'Underworld' Star Kate Beckinsale on Michael Bay, What's Next for Selene, and Starring in a Hit Female-Led Action Franchise

Kate Beckinsale in 'Underworld: Blood Wars' (Sony Pictures)
Kate Beckinsale in ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ (Sony Pictures)

While making the press rounds earlier this year to promote her sleeper indie hit Love & Friendship, Kate Beckinsale set off a bit of a tizzy by recalling how her Pearl Harbor director Michael Bay cast her in the 2001 World War II epic despite being skeptical of her appearance. “Because I wasn’t blond and my boobs weren’t bigger than my head, I didn’t make sense to him as an attractive woman,” she told Yahoo Movies, comments she later reiterated on The Graham Norton Show. When her quotes went viral, Bay responded with a lengthy post on his Facebook page affirming his respect for her, and making it clear that any disputes between them resided in the past.

When Yahoo Movies caught up with Beckinsale at the New York Comic Con this weekend, she sounded equally eager to let bygones be bygones. “It was such an old story that I’d been asked about a million times,” said the British actress, in town to anchor a New York Comic Con panel for Underworld: Blood Wars, the fifth entry in the popular vampires versus werewolves franchise due in theaters on Jan. 6. “It surprised the s— out of me, and him really. Pearl Harbor was a long time ago. It’s true there was a bit of that going on, but the shaming of people is something I’m against in general. I’ve seen him since, and we’ve gotten over it. I didn’t feel it was personal, and I wish him nothing but the best.”

We also spoke with Beckinsale about the “creative violence” of Underworld, headlining a female-led action series, and the story behind that penis costume she donned for a widely-circulated Instagram picture.

This is the fifth Underworld film, and your fourth time playing Selene. Is one of the appeals of doing the series the chance to keep returning to this character?
I never think I’m doing another one. I didn’t think I’d do another one after the first one! Really, the first one was an experiment for me; it wasn’t in my career trajectory or plan. I saw the beginning of my career as an apprenticeship. My rule of thumb was: “If it scares the s— out of me, I should probably do it.” I didn’t know it was going to take off, and that I’d be doing the fifth film in a franchise. The fact that it’s become so closely allied with me is a weird feeling, but there’s also something really cool about it.

(Photo: Sony Pictures)
(Photo: Sony Pictures)

Where do we find Selene as Blood Wars begins?
Well, we left her at the end of Awakening having found out that she has a daughter she never knew she had. As you do! And Michael, her vampire/Lycan lover [played in the first two films by Scott Speedman], is still missing, so that’s pressing for her. We pick up a few weeks or months later, when she’s on the run from both the Lycans and the Vampires. So she’s in the worst position that she’s ever been.

Are there any big action sequences you can tease?
It’s all fairly creative violence in Underworld, which is cool. It’s always on the border of being just a little bit too much. If Selene ever has to really kill anybody — like a really serious monster — it’s never just that she gets the biggest sword there is. It involves a plan that’s twisted as f—! She definitely has one of those plans in this film, which I like.

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At this point in the series, do you have a say in picking the director? Anna Foerster directed Blood Wars, and she’s the franchise’s first female director.
None! None at all. I found out Anna was the director because someone e-mailed me from a bar, saying “I’m having a drink with the director of your movie.” And I was like, “Oh, they found a director.” [Laughs] It’s interesting; I don’t think that gender has a lot to do with whether you’re a good director or not. But because it’s a franchise that’s a female-led situation, I thought it would be cool to see what a woman’s take would be. I really like Anna, but I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t tell you how it turned out!

As you mentioned, the Underworld series is notable for being a successful female-led franchise with an audience that consists of both men and women.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that for every woman who comes up and says how much they love Underworld, I get a man who says how much he loves Serendipity. [Laughs] I do think that people like to see girls in this kind of a role. And what’s special about Underworld is that we didn’t get any video game or comic book fans. They’re literally fans of the movies. I feel very connected to them, because they trusted us to give them a story about characters that they didn’t already have a relationship with. And where we go is completely up to us, because we’re not sticking to a trilogy or anything else that’s pre-existing.

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You became something of a viral sensation this summer when you posted a picture of yourself wearing a penis costume to Instagram. What’s the story behind that shot?
Let’s see, how did that come to be? A friend of mine said, “Look what they’ve made in Singapore.” And I said, “Please get me five of those immediately.” I basically have the United Colors of Benetton of penises at my house! [Laughs] You need an extensive wardrobe. The one problem is that it has an external motor, so it’s quite a noisy costume. It’s better for a photo; in real life, it would get on your nerves.