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Uncut Interview - Kate Beckinsale for Total Recall

21 Aug 2012
The British action star talks about fighting, casting and three boobs!
Kate Beckinsale has really taken to action roles in recent years and came straight from Underworld 4 to work with director and husband Len Wiseman on Total Recall. She takes on the role of Lori, famously played by Sharon Stone in the 1990 version, but the character is quite different. Here, we chat to the fast-talking British star about remakes, fights scenes and working with family.
CLICK: Len was saying what you play in Underworld and this film is the complete opposite of what he knows you as, this smart, quick, witty girl. KB: Fool! [laughs]CLICK: Do you feel like you’ve ended up on the wrong path somehow, should you be in Bridesmaids or something like that? KB: Yes! I don’t know if I’ve necessarily been on the wrong path but I think I definitely have gone down a slightly odd alley that is really fun and its totally cool. But I never would have imagined when I first started out that people would go ‘machine gun – we should get Beckinsale!’ It’s still funny to me.CLICK: So is your character similar to Sharon Stone’s Lori? KB: It’s kind of an amalgamation of Sharon Stone’s character and Michael Ironside’s character which was Richter. So in that sense it’s a little bit different. But the beats of the scenes that you’ve seen in the original movie – this very nice loving wife who then turns into a not very nice wife – that’s the same. But the whole tone of the movie is very different so I think everyone’s performances are tonally very different. There’s a bit more of a camp to the original movie that we don’t really have in this movie.CLICK: And why did they put those character together – do give the role a bit more action? KB: No I think it was actually… Len is somebody who has managed to create quite a lot of pretty strong female roles over his career and I think that he felt that one of the things that would modernize this story was to have Lori be not necessarily be junior to another police officer. I think that was really part of that so she was able to make decisions on her own and follow through. It’s not completely out of the ordinary to have a female police officer in charge so he wanted to highlight that.
CLICK: Can you talk about that first fight with Colin after the reveal. I read you hit him during a take? KB: Yes well I accidentally karate chopped him in the neck much later in the elevator when fortunately we’d gotten to know each other a bit better. Its funny actually because Len and I were doing some web chat with Colin and Jessica yesterday and they said ‘oh did anyone get hit’ and Colin said he didn’t think so. But Len is always playing the dailies in our house so I keep seeing this over and over again and so I said do you not remember when I chopped you in the neck? And Colin says [in an Irish accent] ‘you didn’t touch me a bit!’ But the first time was very nerve wracking for me – I’d had four days between Underworld and this so I was very nervous and especially as the directors wife you do not want to be the dud on the set who can’t remember things and pokes Colin in the eye. It was a very complicated fight and we did it over quite a few days. But I do remember there’s a crazy slide across the floor in which I think I smack Colin in the face with my crotch actually! Which is in itself, on the second day, something. But shoes don’t half make a farting noise dragging along the floor so we had to explain that as well. But it looks really cool.CLICK: So does being the director wife play on your mind? Like people know how you got the job? KB: I think people inevitably will do that but I sort of feel comforted by the fact there’s such a history of Johnny Depp and Helena and Tim [Burton] and Leo [DiCaprio] and Marty [Scorsese] and I think it’s sort of quite apparent that directors like working with actors that they like and enjoy their performances. And I think anybody who thinks a husband of eight years is getting blowjobs for a role is on crack!CLICK: What was the casting process like then? Were there other people up for the role? KB: Oh yea because I wasn’t originally available to do it, so it was a really weird position to be in. I think initially when Len was in the writing process he said he had me in mind for the character and he had the previs coming in for it and I think Lily’s dad Michael (Sheen) did the voices for the previs so in some respects I was just involved from a much earlier stage than I would be normally. But once Underworld got going it turned out I wasn’t available. So I think Len met with quite a lot of people and we were both very grown up about it and whatever. And then the studio pushed his movie by a couple of weeks for completely other reasons and then called Len and said – ‘why can’t we have Kate?’ so I actually got the call from the studio, not Len and I thought they were fucking with me to be honest, I really thought it was a joke.
CLICK: Did you have to train a lot physically? KB: I didn’t have any time – I had two weeks. And for 10 of those days I was still shooting Underworld. Fortunately we had the stunt co-ordinator from the first Underworld who still works on them and followed on to Total Recall so we were able to start learning the fights a bit there. I didn’t have that kind of cushion of three weeks to do boxing and all those things which help to actually psychologically prepare you for it. I didn’t really have that.CLICK: How long should a sequence take to learn and how long did you have. KB: God I don’t know because I did it in such bits, like ‘oh its lunch time, off I go to fight!’ And it would be a Saturday afternoon and I’m like ‘I don’t want to!’ But I think you could have it down in a few days, I think Jessica had it down probably in a week or so, five or six days. It’s just that there’s obviously no end to practising it, because you want to do it as fast as possible and as smooth as possible so you keep going with it. And then my daughter and her friend learnt it in about three seconds! It was embarrassing.CLICK: You were saying yesterday that choreography stuff isn’t really your forte? KB: Absolutely, I panic about it! It’s like the same thing when we did Van Helsing and we had that woman from Circe du Soliel coming in to teach us to dance. Now that was actually worse, it was horrible. I'm not bad at sort of free-styling but choreographed steps just fill me with absolute terror and it’s the same thing with fighting.
Kate Beckinsale in Total Recall
Kate Beckinsale in Total Recall
CLICK: How do you get your head around it? KB: I worry a lot, that’s my general sort of mode anyway but I worry a lot and think I can’t possibly do it and as my husband’s the director it’s the only director I’ve ever said to: ‘well you’re going to have to get somebody else because it’s horrible and I suck and I'm useless and I don’t want to!’ And you never say that to the director but it’s one of those boundaries that you do cross if is your husband!CLICK: If you could have any role what would be most you? KB: I’d probably play Amanda in Private Lives [the Noel Coward play], that feels very me.CLICK: When you take on a role, what element is most important? KB: I think it very much depends. You can connect with a character for all sorts of different reasons. This one I found there’s a great sense of humour in how much of a villain she is. There’s a kind of wit to her which I really enjoyed. But the next movie I’m doing is a small independent movie that’s a drama that I connected to the character in the sense of connecting to her vulnerability more. But it’s sort of case dependent.CLICK: I noticed when you become the villain in this your accent changes from American to English – are British people just more evil? KB: [laughs] I think its mandatory for British actors to play a villain in an American movie; I think that’s that law. But other than that I just think that if I could have really amazingly played the flute maybe we would have gotten that in, you know what I mean? It just seems like a fun device because she was his wife and they both had the same accent and obviously the fact that she flips into her own English accent adds this sinister extra element to it.CLICK: Is it easier to play a fight scene if you don’t have to worry about an accent?! KB: [laughs] We’re not doing a lot of talking during the fight scenes! But it always helps, a little British grit.CLICK: Does Colin Farrell’s accent change at all as Hauser – we only heard a tiny bit but he sounded a little more Irish? KB: Did it?CLICK: Maybe just to me… KB: I don’t know, I don’t think so… He’s very Irish today. Is it your fault?! Have you been talking to him?CLICK: No not yet! KB: It’ll get very strong after he talks to you [laughs]!
Kate Beckinsale, Len Wiseman and Colin Farrell in Cancun
Kate Beckinsale, Len Wiseman and Colin Farrell in Cancun
CLICK: Do you turn down or play up your Britishness living in LA KB: No occasionally you do have to make the odd concession because for some reason if you ask for water in a restaurant it’s particularly water, they literally can’t – they just look at you and the whole place grinds to a halt if it’s a fast food restaurant. So you do have to go [in an American twang] ‘wa-ter’ like that and I hate myself for it.CLICK: And what is the independent film your working on? KB: They’ve just started casting it actually so it’s going pretty quickly. It’s directed by Karen Moncrieff who did the dead girl. So… I’ll be on that very soon.CLICK: What are your favourite kinds of movies to work on? KB: I would like to always be able to mix it up a little bit. When I started acting I was a student at university and I could only do one film a year and I was pretty conscious of the fact that I was studying Russian and French and at oxford which doesn’t really offer drama as a course so I thought I better do lots of different kinds of things as a sort of apprenticeship and I’ve hung on to that mentality. If there’s something I haven’t done I want to do it, something I wonder about.CLICK: Your first American film was Last Days of Disco and White Stillman finally made another film! KB: I know! I haven’t seen it yet. Have you seen it?CLICK: Yea I really liked it and I spoke to him awhile ago KB: Did you? Oh cool.CLICK: Obviously he saw something that got you into America. Was it a good experience on that film? KB: Yea it was crazy, it was such a weird one to be your first American movie to be that specific. You’re not just playing a generic American and he was very specific about; these are real people. So that was really kind of a cool first foray and god I had such a wonderful experience, I just loved it.
CLICK: As this is a remake, if you could remake any other movie what would you like to work on? KB: I have to say that I think really shit films should be remade!CLICK: You might make them worse! KB: You could make them worse but it seems like a very good idea because if something’s sort of almost good but not quite…CLICK: So like what? KB: I’m trying to think… loads of films that I’ve done [laughs]!CLICK: Anything you’d particularly like to redo? KB: It’s a bit like going back to the litter box you used isn’t it. No I’ll have to think about that one – what would I like to remake. I’ll take one remake at a time; I don’t want to piss everyone off!CLICK: Would you have a favourite Arnie one liner from the original Total Recall? KB: Oh my god, there are so many of them. “See you at the party Richter!”CLICK: Are you disappointed that you’re not playing the lady with the three bosoms? KB: No I was going to at one point, did you not know that? When I wasn’t available for Lori, Len said he still wanted me to be in the movie because like even in Die Hard I’m like the voice of the thing that Justin Long is talking to, I just pop in. So he asked ‘would you do three boobs?’ And I’m like ‘do you want me to get actual boobs out?’ and he’s like no it’ll be prosthetic and I said ‘Oh ok!’ He said I could do it in a day and it’d be kind of cool to do it and it wouldn’t be weird because you’re my wife! So for about a month I was going to be three boobs. I upgraded I guess, or downgraded, whatever I don’t know [laughs]!Total Recall is in cinemas from the 29th of August. For more, see our Content Hub.
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