be a part of it. Growing up, my daughter’s generation has female heroines that they’re used to in a way that I wasn’t so much. So I feel good about that.
Can you pack a punch in real life as well as you do on film?
I haven’t been tested, luckily, but I’d like to think I’d go into my secret moves (laughs). I don’t know. It’s never really come up, but at least I feel like I’ve got some choreography to fall back on should the risk arise. With Total Recall, I had to learn all these fights very quickly and it’s not actually my forte at all. But it was really fun. It was a lovely work environment, and I think that everybody was so happy to be doing this. Everybody was very excited about the script and about Len and the work that was happening.