‘‘Underworld: Awakening” marks Kate Beckinsale’s third outing — after skipping the franchise’s last installment — as ruthless, gun-toting vampire Selene, so the British actress has had time to adjust to her character’s temper. “I suppose it’s my second or third time playing the character, so I’m used to the fact that she doesn’t hold back when she’s annoyed,” she says.
Annoyed is one way to put it. In the new film, Selene bites, shoots and stabs her way through countless human and werewolf foes after waking up from a forced 12-year hibernation. And after three films, Beckinsale is still amazed she’s developed a reputation as an action star. “It’s so crazy, it’s absolutely mad. And you’d think I’d be more used to it now,” she says. “The first ‘Underworld,’ I’d come off of doing lots of Merchant Ivory films and Shakespeare, and even the American movies I’d done were largely period pieces, so I’d often get the feedback from casting people that, ‘She’s very soft and delicate and English, and we can’t imagine her with an edge.’ And I thought, I’ll have to see if I can do that then. And then it all kind of spiraled out of control.”
So what would the Oxford-educated actress like to be doing besides dispatching bad guys? Make people laugh. “I’m quite smiley and jolly in real life,” she says. “I’d love to do more comedy. I don’t find very many comedies where I find the women’s parts are very funny. ‘Bridesmaids’ was so exciting because that doesn’t happen very often.”
At 38, Beckinsale is by no means old, but Hollywood can be a cruel place for actresses. She acknowledges the industry’s double standard for women and men when it comes to maturity, but she’s ignoring it. “You’re talking to someone who’s just spent the entire year running about on a wire,” she says. “For me, I haven’t been handed my carpet slippers or experienced any career hot-flashes yet. I’m sure I will, but this hasn’t been it. So I’m able to live in my little bubble where I’m not about to be 70 years old.”
In fact, when comparing how she handled the stunt work on the first “Underworld” film to “Underworld: Awakening,” Beckinsale says she’s actually getting better with age. “I just feel better because I was such a novice then,” she says. “Whether I’ve lost energy, eggs, hope, bone density, whatever — fullness in my breasts — I’m not aware of that as much as I am the fact that I’m more confident in the stuff.”
Kate Beckinsale is by no means a fan of the TMZ age, with constant paparazzi attention and shots of stars shopping for groceries splattered across the Internet, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t understand it.
“I think we’ve lost that slightly magical air of what movie stars used to be,” she says. “There’s something that is very spoiled now. It is very tempting to expose everyone’s feet of clay because we are so bombarded with visuals of the perfect female and male form that I think it’s very oppressive to people. ... Whatever it is, it does inspire a great kind of low self-esteem in almost anybody.”