Kate Beckinsale Talks Her Famous Father, Her High I.Q., and Run-Ins With Harvey Weinstein During Her Stern Show Debut
Actress, model, and producer sits down with Howard on the heels of her new Paramount+ series “Guilty Party”October 20, 2021
Renowned actress, model, and producer Kate Becksinale made her Stern Show debut Tuesday morning, connecting with Howard from her home to discuss everything from her oft-publicized love life and storied Hollywood career to her own personal breakfast of champions.
“I eat ground beef and grass-fed butter,” she told Howard. “[I have] blood sugar that can drop pretty easily, so I have to have like protein and fat or I go a bit wobbly.”
Their wide-ranging conversation touched upon Kate’s childhood, her time at the University of Oxford, and her famous parents—her dad, who died tragically when Kate was just five, and her mother, who joined the interview herself at one point to blow Howard’s mind with a major revelation. Kate also spoke at length about her dynamic film and TV career, which largely began with a role in Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing,” took some interesting turns with “Pearl Harbor” and the “Underworld” franchise, and continues now with her new Paramount+ comedy series “Guilty Party.” The actress didn’t shy away from discussing several challenges she faced along the way, either.
At the age of 16 or 17, for instance, her agent booked her a hotel room meeting with Hollywood mogul turned convicted sex predator Harvey Weinstein. “It didn’t seem like—ooh, massive red flag,” Kate admitted of the meeting, explaining that at the time it wasn’t unusual for American moviemakers traveling abroad to hold meetings in their hotel rooms.
Looking back on it, Kate now realized how naïve she was. “When I turned up at the hotel and this very large, not great-looking guy opened the door, who to me seemed incredibly old as well, and he had on a bathrobe, I thought, ‘Oh my god, how embarrassing for him,’ because you know he’s a bit of a sight. I thought, ‘He’s obviously forgotten there’s a meeting,” she said. “It didn’t cross my mind that was an issue.”
“He was like a grown-up businessman … and I thought, ‘Oh my god, this poor guy. I can see his boobs,’” she continued, saying it wasn’t long before he was doing his best to get her to drink some Baileys. But even then she didn’t realize he might be coming on to her. Kate told Howard she eventually got out of there by using the excuse that it was a school night and she had homework. “I didn’t think anything of it at all,” Kate said, once again stressing her naïveté.
A few years later, she had a different experience after starring opposite John Cusack in the Weinstein-produced romantic comedy “Serendipity.”
“He was really shifty,” she said of Weinstein. “I picked up that he was quite anxious about how specifically old I was [during our previous hotel room meeting] … He goes, ‘I didn’t do anything. Did I do anything? I didn’t do anything, did I?’ I remember thinking … ‘How often do you do that if you don’t remember?’”
The problems didn’t stop there. First, Weinstein fired Kate’s assistant on “Serendipity” without telling her. Later, while promoting the film, he objected to the outfit Beckinsale wore on the red carpet. “I got in big trouble for wearing a suit,” she told Howard, saying Harvey summoned her over for what she thought was a get-together with their kids but instead turned into a surprise scolding. “I was immediately in tears and shaking because I was brought [to his house] on the pretext of a playdate with toddlers, and suddenly I’m like being screamed at that I’m a ‘c-nt,’” Kate recalled. “It’s yelling, and there are people who had so many much more horrific experiences [with him], but it was really upsetting.”
The two worked together again on “The Aviator” and Kate admitted Weinstein was, at times, personable and nice. “That’s the tricky part,” she told Howard. “It’s not like, ‘Ooh, here comes this absolutely solid villain who’s only ever awful or masturbating in front of people or screaming at you … He was immensely talented at what he did, he put some incredible films together, he had great taste.”
“My personal experience was not one of being sexually assaulted, but there was some dark stuff that I was very upset by and more revealing in terms of who he turned out to be, ultimately,” she concluded.
Kate made a major career pivot starring in the 2003 action-horror film “Underworld”—a move Howard found “brilliant.” While she was far from a natural-born action star, Kate prepared intensely for the role. “I had to learn how to run, I had to learn how to throw a punch, I had all this kind of strange leaping practicing to do on a trampoline …. It was really overwhelming,” she said of that training period before adding she had one secret weapon to help her get through: “I’ve got enormous hands like a man, so it turns out I’m actually quite good with guns … I can fire guns and not blink, which is unusual.”
Even with her weapons proficiency, Beckinsale was still uncertain of how her scenes would turn out. “I really did feel like ‘Oh my god, I am so bad at this,’ and then I’d watch back on the monitor and be like, ‘That actually looks cool,’” she admitted, saying she’s still not entirely comfortable filming action sequences but the skills she learned shooting “Underworld” have never completely left her. “I obviously got taught quite well because there is kind of a muscle memory and then it does end up looking convincing.”
The film performed quite well at the box office, spurring three sequels and one prequel. “Critically I don’t think it went down that well, but people liked it,” the actress noted of the first entry into the series. “Now everything is vampire, and everything is werewolf, and I sort of feel like I’m very much like the grandma of all of that stuff … at the time it was this like incredibly novel thing and then ‘Twilight’ came and now it’s everywhere.”
Howard also praised her 2004 vampire film “Van Helsing,” but Kate confessed her memories of that project were far less fond. “I found the whole thing incredibly humiliating for some reason. I think because I did it immediately after I did ‘Underworld’ and I suddenly thought, ‘Oh god, people are kind of reacting to me as if I have this kind of vampire fetish,’ and I really didn’t,” she said. “A lot of times you just doing something that comes your way. It’s not like you have your pick of every single thing there is.”
On Losing Her Father at a Young Age
Kate isn’t the first person in her family to succeed in show biz. Along with her mother (actress Judy Loe) and stepfather (director Roy Battersby), her late father Richard Beckinsale was a beloved television actor in their native England.
“I cannot stress to you how famous he was … He was in two of the most iconic comedies of the period and everybody loved it,” she said of her dad, who starred on the sitcoms “Porridge” and “Rising Damp.” “He had this kind of universal appeal.”
When Richard died suddenly of a heart attack at 31, it was major news. “People were standing in the streets sobbing—I confused it with John Lennon’s death,” Kate, who was five years old at the time recalled. “My dad was just like adored … everything he did was so great. I’ve done some absolute stinkers as well, so I’ve really balanced it out.”
Her mother met Battersby on set and, while Beckinsale now feels lucky to have him, she admitted the transition was challenging at first. “I was at that age where boys were just gross and scary and, not only was he one, but he also had four sons … I was kind of a pony-riding, clarinet-playing posh girl and they were fucking rough, my brothers,” she noted of their families’ initial union. “But it was for the best. I might have been an insufferable prick on my own and had to learn to sink or swim a bit and ended up being very close with them.”
a question for mom
Howard was impressed to learn his Oxford-educated guest was fluent in both Russian and French. “Did you ever have your I.Q. tested?” he asked Kate.
“My mom did … [I think] it was very high. I think she had me tested because very bright children are unbearable,” she responded with a laugh, adding, “I’m going to text her and ask her. She’ll be awake.”
Judy didn’t responded to Kate’s text, but she did pick up the phone a little later. “Ma, I’m actually on the show currently. [Howard] wants to know what my I.Q. was when you had it tested,” Kate said.
“I think it was 152,” Judy responded.
Howard was floored by Kate’s mom’s big reveal. “I wish I had a 152 I.Q.,” he laughed.
“You don’t. Every single doctor … has said, ‘You’d be so much happier if you were 30 percent less smart.’ I’m sure that’s true,” Kate said. “It’s really not helpful in my career. I think it might’ve been a handicap, actually.”
Howard wondered if Kate struggled when dating men less intelligent than her.
“I’ve always found I can forgive an awful lot if somebody’s funny. There’s a certain degree of intelligence in someone being funny that I’m able to mess with,” she responded.
Watch Kate Beckinsale on “Guilty Party” streaming only on Paramount+.