Kate Beckinsale: Life in Austenworld


Together met up with Kate Beckinsale, an actress and mother who can switch from handling a machine to delivering razor-sharp comedy.

Imagine Absolutely Fabulous besties Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone transported to late 18th century England and you get some idea of what quirky filmmaker Whit Stillman (The Last Days of Disco) has come up with in his new period comedy Love & Friendship. The comedy, which Stillman wrote is based on the early Jane Austen novella Lady Susan.

Starring as the self-serving, scheming yet endearing main character is Kate Beckinsale, with Chloe Sevigny as her friend and co-conspirator Alicia Johnson. The comedy focuses on the widow Lady Susan Vernon (Beckinsale), who moves into the country estate of her late husband’s family to cool her heels as she waits for rumours to subside about her alleged infidelities. As she settles in, she decides to find a wealthy match for her troublesome daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark). But Lady Susan’s plans are not well-received by the family of the intended suitor. The situation is complicated with the introduction of another silly, cheerful, extremely rich Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett, who almost steals the film).

Beckinsale, who is separated from director Len Wiseman and has a daughter with actor Michael Sheen, spoke about reteaming with Stillman and Sevigny, having previously collaborated with them on the 1998 comedy The Last Days of Disco.

Together: When you saw the amount of dialogue is difficult to keep all the nuances and the freshness?
Kate Beckinsale:  I think the thing I was concerned about the most was I knew we had 27 days to shoot the movie, which is not much when there’s so much talking and especially when so much of the talking is me. And Whit likes to change stuff on the day. That was a bit more challenging on this than it can be on some, because a great big speech like that that gets moved around, it’s like a mental agility test. By the end of the movie I was pretty sure I didn’t have Alzheimer’s. Actually, we finished it in 26 days because I was good at learning my lines. I saved them a day. I actually was very pleased about that. That was a bit of a challenge in the time.

I felt like this was almost a companion piece to Cold Comfort Farm. I don’t know why, but I kept thinking of it. My character in Cold Comfort Farm was very obsessed with Jane Austen. I really am attracted to those characters that people don’t like that often, which are women who are not necessarily women you want to go on holiday with for two weeks, but that you’re kind of fascinated watching, because they’re difficult or tricky and they’re meddlesome. Flora Poste is such a busy body. Lady Susan is sort of ruthless. You want to cheer them on, rather than hang out with them. And Whit’s very good at writing those women.