Back in early May, I got to visit the set of Underworld: Awakening when the production was filming in Vancouver. While on set, I got to participate in a group interview with producer Kate Beckinsale. Here’s some of the highlights:
- She didn’t plan on returning to the franchise. She thought it was going to be a trilogy and that was that, and had no interest in coming back until Wiseman told her his idea for the fourth film, which she took a liking to.
- When casting her daughter in the film, Wiseman told her he found the perfect girl. Then, without knowing who it was that Wiseman was talking about, Beckinsale and her daughter were browsing around a Barnes and Noble where she spotted a girl that looked exactly like her. The girl in the bookstore turned out to be the same girl Wiseman was talking about (India Eisley), and she was cast in the film.
- Being one of the few people left from the original film, she had a voice in making some of the more creative decisions about her character.
- She enjoyed the added stakes to the film that came with the addition of a daughter for Selene.
- The film follows Selene’s journey as a not-so-maternalistic woman who finds out that she now has a teenage daughter.
Hit the jump for the full interview. She also talks about working for two directors, the 3D cameras, the Underworld fanbase, and a lot more.
Before going any further, if you missed the recently released teaser trailer for Underworld: Awakening, I’d watch that first:
As usual, I’m offering you two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio, or the full transcript is below. Underworld: Awakening gets released January 20, 2012.
Kate Beckinsale: It was quite quick. It was a weird moment putting on the costume for the first time and the first costume fittings. I had forgotten that special screaming rubber noise. It was just so familiar. It was interesting because the first movie that I did of these, I was so completely out of my comfort zone and uncomfortable. I had to go through the training just because I was terrible at everything. I couldn’t run properly or anything. So doing this one now after having already passed through that barrier is really nice. I still expect myself to mess it up every time. I’m still in the same mindset. But I am kind of good at it now.
Are you comfortable in the corsets?
Beckinsale: No. I mean I am used to wearing corsets. Even when I was first starting out it was either Shakespeare or Chekov. Everything that I was doing involved corsets. I guess I am just not destined to breathe that deeply.
How was this film presented to you and how were you convinced to do this film?
Beckinsale: I really wasn’t intending to do another one. I kind of always heard that it was a trilogy and that was that. I didn’t like the idea of rehashing the same whole thing too much. I think also have played the part twice. I’ve never played the same part even twice before. So I thought that doing it for the third time was like, “Where would you take it where it is worth doing?” Len [Wiseman] is a really great husband and has learned to just ignore his wife going, “No.” and just quietly write a script for a couple of years and then say, “Actually, I have had this pretty good idea.” The fact that it opened up the world a lot and had it come into the real world. The whole presence with a daughter was such a different take that I was sort of going, “Okay. That is interesting.” It is nice. It’s like our family business. How many actors get to have that? It’s like everybody is wearing rubber.
Beckinsale: Yeah. I think you really want to see stakes that mean something in these kind of movies. Otherwise, it really is just lots of explosions and people running around in tight clothes. That is all very well and I think there is a place for that. I think you don’t really engage properly unless if you feel there is some kind of real stakes there. I suppose that, yeah, having my own child, you do have added stakes.
Is it strange playing the mother of Olivia Hussey’s daughter?
Beckinsale: No, it’s not. India [Eisley] is so brilliant and good. I don’t think of her as Olivia Hussey’s daughter. I’ve never seen Olivia Hussey. She hasn’t been on the set at all. In fact, the only time that I have seen her, which was weird, was at Christmas time. My daughter had not been well and we all had the flu. So we were going to go to the bookstore and get a bunch of books. Len had been saying, “We have to find a girl to play your daughter.” He said, “I saw this one girl that was really good. I’m going to show her you her tape when we get home.” We went to the bookstore and I was kind of cruising around in Barnes and Noble. I looked over and said, “Oh, my god. Look at that girl. She looks like a little me.” It turned out that that was actually India and that was the girl that he said he was going to show me the tape of. It was really weird. I independently picked her out. She is a really good actress.
Beckinsale: Yeah. She can’t keep playing my daughter.
She played you in the second movie, right?
Beckinsale: I know. But she will grow up really weird if she does it too many times. She can’t do that.
So it was never brought up?
Beckinsale: She did go, “Uh, excuse me…” but I think in the long run psychologically it is probably best.
How has Seline being a mother changed her core?
Beckinsale: What is interesting during the movie is that the circumstances in which Seline has a child are such that she isn’t aware that she has been changed by it all for quite a long time. She isn’t even aware that it has happened. We go on that journey with her where someone who isn’t necessarily your most maternal type finding that she not only has a child, but it is a relatively quite a big child.
Beckinsale: No. Not necessarily. I think it is depending on the circumstances. I think different things are happening to her and she has learned to become very cold. I don’t think she is somebody that things don’t affect. Even in the first movie she is the one that is sort of getting obsessed about things. It may appear that way a bit, but she is quite the badass in this movie too.
How is it like working with two directors? Normally, in a director team, one director will work with the actors while the other directs. But in this movie you literally have a different director each day. How has been adjusting to that and how does that work?
Beckinsale: It is really cool. When I first met with them I thought, “I wonder how that is going to work.” But they have a real system where one of them directs on a Monday and then the other one directs on Tuesday. The one that is not directing is kind of silent and doesn’t say anything. I thought they would never be able to keep that up. It must be really difficult. But they really do. The advantage is that you get somebody who may have possibly been incredibly frustrated the day before and is so desperate to have his turn that they are full of enthusiasm. That actually worked out really well. They are both really nice. Sometimes they talk in Swedish and we can’t understand them. That makes me sad because it is one of the languages that I don’t speak. I am getting there. I am learning dirty words.
Dirty words are always the first things you learn.
Beckinsale: The first sentence I learned was on a camera test, which was “Oh, no. I think I may have shat my suit.” I had to say that on the phone to one of their wives. Oh, how we bonded. [laughs]
Can you talk about working with these new Red Epic cameras? What has been your take and were you a little nervous to be working with these things that are so HD?
Beckinsale: Why would I be nervous? To be at my ripe old age? Actually, I was more nervous that it was just going to take such a long time to do anything because the technology is relatively new. You know, these cameras can be quite temperamental. They can just go, “Bam!” and not work. But I think it has been really exciting seeing it. I’ve never shot a 3D movie before. I’ve never been a part of that. There all of these fancy screens and you go back and watch the playback. It really is in 3D and it is cool. I think we got a really good DP. So, fortunately, I haven’t resembled a walnut too much so far. Maybe Underworld 7 or 8 can be a big problem.
Beckinsale: Maybe in the beginning. Maybe in the first week or so when everybody was getting used to it. But not really now. Everyone seems pretty on top of it.
Speaking of sequels. Do you see how this can be the first for a new trilogy?
Beckinsale: I mean it could. I think they have left it relatively open ended. I am evidentially not to be trusted on the question of if there are going to any more. So don’t ask me. [laughs]
They said that it us up to you.
Beckinsale: They said it us up to me? That is called passing the buck.
[producer] Richard Wright said, “If Kate wants to do it then we will do more.” That what he basically said.
Beckinsale: That is actually not true.
Over the series you have done a lot of fighting. You don’t strike me as someone who has a done a lot of that prior in life.
Beckinsale: I am very feared in West London. [laughs]
Have you become more comfortable with that over the course of the films?
Beckinsale: Certainly after the first one. I think the danger of an actor been taking through fight training with a lot of really good stunt says is that when you throw a full on punch on the floor is that you do for a split second think, “Holy shit. I am the badass now.” Obviously, if there is a problem on the plane, I am going to be able to handle myself. , which is not true at all. I am still as much a wuss as I ever was. I definitely feel much more comfortable in my body. When I first had to throw a punch in the first week of training for the first movie I had my thumb in my hand. I don’t do that anymore.
Beckinsale: Guns I took to immediately. It was a weird thing on the first movie. How would I have ever known that? I never really thought about it. When it first came up it was during that first period of training where they go, “Run.” and then said, “Oh, god. Throw a punch.” and then “Oh, god.” I was so relieved that I got a hold of a gun. I suddenly was like, “I found my thing.” I think it is really only because I have enormous hands. I can’t play the piano or play basketball. It turns out that is quite useful for guns.
They say woman have a better eye coordination when it comes to shooting.
Beckinsale: Oh, really? That is good. [laughs]
They were talking about how you have to interact with a larger creature that is completely CG. How has that been like?
Beckinsale: I haven’t really shot much of that yet. I was a bit sad about it just because I think one of the features of Underworld is that we have pretty much done everything practically so far. I’m glad that we still have, and I’m sure they aren’t very glad, guys walking around in werewolf suits. I don’t know if you have seen them but it is a fairly intense experience for them. It looks like a panic attack in a bottle to me. They just can’t breathe or see you and it is really heavy. Obviously, this has to be so enormous. I think I’ve done something where it appears for a little bit. But there hasn’t been a lot of greenscreen. There hasn’t been much of that so far.
Pierce Brosnan once remarked how with the more action movies he did the more confident he felt with how he looked on camera. Do you get that feel with this film? Do you get the sense that you are actually looking a little bit better in the other Underworld films just because you are more experienced with it?
Beckinsale: Possibly. I think it has also been helpful having a very close with the relationship with the director, who really does know what looks best and what doesn’t. I think there was a sort of slight training that just went from having been in close proximity with him. I think I was much more freaked out in the first movie. It was really just a test to see if I could even do it. Seline has her various expressions and physicality that I find that I sort of fall into. I wasn’t sure if I was going to because it has been awhile, but I did.
I guess that goes to show how much of you is in the character.
Beckinsale: I guess so. Who knew? It is a little bit like riding a bike.
There have been rumors that you might be doing a sci-fi film in the future [Total Recall]. Can you talk about that?
Beckinsale: I don’t think I am in a position to talk about that. Has it been officially been announced? I don’t know.
Your name has been mentioned a lot. I heard that you have a relationship with the director.
Beckinsale: Here is what is so silly. I have been home and have been going back and forth. I was never going to be available to do his movie, which is one of those things that he had in mind when he was writing it. All the dates weren’t going to work out. You know, some tectonic plates have shifted. So who knows? Maybe I will be there and maybe I won’t.
I understand. We will be reading about it soon.
How has it been like going out to do more location stuff for this movie? How has it been like going out on campus and having all of these people watching you?
Beckinsale: I feel like such a fool honestly. It is all very well when you are on a set at a studio and you are doing your thing. You’re like, “Oh, okay.” The minute you get here and you have 5 students looking you feel like, “Ugh.” I think it is very embarrassing.
This is supposed to be another world. Is it hard to get back into the mindset that you are in another world when you have the real world around you?
Beckinsale: I must say that I think it is a huge advantage that…I know it is a stereotype but Canadians are so nice that nobody has actually called out. If this was in London people would be shouting and throwing things at you. They would generally be making you feel real silly. They just go like, “Oh, look at that.” and then they carry on with their day. It has been quite possible to just tune it out.
Were you a fan of sci-fi, horror, or fantasy when you were growing up?
Beckinsale: Yeah. I was more into thrillers. I liked something that more fast paced or an action movie type of thing. Possibly from just having had to because I have four brothers. I would have to go and sit through Die Hard. Little did I know that I would end up being married to Die Hard for awhile. I like a lot of different kinds of things. It’s not like the one thing that I love, but I am up for a book or a movie.
Do you have any favorites within that genre?
Beckinsale: I don’t know what to say. I really did used to love Die Hard, but I did get semi over it when it robbed me from my husband for two years. [laughs] I’m back on it now. I loved the Alien films and all the Indiana Jones films when I was a kid.
Beckinsale: I did.
Do you still?
Beckinsale: Not for awhile. Not since my daughter learned how to read. [laughs]
Will that ever see print?
Beckinsale: It did at the time. I won this award in England for it. I haven’t. I stopped keeping a journal and stopped writing. It was right around the time she learned how to read too. I don’t know. I would like to. I would like to write. I definitely would. I found the juggling of acting and motherhood a bit much. For me, writing requires a relatively calm environment and headspace, which is not what I have been having.
We heard that the ending of the movie has been adjusted and have been rewritten a little bit.
Beckinsale: The ending? Everything has. I mean, since I found about it.
We have heard that they will email Len and say, “We need a little help with this.” And he will work on it. How involved are you in the process since you are so comfortable with the character? Or do you sort of leave it to Len and everyone else?
Beckinsale: Not at all. I feel like I have definitely had a part in how the script has ended up going. There are a handful of us left who are from the original movie and are kind of steeped in it. I am the actor, there is the director, the stunt coordinator, and some of the producers. Between us there is still some of the old guard left. But there is only one chick. So if we are going to talk about, “She is going to have a child. How about this and that?” It was kind of nice to be the one female voice in the room for that and how that was going to be handled.
Can you talk about a thing or two that you came up that you thought should be in the movie?
Beckinsale: I don’t know if I am really allowed to say any of that. There is a lot in the relationship between the daughter and I. I’m married to Len so I will be at home and go, “Don’t you think that the bad guy should be more…” and we try things out. I do feel like I do have a lot of input. I don’t want to take any for anything – just the acting.
Can you talk about the filming that we saw today? We saw you outside of the Antigen building, but we also saw playback that had you being chased by these Antigen agents.
Beckinsale: It is towards the end of the movie. I have a cunning plan of getting everyone to chase me so that I can cause mayhem. It’s not a great day for you to see. It is kind of a boring day.
Comic-Con is only two and a half months away. You’re obviously a veteran of Comic-Con. Are you looking forward to facing Hall H again? Are you going to send out a press release saying “Kate Beckinsale is not going to give any hugs this year.”?
Beckinsale: Oh, god. That was incredible!
That is such a classic well known moment from Comic-Con.
Beckinsale: Really? But somebody actually started having an actual nervous breakdown. Somebody started crying and shaking. I don’t know. I may be doing something else in that time or I might not.
What if somebody would ask you if you wanted to do it?
Beckinsale: I love Comic-Con. It is great. The first time I went I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
Was that for the first Underworld?
Beckinsale: Yeah. Immediately after I did one it was every year. I kept going with Hugh Jackman, which is like walking around with Elvis. It was incredible. All of these other people have mutton chops and the fingers on. It was amazing.
Can you talk about how the fanbase has embraced Underworld?
Beckinsale: I think one of the things that I am really proud about Underworld, and obviously Len is more proud of since it has more to do with, is that in this era we have it is very difficult to get a movie made that isn’t a board game, a sequel, or a comic book. Even if it is an obscure comic book, it just seems easier to get that made if it already exists. Underworld really was something that was hatched up on Len’s apartment couch. They definitely worked really hard to create a real sense of history and a mythology that was very personal to this movie. So there wasn’t garlic or crucifixes. It was a new take on it and it did appear to precede this sudden massive explosive of vampires. I feel like I am the grandma of vampires now. At the same, there hadn’t been vampires and werewolves in the same movie. Remember when that was a new concept? [laughs] So that was cool. I don’t know if the first Underworld would actually get off the ground now. I do think the marketplace has changed a lot in terms of that. So it was nice to have squeaked in there. The people who really responded to that have been really loyal, quite vocal, and passionate about it. We love that. I think that that what was so great. It was to have done it and go, “Wow. It worked. That is so cool.”
For more on Underworld: Awakening: