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Sunday, May 15, 2016

How Love and Friendship's Kate Beckinsale Gets out of Paying Parking Tickets

Posted By on Sun, May 15, 2016 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge Kate Beckinsale reunites with Chloë Sevigny in director Whit Stillman's Love & Friendship, opening in San Francisco on May 20. - ROSS MCDONNELL, COURTESY OF AMAZON STUDIOS AND ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS
  • Ross McDonnell, Courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions
  • Kate Beckinsale reunites with Chloë Sevigny in director Whit Stillman's Love & Friendship, opening in San Francisco on May 20.

When it came time to cast the Lady Susan character, a young, opportunistic widow working to secure a better future at any expense, in Jane Austen adaptation Love & Friendshipdirector Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco) knew he needed an actress who exuded as he puts it, a "sort of brunette brilliance" and also happens to be "beautiful and lethal" and funny. He soon realized he needed look no further than Kate Beckinsale, whom he directed once upon a time in 1998's The Last Days of Disco.

"We mostly associate Jane Austen with these incredibly socially delicate, mannered and romantic stories, and Love & Friendship really isn't that at all," actress Kate Beckinsale told SF Weekly in a recent interview, sitting alongside Stillman.  "My character really subverts every expectation of a woman of that time period, and it's properly funny."

Kate Beckinsale and Whit Stillman also spoke about their onset reunion with Chloë Sevigny, the oppressiveness of our collective obsession with beauty and how the actress went from "odd-looking" to the type of person who gets out of paying parking tickets.

Kate and Whit, you both worked with Chloe Sevigny on The Last Days of Disco almost 20 years ago. How did it feel to reunite on the set of Love & Friendship?

KB: It was like the band was back together.  It was really, really nice. I find it moving to have us back in the same group in a slightly different configuration. My character wasn't as nasty to Chloe's here. We were co-conspirators in this one. It was rather humbling to go, "Nearly 20 years have gone by and here we go again." I loved that.

WS: It was very positive. It's very hard in the film business, because there are a lot of barriers between production and performers, and it's really important to break down those barriers and work as collaborators. If you've worked with people in the past and know what they can do and like them as people, it makes everything very easy. Generally, that never happens, because most actors are behind the barrier of a talent agency that's unfriendly to independent films. So the actors are not even seeing the parts; they don't even know about them. So it becomes about making as much money as possible instead of furthering the actors' careers. 

Whit, why was Kate ideal for the role of Lady Susan?

WS: That sort of brunette brilliance. She showed that in John Schlesinger's Cold Comfort Farm, and that's why I cast her in The Last Days of Disco, and then she does it again in Love & Friendship, playing Lady Susan. She's very funny, sharp, and world-leader-dominant-strong-ego-kind of character that she does in a really funny way. 

Kate, Lady Susan is both loathsome and lovable, yet she's celebrated.  

KB: I felt that she was a charming, intelligent, vibrant, strong, pioneering woman, living in this time period where the restrictions on women were legion. She is an extremely dynamic spirit having to work with social and moral constraints, so she has decided to use her smarts, intelligence and charm to light her own path through.

Anyone who has no conscience, and she doesn't seem to have much of one, you have to have the justifications to your behavior. I think the time period is incredibly oppressive, so at the same time that she's diabolical and manipulative, she is also pioneering and sharp. As an actress, you think "Dear God, can I please have a part that has all of these?" So I feel very lucky.

Do you find any similarities between Selene in Underworld and Lady Susan in Love & Friendship?

WS: Yes. They're both beautiful and lethal. 

KB: Not really. But I feel like I've been very lucky in my career to have played some pretty complex, powerful female roles. I'm grateful to be put up for those. 

Kate, most stories about you seem to focus on your beauty or style. Do you ever get sick of that?

KB: I do think it can be quite oppressive. Also, I didn't grow up being particularly attractive. Therefore I don't think of it as a given. I had four brothers, so I had to develop a sense of humor, because I was a bit odd-looking. So I feel like the beauty thing was a happy accident, but it can also feel oppressive as well. Everything's going to fall off at some point, so maybe we'll have to have a party when everything drops. 

What did it take for you to finally feel beautiful? 

KB: I don't think it's a static thing. I think it's when you feel your best, you're connected the best and happy in your situation in life and fulfilled in your work and spiritually good. It also helped when I stopped being about four feet tall and wide at the same time.

But my mother isn't someone who's handing out rewards by whether you're pretty or not.  My family prides being intelligent, funny and a good person, so I was lucky that prettiness wasn't a prerequisite. But it's not something where you go, "Phew, I've made it now. I'm there." That doesn't feel like my big strength, and it's nice when people respond to it. But I'm more confident about myself in other areas.

But I think as a society we've become unbelievably focused on it to the exclusion of everything else, so I don't want to be part of making that worse. I pity teenage girls today, because when I was a teenager, we used to go to restaurants to eat salad, and now teenagers have to photograph themselves 20 times with it, so you have to feel photo-ready at all times. 

Are women still forced into using their "feminine charms" to succeed in life?

KB: I think it's so ingrained in our psyche, that I'm not sure it's something that's conscious half the time. Obviously, we're no longer in the position that we have to marry to survive and stay out of the poorhouse. But I definitely got out of a couple of parking tickets that way. 


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