The actress opens up about Underworld (and the workouts she does to fit into that skintight bodysuit), her Oscar-buzz role in Love & Friendship, and how she shut down her Pearl Harbor director Michael Bay when he misbehaved.
Kate Beckinsale arrives at the low-key lower Manhattan restaurant, elegantly dressed in a cropped grey sweater and slim, white satin pants. Her hair is remarkable: a gorgeous tussle of brown to blonde ombre that perfectly frames her flawless, way-too-young-to-be-43 face. She starts to go in for the obligatory European kiss-kiss on the cheek then holds her hand up. “We should only do a little hug,” warns the British-born Beckinsale. “I’ve caught a terrible flu and I don’t want you to get it.” Soon a pot of ginger tea arrives and the actress settles into the banquet, lounging across the two-seater as if she owns it.
Despite feeling under the weather, Kate quickly reveals her sharp, self-deprecating sense of humor. Tell her on how young and beautiful she looked in last summer’s critically acclaimed corset comedy, Love & Friendship and she immediately brushes off the compliment in her low, sexy growl: “Thanks, but when you’re doing Jane Austin, you don’t wear eye shadow and makeup, so I spent the whole time feeling like a boiled egg in a wig.” She can’t deny, however, that she has the dewy skin of woman half her age. “We do okay in the skin department in our family,” she admits. “My mom looks fab. And my daughter, Lily, who’s 17, keeps complaining about looking 9 years old. And I tell her, ‘Be happy. You’ll be glad about it one day.’” Although Kate’s youthful looks did work against her when she was 25 and pregnant with Lily (Lily’s dad is Kate’s ex-boyfriend, actor Michael Sheen). “Everyone thought I was 16. Yes, I was a young mother but not that young. I had a mortgage!”
Still, being young and gorgeous doesn’t protect you from body shaming in Hollywood. Back in 2001, when Kate was starring in Pearl Harbor, director Michael Bay mentioned a few times to the press during the publicity tour that he cast Kate in the film because he “didn’t want someone who was too beautiful.” Ouch! Not one to let even an innocently dealt insult slide—Kate’s got that famous British backbone, after all—her response was pointed but witty. “I told him, ‘Say it one more time and we’re going to be wrestling in the car park.’ And he stopped. That story is a million years old by now but last year it came up again on a talk show and immediately it was a witch-hunt of Michael, which I wasn’t behind at all. I support anti-body shaming, I just don’t know that I would have leapt into the fray with a story that old.”
Suddenly Kate looks up and calls out, “Dude!” In what can only happen in a corny, coincidence-packed rom-com, up walks Cuba Gooding, Jr., her co-star in Pearl Harbor. It’s been a while since the old friends have seen each other and after a few minutes of catching up and a promise to meet later when they’re both back home in L.A., the actor excuses himself. “I remember Cuba saying to me when we first met on set, ‘You have some junk in your trunk,’” she says, laughing. “I was fresh off the boat from England and didn’t know what that meant, but it turns out it was a good thing!”
At 5’7”—5’10” in the heels she often wears—Kate definitely has it going on in terms of her fit physique. Long and lean, she carries herself with the grace and confidence that comes from years of doing yoga. “I practiced it exclusively for so long, I even got my daughter into doing it,” she says. “Now Lily’s like the Queen of Hot Yoga and wants me to do that, too. But I can get dizzy just getting out of a hot bath. I’m afraid if I try it, I’ll pass out in public and pee in my yoga pants.”
Today, Kate is a devotee of trainer-to-the-stars, Gunnar Peterson (pictured below). The decision to go hardcore with her workouts came a couple of months before she started filming the fifth installment of her Underworld franchise, Blood Wars, due out January 6th. One look at her character Selene’s iconic, skintight latex cat suit and it’s clear why Kate got serious about exercise. Five or six mornings a week, she does an hour session with Gunnar that includes circuit training “interspersed with some kind of brutal, horrid cardio that I always bitch about, like going up a pole or doing terrible things on a non-motorized treadmill. What I like about circuit training is that I’m never doing something that I hate for very long. The only thing I refuse to do is heavy cardio jumping. I’m happy with my boobs being exactly where they are, thank you!”
When the waiter stops by to offer some menu options, Kate takes a pass because of her flu. “I’m not really hungry for lumps of food,” she explains. For many years Kate was a vegetarian, but not for political reasons, she explains. “I’m just incredibly squeamish about meat. But it’s a weird squeamishness. Like, your leg could be cut off at the knee and I could help you—I can handle blood and gore. But ask me to make Thanksgiving dinner and put my hand inside a turkey? Absolutely not.” She got over her meat-phobia fifteen years ago during filming of Pearl Harbor. “I didn’t have enough energy so my trainer at the time told me to start eating lean protein. And it helped a lot.” Now she sticks to a clean diet of mostly chicken and fish with sautéed or steamed vegetables like Brussels sprouts and broccoli, and zero alcohol. “I’ve never been drunk in my entire life,” she says. “I know it’s weird but I feel alcohol in my body quickly so I’ve never had a whole glass of anything, ever.”
Kate has other ways to chillax. She still does yoga and is a big fan of Oprah and Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation, but her preferred path to happiness and total wellbeing surprises even her. “Honestly, I was never that workout girl but now it’s really important to me,” she says. “I always feel better afterward. I’m like a red setter puppy. If I don’t get walked, I start biting the furniture.”