Kate Beckinsale underworld interview

Kate Beckinsale on why a fifth Underworld was good for all women Discuss this article

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Kate Beckinsale knows returning for the fifth instalment of the Underworld franchise won’t win her any Oscars, not that she’s fazed, of course. It was the same when she first stepped on set as Selene back in 2003. But that was never her motive. At least, not directly.

“As an actor, it’s important to have a lot of different things in your palette. For example, I didn’t go to drama school, I went to Oxford and was used to doing literary adaptations,” the British actress told Time Out Dubai in New York at the official unveiling of Blood Wars. “I really needed Underworld [for] the physical training I never really got. It has been incredibly useful for me in terms of other work I have done.

“In terms of my entire career, Underworld has been a really great way of expanding my skills as an actor. And, yes, sometimes [series such as these] are not the sort of thing that get critics hot under the collar, but one doesn’t just make films for critics.”

There was also something else at the heart of Beckinsale’s decision to return, providing a kind of on-screen role model for her daughter, Lily Mo.

“There have always been strong female representatives in Hollywood, you know, as far back as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, but in this genre, there was only really Linda Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver, who were amazing, but there weren’t a lot of reference points,” she says.

“And being a small part of moving that needle forward feels really great. I have a daughter who is 17 and it’s very normal for her that a female-led franchise tops the box office. It wasn’t always like that for me growing up and that feels cool. I’m the youngest of four brothers…”

Taking the helm of Blood Wars, which continues the journey of Beckinsale’s vampire death dealer Selene in her quest to end the war with the Lycans, is German-born Anna Foerster, the franchise’s first female director, making her feature film debut. It’s a fact that completes an important loop for Beckinsale.

“Of course it’s cool for us as a franchise with a woman at the centre of it, and to then have a woman’s take on it,” Beckinsale says. “Selene is a fairly emotional character and Anna was interested in that, but I don’t know if that was because she’s a woman or because she’s Anna.”

The director herself admits her gender could have some bearing. “First and foremost I see myself as a director who happens to be female rather than a ‘female director’,” she says. “But that said, of course, having a female protagonist and director, you can’t help it, it’s in your DNA that there might be different ways of approaching things.”

The four previous Underworld films have grossed an impressive US$500million (Dhs1.8 billion) at the box office. So how, in the face of some fairly underwhelming critical reviews, has it got this far?

“We’re not based on a comic book or video game,” Beckinsale says. “I don’t think it would get made nowadays. I think it’s really difficult to get an original sci-fi horror made unless it already has a following. And that is what I think is really special about Underworld – our following is just ours from the movie, so there really are no parameters on where we go with the story and characters.”

And while Foerster admits to some apprehension in revisiting the story, and indeed the genre which is, putting it politely, in the twilight of its popularity, she believes there is enough originality in the fifth tale to maintain the affections of the core audience, as well as attract others. “Obviously there were concerns and we had questions [about the appetite for another vampire movie], but I do think if the story is right and if you have an engaging story that is relatable, that’s half the battle,” she says. “If the story is as important as the fact that you’re dealing with vampires and werewolves, I believe it has a density that overlooks genre boundaries.

“It’s still Underworld, but you don’t need to copy those that came before, you need to be inspired by them. I felt the rules and mythology were really cool, a rich world to get involved in – so you take that, keep it, and build on top of it, evolving everything around it by maintaining a faith to the guidelines.”

It’s a sound stance for a debutant to take, as Beckinsale knows only too well.
Underworld: Blood Wars is in cinemas across Abu Dhabi now.

By Matt Fortune
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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