“You can see I haven’t done anything,” Kate Beckinsale says. She scrunches up her face, wiggles her jaw around and frowns really hard. It’s true: Everything moves. “I know that paralyzing one’s face must be a bad idea,” she says, “but I’m accused of it constantly.” For the record, in person Beckinsale is as stunning and as perfectly smooth-complexioned as she is on camera. These facial gymnastics are happening on a plush couch at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, where we’re discussing her latest film, The Only Living Boy in New York.
I push for more info on Beckinsale’s apparently eternal youth, mainly because I want to immediately make an appointment to do whatever she’s doing. “I like that thing where they take blood out of your arms, spin it round, and then put it on your face,” she says. A vampire facial? Seems appropriate for the lead of many Underworld movies, no? But then she says she hasn’t had a facial in ages, so it could just be Beckinsale’s attitude that keeps her looking great. She’s laid-back, funny, and shoots from the hip. In fact, she’s just been on Jimmy Kimmel Live talking about the time she sent photoshopped naked orgy pics of herself to her mom for fun. And she tells me that it’s just luck that her ex Michael Sheen started dating Sarah Silverman because now she gets to know her, and that she can’t resist buying “really cheap sausages” at the grocery store because they remind her of her British homeland.
The Only Living Boy in New York stars Beckinsale as Johanna, the “other woman” in a marriage, who not only sleeps with a married man (Pierce Brosnan), but also his son (Callum Turner). Beckinsale’s performance is a totally unapologetic and laugh-out-loud take on the complexity of human relationships. As someone whose own 13-year marriage to director Len Wiseman recently ended, her attitude to marriage these days is philosophical, honest, and refreshingly frank. We talked to Beckinsale about everything: from Chelsea Handler’s boobs to woman-blaming and why women really love soaking in the tub.
People do unwise things, and we’re all human—so stop blaming “the other woman” for everything.
“When I first read the script and spoke to Marc [Webb, the director], there was a slightly opaque quality about Johanna. I thought, ‘Oh, well, I’ll fill this in.’ They were a bit baffled. You know, you’ve got this mysterious femme fatale in the movie. But it’s really a real person. No one’s actually mysterious—there’s always a motivation, there’s always a story. I think we’re very used to it not necessarily being explained when it comes to being a woman in cinema. I thought it was important that the female character wasn’t opaque in that sense. It’s very easy to watch this movie and, if she were a bit more one-dimensional, go, ‘Damn her, she’s a woman.’ Meanwhile, no one’s saying anything about the male character. He’s actually cheating on his wife.
It’s possible for all these characters in the movie to be doing things that might be sort of morally wobbly for them, but they’re still decent people–and that’s humans. I have friends who’ve found themselves in a relationship with a married person, people who’ve been married for two weeks and then got divorced. People do mad things. As a culture, especially with the internet, there’s a real rush to judge on black-and-white things like that. That’s what felt like a great opportunity in this movie–to go, ‘Well, we’re human beings.'”
I’d love to say we’re just terribly evolved, amazing, marvelous people, but actually we’ve just been really lucky.
She still loves her ex Michael Sheen and is good friends with his girlfriend, Sarah Silverman.
“I never had a typical environment. My father dropped dead very suddenly when he was 31 and I was five. It did feel like everybody else had a normal family and I had this really odd situation. I’d never really had that kind of traditional thing, but I do have a kind of mafia-level loyalty and I wouldn’t have had a baby [her daughter Lily, with Sheen] with somebody I couldn’t look in the face twenty years later.
Somebody asked me, ‘How’d you make that all work with Michael?’ I’d love to say we’re just terribly evolved, amazing, marvelous people, but actually we’ve just been really lucky. We really like each other. He would be a friend of mine, whatever the situation. We just really love each other. And I would also be a friend of his girlfriend whether I knew him or not–he just happened to be the conduit to meeting her. My daughter certainly hasn’t known anything else. She was three when we split up. So this is my kind of botched job at a family.”
For marriage to work, women need their own private space.
“I don’t know if I’ve met anyone who’s single or anyone who’s married, who’s really truly happy, if you really think about it. It’s awful, but it’s true. I don’t know, I’m in that moment in my life where I’m like, if marriage was to work for women, there should be a state-subsidized second home for them where they can live on their own. Really we end up in the bathroom–that’s why women like baths so much–because that’s the only time no one is bugging them. But I think then marriage would work really well, as long as the woman has somewhere to go on her own occasionally. Not to have a fancy man, but literally to be alone.”
She (sort of) approves of her 18-year-old daughter Lily’s crush on Jimmy Kimmel.
“I end up teasing her about it. I’m proud of her, that she’s not into, like, a Justin Bieber. It’s great that she has an off-beat taste, I like that. I’ve done a good job. As far as relationship advice, you can’t really be told anything. I think the important thing is to be present and be non-judgmental and open and they’ll hopefully tell you stuff so you can at least help them when they get into a state. As for handling social media, she’s much more the expert than I am. I came to social media very late in the game. I was never going to do it. I had a flip phone until about three minutes ago.”
How Chelsea Handler’s breasts made it onto her Instagram.
“I said [to Chelsea], ‘That’s a padded bra, isn’t it?’ Because I hadn’t seen her for a while and they were massive, and she said, “No, they just keep getting bigger. Feel them! Feel them!” So I did. Then she suddenly jumped up and down and someone was filming it. That made me laugh.”
The Only Living Boy in New York is in theaters now.