I chatted with Kate Beckinsale via phone a couple weeks back, in advance of the release of Rod Lurie’s journo-drama Nothing But the Truth, and there was plenty that didn’t make it into the Q&A for New York Magazine. More excerpts from the conversation, below:
Brent Simon: Critics have been very complimentary of your performances in Snow Angels and Nothing But the Truth. Do you think these two movies have somewhat changed people’s perceptions of you?
Kate Beckinsale: Oh, I have no idea. I try not to think about people’s perceptions, or I’ll go mad. The thing is, for me, my career has absolutely reflected what age my daughter has been, and whether or not I’ve been a single parent at the time, that kind of thing. I suppose if you just look at it entirely from the point-of-view [of a filmography] it can look a bit schizophrenic, but it makes sense being the actual career of a woman with a child and all that. And now that my daughter is older, I do feel able to maybe make slightly more selfish choices. I’m not primarily governed by, “Does it shoot when her pre-school is in?” Things like that that were very much factors at one point.
BS: You obviously play a journalist of a slightly different breed in the film, but having now spent time in the proverbial set of other shoes, did you gain any special insight that helps with having to give so many interviews as an actress?
KB: No, not really. I think I feel pretty much the same as I did before, which is that I just try not to be too boring, and avoid saying the exact same thing every time. (laughs) I probably do feel much more empathetic to the person asking the questions. I’m used to being in the defensive position, and I realized that being in the attack position has its own pitfalls and fears that come along with it.
BS: I always say that if I had to give that many interviews I’d need to spend several days ramping up to it, talking incrementally more and more about myself.
KB: (laughs) Exactly — though I find most actors do that anyway, actually.
BS: Not surprisingly, since there is a whiff of political content, some people seem to view [Nothing But the Truth] through wildly different prisms. Do you think there’s any concrete statement at its core?
KB: I don’t think it necessarily has a political statement. I think what I really like about the movie, what most grabbed me when I was first reading it, is the character and the pressures that she’s facing. I was so caught up with the dilemma that she’s in, personally as well as in terms of her beliefs. I don’t see the movie as a polemic, in that I don’t think it’s answering questions. I think what’s great about it is that it’s asking them, and I would much rather see a movie that raises a question than tries to tell me what the absolute truth is. I think the fact that my character is flawed and makes mistakes, takes risks and has to make sacrifices and doesn’t necessarily always do the most honorable thing [means] she’s not set up as a Joan of Arc-type character. She’s a human being with flaws who finds herself in this incredible situation.
BS: You share a number of scenes with Matt Dillon, who cuts a slick, cool, quietly menacing figure as the film’s federal prosecutor. When you have antagonistic scenes like that, is there a separation or boundary that you want to maintain during filming, or is that not how you work?
KB: I’ve never thought like that, to be honest. On a film like this, which was a very short and tight schedule, Matt would be in for a couple days and then out again, so even if I’d wanted to get to know him intimately and instantly well, I wouldn’t have been able to. But I did like him. We got along and had some good laughs. I often find that you have fun with the “bad guy,” because when you get all your hostility and everything out with someone you don’t even know, it sort of makes you giggle a bit when you’re off set.
BS: Jumping back in time, was acting something you were always interested in — was there a recognizable performance instinct in adolescence?
KB: My parents were actors as well, so I think it’s one of those things where when you’re still in diapers people start asking you if you’re going to be an actor too, whereas they don’t tend to do that with doctors and postmen. So it was something I thought some about, but I was always very personally into it too, I was doing plays and going to the theater and movies. And I think when I was 16 — I’d go to Paris with a friend of mine every Easter, and we’d absolutely fill up on all the old French movies — that’s when I thought, or felt on my own, [that] I really wanted to do this.