Kate Beckinsale: Anna
Q: So, you go from playing a vampire in Underworld, to a vampire hunter in Van Helsing. What would you like audiences know about these movies?
BECKINSALE: They're very different. Underworld is a kind of action thriller, kind of a serious and scary supernatural thing, and Van Helsing feels much more like a family romp, an action adventure. They are very different. The only thing that's the same is that I've got a real difficult costume, and I hang on a wire a lot.
Q: What can you tell me a little about the character of Anna in Van Helsing?
BECKINSALE: She's a gypsy princess and is the last in her family line to survive. The rest have been killed by Dracula or are under his spell, if she gets killed there will be a curse on her family that none of them will be able to go into Heaven. So she's got quite the responsibility to get rid of Dracula herself, and at the beginning of the movie her brother gets killed so she's the last one. She basically is off on a mission herself to find Dracula and she teams up with Van Helsing somewhat reluctantly because she doesn't think he'll be any good at it.
Q: Hugh Jackman has been saying you are terrific with all the stunts. How did you develop that talent?
BECKINSALE: It was really because of doing Underworld. I had three months of training for that which I was so glad I had because I went zipping straight onto this. If this was a year ago, I would have sucked. So I did gymnastics and wire work and yoga and guns and combat fighting and it was really scary, because I had always… I was never into running around that much. (laughs) But I loved it. I found the gymnastics difficult, because I get dizzy quite easily. But I was uncannily good with a gun, which I would never have known otherwise. Which is a shame that I only have a sword in this.
Q: Did having four brothers help you at all with your fighting scenes?
BECKINSALE: No, because I was the youngest and I was always the one sat on or getting a wedgie. But no, the gun thing is simply because I've got enormous hands.
Q: Do you do sword work in this film?
BECKINSALE: Not much. I sort of carry it about and trip over it and pull it out of its thing, but I haven't had to do much with it.
Q: How heavy are those?
BECKINSALE: They have different weights. They have the 'Oh, are you feeling a bit tired today?' sword.
Q: In both of these vampire roles, you play a strong woman. Are you drawn to those roles?
BECKINSALE: I wouldn't want to do an action movie, I think, where I would just have to mess things up, get everything wrong, and then get saved. That would be really boring and that's what's really nice about this, is because there's Hugh and there's me and we've both got the same goal and we kind of run up against each other a bit in the beginning. It never, ever, ever gets to the point in the movie where at the last moment I drop something and it's all buggers and he has to come save me. It stays equal the whole way through, which I really liked actually.
Q: How do you meet in the film?
BECKINSALE: Hugh comes to my village and I threaten to have him poked with a pitchfork or something, and… they're all carrying them, you know.
Q: Is your character a straight forward heroine?
BECKINSALE: No. She's pretty frumpy. (laughs) She's very much convinced that what she is doing is right and all that, so she really sticks up for herself. She's not bitchy, but she is pretty tough. I mean, she's carrying that sword about, so you can't afford to just sink her.
Q: What's the most difficult thing you've had to do on this film so far?
BECKINSALE: It's always the really stupid thing. On Underworld, I had to do this incredibly difficult flip and it was really dangerous and scary and that was really no problem. The thing that flew over the mat was, someone had to throw me some car keys and I had to catch them and I don't see all that well without glasses on, and I haven't got very good hand-to-eye.
So what was difficult on Van Helsing? It's always the thing I don't really anticipate. Even today, swinging on that… I had to climb out the window and it was raining and windy and stuff, and it was... I've done quite complicated stuff with Hugh and I on the wire and I had to dangle upside down from and tree and… um, but this was, you know, pretending to do something on a rope, but really you've got the wire on and I completely assed up every time. I think you get over-confident when it looks easy.
Q: Did you suffer any injuries with all the stunts you had to do?
BECKINSALE: Yeah, between this and Underworld. There's a nice thing that happens with a harness when you've been in it a long time, is you get this impressive hickey all under your armpits and up your legs. Many bruises, and I got a whiplash, um, never had a charley horse before, got one of those. A few cuts and scrapes, hair caught fire last week. I was standing a bit close to a sparking mounted metal thing. Sadly, it was not a wig. It may be by the end of the movie.
Q: Didn't anyone try to put it out?
BECKINSALE: I didn't know what was happening. It was only a tiny bit. But yes, I suddenly found this big, burly camera assistant rushing at me. I thought, 'God. What am I going to do?' And he just beat me on the back.
Q: What makes Stephen Sommers distinctive as a director?
BECKINSALE: What's great is that he's written this, so there's never any confusion between what the writer wants and what the director wants. He always rewriting and tweaking and I like that. I like somebody who's passionate about their project and what they're doing. And he shows up and he knows exactly what he wants and he's incredibly clear.
He mustn't be given caffeine. He's got more energy that anybody I've ever seen. It's extraordinary when you think how much of a weight this production must be for a director. I'd be terrified. He's endlessly brilliant and fun and comes up with really good notes. It's been really great.
Q: What is it like being in such a big movie for you?
BECKINSALE: I've only been in two huge, really massive movies and I never think they're going to be any different. They are slightly different, just because there's an awful lot of people, and money riding on it, and it is a slightly different experience. Having said that, I think that's really only the first couple of weeks where you show up and it's enormous. And then, especially with Van Helsing, you've got fantastic actors and a great crew, and it just starts feeling like any normal movie, which is good. It would be horrible to think about the budget or… maybe you should be, but I couldn't.
Q: What's it like working with Hugh?
BECKINSALE: I had, actually, and everyone in this business has heard that Hugh is the nicest, nicest man in the world. Obviously, you wonder if that's really true or if it's a terrifying cover-up and he's really… And it's true. I mean, he's lovely. And he's very talented as well, which makes everybody's job so easy. He's incredibly funny. He's great with the action stuff. There's not all that many 'guy' guys these days that you can really buy as being that type of action hero. He's not remotely a meathead. One minute there with a crossbow looking incredibly good, and then he's singing songs from Beauty and the Beast to my child. She's got the biggest crush on him, ever, because he's always dressed up like Prince Charming and he's just lovely.
Q: He said your children are engaged.
BECKINSALE: I think they're actually married! They're reached the stage where they're really not sharing anymore… (laughs). They're getting slightly jaded. We'll have to go do some type of therapy. He's been brilliant. I've loved working with him.
Q: Do you find flying scary, or fun? Don’t you have a complicated scene, flying with Hugh?
BECKINSALE: It was so fun! It was really fun. Some of them aren't fun. The tree scene wasn't that fun, because I was upside down in it, and I had to put my legs around the wires. For some reason, being outside feels much more dangerous than being on the set. I don't know why, it just does. And just as we were about to shoot, my crucifix broke and fell and I thought, 'Oh, God. It's an omen.' (laughs) I hated that. The other stunt was really high up and it was actually just like being on a really big, fun swing. And my daughter was watching, so whenever they pulled us up back to the edge, we'd wave.
Q: Can you talk about working in Prague?
BECKINSALE: It was tough. I found it quite tough-going I think, because it was so dark and cold and I was generally unable to wear any kind of ski underpants under my costume. I could wear a jacket over my ball gown when we weren't shooting so that was cool. And I'd just done four months in Budapest [shooting Underworld] – with a short, gloomy and dark break in London for Christmas – so did feel by the end of it... I did start to feel just a bit oppressed just from the gray and the cold. It's been such a treat – everyone is extremely festive being here [in California].
But it was great. I mean, the Prague crew was fabulous and everything went real well. It's just that we spent a lot of time in the village sets up to our knees in mud and I've got these kinky boots on. I wasn't ever allowed to go anywhere unless they put plastic bags on my legs with plastic bands around them.
Q: Are you involved in any of the CGI?
BECKINSALE: No, not really. I mean, we've all had to have a body scan and stuff at the beginning, when we were in Prague. You would sort of stand there and get revolved.
Q: What about the scenes with your brother when he's turned into a werewolf? Do you ever have to act with something that's not there?
BECKINSALE: Yes. They've got a werewolf on a stick. A cardboard wolf on a stick and they've got a sort of hairy arm that comes with it. They've got two of them. I wanted to take one home to scare my child. I really would. But you can't do that, she's too little. But she's got a boyfriend! (laughs)
Q: Is playing against with a werewolf on a stick like any other type of acting?
BECKINSALE: I do think it's a bit daunting, because the opportunity to feel an idiot is quite high. If you do your homework as an actor and get yourself where you're supposed to be… Obviously, it's preferable to have another very good actor to work off because it raises your game, but if you've got a little cross of tape and a fairly fevered imagination you can get reasonably far.
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Interview by Staci Layne Wilson for Horror.com. Interviews conducted on the set of VAN HELSING in Los Angeles, CA., May 2003.
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Click here to read all of the Van Helsing interviews.