Kate Beckinsale:’ Austen’s Lady Susan is like Emma on steroids’

21 days ago

Her second partnerships with Whit Stillman in Love& amp; Friendship has brought her the best reviews of her career

Kate Beckinsale has earned the best its further consideration of her career for Love& Friendship, an adaptation of Lady Susan, the remarkably wry and worldly novella Jane Austen wrote as a teen. The cinema, Beckinsales second collaboration with director Whit Stillman and co-star Chlo Sevigny, 18 years after The Last Days of Disco, is a comedy about a brilliant widow hoping to secure a moneyed future for herself and her daughter. Beckinsale, 43, spoke to the Guardian before picking up the Evening Standard best actress award this month.

Did the cinema change your feelings about people becoming ever more cynical as they get older?

We always think of Austen as so poised and elegant; there is a sort of rage underneath that lives in this character, which I really liked find. Its almost like she had to purge that in order to be able to write everything else. She was such a smart female facing all those social constraints, this is why it felt a bit like her running: Right, this is my darknes having a screaming. And then she went: Oh, I shouldnt do that. And set[ the manuscript] in a drawer. There is something more raw about it, which are likely is to do with being younger.

Lady Susan is said to have an uncanny understanding of mens natures. Is that still the key to social success ?

Yes, except that I believe the advent of constantly available porn, which would have frightened Austen, has changed things instead. Its simply more apparent now: mens natures had to be covered up a little more, just as womens did. I would never be able to go on a dating site, ever. I would just be expecting a murderer and a psychotic rapist. However, I do have friends that are on it, and it does seem like there is a sort of loophole for free prostitution that seems to be beneficial to the bloke. Im kind of aware thats happened.

Do women today still have to do a lot of what Lady Susan calls suffering ridiculous manhood?

No. I mean, one of the things the movie does induce you think is: my God, we have come an awfully long way. Plainly, in the light of certain political events this year, one worries those things are a bit more under threat. But “if thats” transposed to a modern define there would be no story. This is a bright woman who would probably be the CEO of a company with a ton of boyfriends. She has operate in that somewhat machiavellian style because society doesnt give her intelligence enough of an outlet.

Why are audiences so drew attention to bitches and bullies?

When we were building it, Whit referenced Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and its a very similar thing: you dont necessarily want to go on holiday with these people, or have them in your family, but its quite thrilling watching them at work.

Is the key to Lady Susans success her absolute confidence?

I think so. I think shes got an perfectly iron-clad self-belief, which I deeply envy. Her nature is unbelievably practical; theres nothing practical about self-doubt and self-loathing and self-torture. She doesnt waste any time doing anything like that. That would be fiction for me. I think we all spend far too much hour doing that.

Why do we?

Partly because were not working in a potato field and worrying our children are going to die of leprosy. Its the luxury of the middle class to have those kinds of things going on, I suppose. And also, we have so much info arriving at us now. Lady Susan would hear what was happening one county over, perhaps, but were panicking about air crashes all over the world and what kind of mosquito might bite us. Our general level of nervousnes is related to how much is going into our little brains.

Which freaks you out most?

Climate change truly bothers me, and it doesnt seem to be quite as pressing to certain politicians as it think it ought to be its pretty terrifying.

Is the real love the friendship?

I think so. The love in the title, which is not the title of the novella, is between Chlos character and mine. It was a really nice thing to revisit that. I was so rotten to her in our earlier movie, whereas this is girls complicit and battling against everything.

Do you think such bonds can be more enduring than romantic love?

I know that my oldest friends are from primary and secondary school and I dont know if I will have a relationship that has lasted or will last as long as that. Im not pressured to find friends physically attractive over several hundred decades, which is a slightly easier thing to sustain. Female friendship in movies is something that you jump at because its not every day that a director, especially a male director, wants to write a movie about pretty complicated women with the kind of love that Whit has. Ive had two characters with him who you wouldnt want to go on a mini-break with, but its so delicious to insure his real pleasure of a prickly female. And its bear out: people have loved this movie and gone to see it a lot. So, there is a place for not just the prostitute , not just the madonna, but this kind of difficult woman. Shes like Emma on steroids.

Is it rare to have a female leading who is older, cleverer and better-looking than the men shes paired opposite?

Not inevitably. I know that it exists, receiving components harder to come by but it hasnt[ happened] so far to me. Im having a wonderful time being the age I am being an actress. Its partly Whit having had the idea for me to do this when I was 22 and doing Last Disco, and him waiting for me to ripen. I didnt know that until recently and I supposed: God, thats genuinely playing the long game. You dont usually find directors patiently waiting for you to age.

Is he waiting for you to ripen further?

Im hoping. Perhaps hes got Miss Havisham in mind.

Did you find the reviews saying you were a revelation and amazingly funny patronising?

I wouldnt tell patronising. I guess people tend to remember the last couple of movies they were aware of your doing. And it depends on whats more important to you: how youre perceived or your experience of your career. Ive done a lot of films that a lot of people havent considered, coupled with films that are a bit outside my convenience zone, actually, which a lot of people have watched or certainly been aware of. And, for me, the ability to be able to kind of flit between genres that shouldnt go together and generally dont has been an incredible privilege. I dont mind pockets of day where people go: Oh, maybe shes a bimbo, because I know Im not.

It genuinely depends how much meaning exists for you in your own experience of it and what youre doing it for. If you were doing it to hear marvellous things about yourself all the time then you would stop immediately when you had a horrible review likely aged about 19. I think its important as relevant actors to have periods where youre not flavour of the month or rewarded every single period you leave your house, because it actually does build you question if its what you really want to do and how you can get better.

Beckinsale
Beckinsale with Chlo Sevigny in The Last day of Disco. Photo: Moviestore/ REX/ Shutterstock

Do you agree with Lady Susan that facts are horrid things?

Sometimes. I generally want to get to them, but Im not inevitably pleased when I do. My favourite thing is transparency and honesty, but that can be a bit of a brutal life, it is feasible to perhaps easier to get in a little bit of a bubble. But its generally better to know what ones dealing with, I suspect.

Particularly in 2016 ?

It is a bit tricky. Both countries that I am part of are so divided, and that is a really scary thing in itself. Thats just a sign of restlessness and trouble, and its a really new and strange position to be in, to be so aware of it. I think everybody found that out twice this year, and those facts were quite horrid things.

How does Britain appear from LA?

Well, I come back eight or nine hours a year and my mums here and my best friends are here. But its weird that a country and a city moves on and grows up independently. You do have it in your intellect as staying the same and youre homesick for something that is different when you come back. That can be a little bit jarring. It seems different. The skyline is completely different. I maintain wondering where the old dames in John Lewis went.

They all had to be killed did you not hear about that ?

Yes, I knew something must have happened. The high street where I grew up seems a bit more fancy and worldly. I recollect when you spent a whole afternoon gluing a 50 p to the pavement and hiding. Children dont do that sort of thing any more. I would still blithely do it. In fact, I might my mum has got a brilliant front gate for that sort of thing.

Love& Friendship is available now on DVD and Blu-ray

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