Kate Beckinsale has quite a ferocious presence in the new update on “Total Recall.” She plays a government operative on the hunt for Colin Farrell’s rogue agent with memory issues, after she’s worked undercover as his doting wife. The trick to tapping into such a baddie, she reveals, is to play it like a hero. But something Beckinsale is less adept at, she admits, is dealing with the ever-present questions about age and beauty that pop up on a press tour.
Though you play the villain, you’ve mentioned that your character thinks she’s the hero.
The thing is, if you’re playing somebody who is mentally ill, you can’t play mentally ill. If you play somebody as a villain, you end up twirling your mustache and that kind of thing. I do think people who do things that other people consider bad are feeling like they’re doing the right thing. And I think she’s also quite distracted by her own sort of emotional situation, which is that she’s so highly trained and highly talented, and yet she’s given this detail that’s actually quite degrading, where you’re that highly trained and you’re basically pretending to be somebody’s wife. There’s something kind of humiliating and horrible about that being your job.
I assume it would be maddening, having all that training to be, basically, a housewife.
Yeah, and then go and have sex with this person — who is for all intents and purposes a factory worker — and make his dinner for him. It would drive me mad, and I’m not even a highly trained operative. I would hate that.
I’ve noticed when doing press for your movies, you get a lot of the same questions, particularly about your age.
Were you there when [a reporter] asked me if I fantasize about playing Maggie Smith’s parts? That was quite a stunning one. Is she not 87? I came back to my room and said, “I wonder if Colin was asked does he fantasize about playing Mickey Rooney’s parts?” Does that happen? Probably not. I must say, I do find that that’s an obsession that seems to be quite rampant in the press, and it doesn’t come up in my actual life so much. And then I get quite shocked when I come to press junkets and people are obsessed with it. It’s almost like, “How are you still going around with that wooden leg and the colostomy bag and the false teeth? How’s it going?” It just seems so completely mad to me.
It’s the other side of being an actress, really — taking these questions over and over, handling them with grace and humor. How do you do that?
I don’t know if I think I’m necessarily very good at it because I feel like I’m far too honest most of the time. I keep hearing about these sort of seminars that other actors have done to figure out how to deal with it, and I was never offered it, told about it — it’s too f—ing late now, anyway. I do think that my instinct is to be open and treat it as if I am genuinely having a conversation, which I don’t know is necessarily the right move. I think that’s a bit naïve.
Fun with adult toys
Kate Beckinsale isn’t afraid of getting a randy with her anecdotes, as she did when she visited Conan O’Brien’s talk show earlier this year and spoke about stashing a fake penis in her mother’s luggage.
“My makeup artist had given me for Easter — I’m not sure why — this enormous rubber penis,” Beckinsale recounted. “I kept stashing it in my trailer at different spots so my daughter wouldn’t find it. So I thought, ‘I’m just going to put it in my mother’s hand luggage when she goes to the airport. Maybe that will cheer her up.’ My mother is very English and also 64. When I told my makeup artist, she was horrified and said, ‘You have to call her in the car.’ So … I had to call and say, ‘I’m terribly sorry, Mom. Look in your bag.’ She responded, ‘Oh my god, Kate … What am I going to do with it?’”
Beckinsale says she’s shying away from anecdotes about sex toys.
“I’ve learned my lesson a bit on that one,” she says. “You can’t keep doing that, otherwise people think you have a fetish.”