Past and present: Kate Beckinsale interview

Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship. PIC: PA
Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship. PIC: PA
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Kate Beckinsale’s performance in new Jane Austen movie Love & Friendship is being hailed as her best ever. She talks to Susan Griffin

Kate Beckinsale only joined social media a few weeks ago - but she’s already made quite an impression.

Undated Film Still Handout from Love and Friendship. Pictured: Kate Beckinsale. See PA Feature FILM Beckinsale. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Curzon Artificial Eye. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Beckinsale.

Undated Film Still Handout from Love and Friendship. Pictured: Kate Beckinsale. See PA Feature FILM Beckinsale. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Curzon Artificial Eye. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Beckinsale.

She’s recreated a photo with her ex Michael Sheen taken shortly after their (now teenage) daughter’s birth, revealed to the world she owns a horse costume, and lip-synced Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. So what inspired the decision to go social?

“Over the years, I’ve resisted social media completely, but I did suddenly realise the upside of it – it’s the one time where it’s you, not filtered through an interview or a photographer,” she explains.

“I quite like the idea of having one little area that’s like that – since people tend to have an opinion anyway,” continues the 42-year-old, all glowing skin and swishing ponytail, and sporting a beautiful black and white summer dress.

“It has pockets!” she exclaims. “You always feel more comfortable...”

Her flawless image is partly why she decided to embrace the likes of Twitter and Instagram.

“One of the things I feel very keenly is that my public persona, which I think is cobbled together largely through Underworld (the vampire franchise in which she plays “grim-faced” Selene) and pictures of me going down a red carpet, has added up to make this creature that I simply don’t recognise at all,” stresses the Oxford-educated star.

“If you had an office party, you’d get more dressed up for it too – it’s just that people take photos of me doing that, and then people think I’m like that all the time.”

To be fair though, this is a woman who’s photographed emerging from the gym with a chic up-do and shades.

She says living in LA – where she’s been based for years – has a big part to play in that.

“My typical day tends to be get up, work-out, do yoga, and for some reason in LA, you’re not all sweaty and stinky there. I don’t know why, maybe it’s so dry. If I did that here, I’d be a disgusting monster.”

Misconceptions aside, Beckinsale’s also online because she’s keen to spread the word about her new film, Love & Friendship.

“I really want people to see this movie because I think it’s really funny, and people will have a very nice time seeing it,” she says of the surprisingly laugh-out-loud adaptation of the Jane Austen novella Lady Susan.

It’s believed that Austen was just 20 when she wrote it, just before she was about to start work on her first version of Sense And Sensibility.

Set in the 1790s, it centres on beautiful, young widow Lady Susan Vernon, played by Beckinsale, who arrives at the country residence Churchill in a bid to distance herself from the gossip surrounding a rumoured dalliance – and to find husbands for herself and her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark).

Lady Susan’s wonderfully witty, but also flawed, self-absorbed and manipulative.

“When you’ve got a character like this, the worst thing you can do is try for likability, because then it will make you creepy, and she’s never trying for that. She’s so confident in her likability, I think that’s the point,” says Beckinsale, whose performance is being hailed as one of her best.

“The emotional centre of the movie, for me, is her conversation with her daughter, where she spells out: ‘Look, this is our situation. You’ve got to get married, and so do I, and this is the reality of the world we’re living in’.

“Even though it’s a kind of funny scene, that really is what’s driving her; it’s what she has to do in order to survive,” adds the actress. “That grounded it for me, in terms of this is not just a frivolous woman going around being bitchy to everyone. This is someone who’s quite pioneering for that period in time.”

Talitha Bateman as Janice.

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