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article imageKate Beckinsale reveals the cold, hard facts behind Whiteout Special

By Earl Dittman     Sep 11, 2009 in Entertainment
Braving sub-zero temperatures to film the action-packed, psychological thriller Whiteout, the native Londoner gained a whole new respect for the cold. The former Underworld star recounts her icy experiences in the glacial wilderness of Manitoba, Canada.
Having grown up in the cold and damp climate of Great Britain, actress Kate Beckinsale could handle freezing weether — or so she thought. “I’m English so the cold is in my blood,” the English sex symbol confesses. “Boy, was I wrong. I never knew what freezing meant until I did Whiteout. I was simply not prepared for that type of weather we endured in Manitoba. Now I know what they really mean by bone-chilling.” The wilderness of Manitoba, Canada would stand in for the sub-zero climate of Antarctica, the setting of her latest film, the edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting thriller Whiteout.
Although she had worked in such Canadian cities as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, the weather in and around Winnipeg was a whole new kind of cold for Beckinsale. “Someone just told me that the temperature on the set had gotten colder than the weather in the South Pole, that was quite a revelation but I believe it,” the 36-year-old laughingly admits. “Doing Whiteout was a whole new experience for me. I, nor my body, will never forget it.”
Kate Beckinsale in Whiteout
Kate Beckinsale in Whiteout
Warner Bros.
In the Dominic Sena-directed Whiteout — which also stars Gabriel Macht, Tom Skerrit and Alex O’Loughlin — Beckinsale portrays Carrie Stetko, a U.S. Marshall for a sprawling American research station in the South Pole. Still emotionally fragile as the result of an undercover sting gone wrong in the States, thankfully Carrie’s work at the Antarctic-based facility is fairly mundane and easy. The hardest part of her job at the station usually consists of breaking up drunken brawls. “It’s not really that demanding of a job for her,” Kate says. Her toughest case pops up right before she is set to leave with the rest of the camp’s inhabitants for a trip back home for the “winter season” — during which travel to and from the facility becomes nearly impossible for half-a-year. She receives news that the frozen, dead body of one of the researchers is found in the vast icy wasteland of the South Pole, miles away from the station.
After Carrie and the doctor examine the badly mutilated body, it’s obvious he was murdered, but by whom or what? Although she can send the body away to the Mainland for further examination, Carrie is determined to solve the crime herself, even though it might mean she’ll miss the last plane out to civilization and be stuck at the facility, with a handful of people, for another six months. “She wants to go home, the station is the last place she wants to be, but solving the crime is important for her, for so many reasons,” Kate explains. But, time is against Carrie. A massive, hurricane-sized snowstorm — filled with deadly “whiteout” conditions — is quickly approaching the station, requiring take-off time to be moved forward, cutting her time to find the killer to mere hours. While the minutes tick away, the masked, pickax-wielding murderer strikes again, making the situation even more precarious and dire for Carrie. As she races against the clock and begins to close in on who or what is killing people at the station, it becomes crystal clear that her own life is in danger. “She wants to find out why this man died on her watch, and if willing to risk everything to do so,” she adds.
A terrific white-knuckle thriller, Whiteout features Beckinsale in her most exciting, terrifying, plot-twisting actioner since Vacancy. An accomplished, SAG-nominated dramatic actress (The Aviator, Pearl Harbor), action star (Underworld, Van Helsing), comedienne (Click, Shooting Fish) and big screen romantic (Serendipity), Beckinsale has long been considered one of Hollywood’s finest, bankable leading ladies. Married to Underworld director Len Wiseman, and the mother of a ten-year-old daughter with actor Michael Sheen (The Queen), the London-born Beckinsale (now a transplanted Los Angelean) sat down for members of the entertainment press corps at L.A.’s ritzy Luxe Hotel to recount her icy memories of filming Whiteout.
Kate Beckinsale in Whiteout
Kate Beckinsale in Whiteout
Warner Bros.
With films like the two Underworld films and Van Helsing, you are no stranger to action films. Whiteout seems like it was an incredibly physical movie for you. Was it harder for you to do than any of the other action films you’ve done?“It’s hard to say. It may have been, in terms of practically. But, nothing was harder for me than going from never having done it before to doing it. I’d had a background of ballet before I did Underworld, so the whole training and physical thing was a complete shock to me. It was much less like that. I’d never been dragged around on a homemade surfboard through snow, but once you’ve entered the realm of action movies, it gets easier each time. There’s nothing like the first time. It was definitely manageable. We had a great stunt team. Just having such strong winds, and all that, wasn’t something I had particularly encountered before, but it wasn’t too hard.”
What was the most challenging aspect of doing Whiteout?“The weather. It was a lot colder and a lot more intense than anything I’ve done. We were all worried we were going to die of hypothermia, every other second. It was much more intense, just because of the weather.”
You filmed Whiteout in the wilds of Manitoba, Canada, just outside of Winnipeg. What was it really like working is such a cold climate?“When we arrived, they put a thick telephone directory under our hotel room doors. The night before we started shooting, that said, ‘These are all the different ways it’s possible to die here, of being too cold or of being too hot, if you keep your clothes on too long, when you go inside, or if you’ve ever had an alcoholic drink, or if you breathe in a westerly direction.’ And, we all panicked. The most I remember was putting on and taking off fifteen layers of clothes, about 70 times a day. When we first went out, all the men had beards full of ice that I thought they were make-up department tests, but it wasn’t. It was real. And, my hair froze into a point, just from breathing on it. I thought, ‘Well, I’m from England, I’ll know how to handle the cold,’ and it wasn’t anything like that.”
So, how did you deal with the sub-zero temperatures? What made it bearable?“We were so lucky to have such a brilliant crew and fantastic cast. I’ve never been around such nice boys, ever. There’s something about the weather being so extreme. You meet up and you’re absolutely freezing, and then you’re having to tear off your snow pants and everybody looks terrible, and then you’re sweating. There’s something very bonding about that. We all had a really good giggle with each other, all the time. And, the Canadian crew was excellent. If anything, the cold turned out to be a mutual point of contact that everybody complained about. Actors love complaining, and we didn’t have to complain about hardly anything else because the cold was a big deal. It was great. In terms of being challenging, coming out of the trailer, that very first day, I really was worried I wasn’t going to be able to speak at all, or say a line ever. My whole throat closed, on that first breath. Luckily, Gabriel (Macht) told me to keep my passages open. Aside from that, the cold was really great. It was probably worse in the studio with the heat.”
How many of the physical stunts did you do yourself, since you were always so covered up?“I went to Tahiti while they were being done.” (laughs)
Was it hard to move around in those big, bulky snow suits? Was it a challenge?“I think the bigger challenge is actually how to make it look cool and exciting, rather than just two people hitting into each other. That was the challenge.”
When you work on a film that has special effects and stunts, how do you keep your focus while doing all of that? “I don’t know? This is what I do, and this is what I really love doing. I love acting and being on a set. I don’t find it very difficult to focus. What we were doing didn’t feel CG heavy. I love when you get to do a movie where so much of it is practical, even though we all complain about the fake snow and the sand and the stuff that gets hurled at you. In this, we weren’t doing an awful lot of reacting to stuff that wasn’t there. I haven’t had a huge amount of experience with that. I would imagine that that is quite difficult. But, when we were being dragged through snow, we were having stuff thrown at us.”
Kate Beckinsale in Whiteout
Kate Beckinsale in Whiteout
Warner Bros.
What do you think the name Kate Beckinsale means to movie-goers? What do you think characterizes the scripts that you chose? “I don’t know? How I feel about it and how it appears are probably quite different because I’m present throughout all my movies, whether they come out or don’t come out, and whether three people see them or lots of people see them. Perception wise, I would imagine that the larger, more action-based movies probably have the edge, just because they’re the ones that are on buses and have big posters. But, my choices have been quite eclectic. I don’t really know what it means. To me, it means that I’ve been allowed to do lots of different things, and I hope I still get to. But, I think I’d go mad if I tried to think too hard about how I was perceived.”
Do you make a decision immediately when you read a script? Do you know right away if something is for you or not, or do you agonize over it at all? “It really depends. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to get a script where you go, ‘Oh, my goodness, whatever the circumstances of this are, however small of a movie it is, I definitely want to do it. I would do it, if it was being staged in my backyard.’ There are different reasons to do movies. To be able to do the smaller movies, you have to have some sort of presence in the larger movies as well. It’s just an odd thing, when you’re doing your hobby as a career. It’s hard to not be emotional about each thing. But, I think you know if you really don’t want to do a project, when you read a script and hate it.”
On the internet, there have been a lot of rumors about a fourth Underworld film? Are you doing it?“I don’t know anything about a fourth Underworld. I was always just doing the first two (with husband, director Len Wiseman). It was always conceived as a trilogy, and I was never going to be in the third one. If they came up with an amazing script than sure, I definitely wouldn’t be adverse to it. But, it’s not necessarily planned.”
How do you handle balancing a career and motherhood?“My daughter, (ten-year-old Lily) comes with me. She was with us during Whiteout. I try to make it as normal a life as I can. I’m a regular working mom, who puts her kid in a bath, which is probably very annoying to (producer) Joel (Silver) when I’m like, ‘I have to go home now. My daughter needs a bath.’ I think she’s lucky to be around lots of very nice, creative, sweet people, and have experiences around the world. I don’t leave her behind.”
If you were stationed in Antarctica for six months, what are two things you could not go without?“Could I share a curling iron with someone? (laughs) I would take my daughter, and I would take a bunch of books. It would have to be three things, because I would also want a set phone. I have to be in touch with the civilized world."
Kate Beckinsale in Whiteout
Kate Beckinsale in Whiteout
Warner Bros.
Whiteout opens nationwide on Friday, August 11, 2009.
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