Kate Beckinsale Is Stronger Than She's Ever Been
Article taken from Women’s Health Magazine.
On the October evening that Los Angeles wildfires closed in on Kate Beckinsale’s neighborhood and forced her to evacuate, it was the second threat she’d received that night. “I had a prowler at 1 a.m.,” she says. And by “prowler,” she means a creepy man banging on her door forcing her to call 911. Hours after the police left, Kate’s attention was drawn to her front door again—this time to a “giant fireball” just beyond it, advancing at a terrifying pace. “I was like, ‘Okay, this is the next thing,’” she says, catching her breath, her eyes widening as she recalls how she scooped up her cats, Clive and Willow, her dogs, Ingrid and Myf, their food, her passport, and left. The Widow actress spent the next week in a hotel, feeling grateful she and her creatures were safe.
Just a week later, we’re at a restaurant in Brentwood and Kate—who has arrived in a black tank top, heels, and the longest, thickest curls—has been cleared to move back into her house. Politely, she explains that in her more than 20 years of being famous, she’s found that writers often get her wrong. Because of her film roles, people assume she spends a lot of time walking around with a solemn expression, or angled optimally on a red carpet. In fact, she says, she hates posing and finds photo shoots mortifying. During them, she pictures her four stepbrothers rolling their eyes. “Which is healthy,” she says. “I think once you get comfortable with that, you’ve left the building.” Instagram, she notes, has been helpful in communicating to people what she’s really like. “I’m not a social media person, but it’s nice to have this little corner that’s my vibe,” she says, removing a lime from her fizzy water (a histamine intolerance).
It can feel like a little bit of a political act to be a woman over 32 who is having any fun at all.
So what is Kate Beckinsale actually like? On this day, she is witty and wry; on social media, she is irreverent and cheeky; in every reality, she is sharp and articulate. She has the self-possession of her 46 years while also somehow looking like she might be elected homecoming queen at an area university. Her trainer, Brad Siskind of Gunnar Peterson’s gym, observes that she gets right down to business. “The whole hour is work,” he says.
Even so, Kate admits that on a corporeal level, she can be delicate. “I think some people’s systems are just a bit sensitive to things. If you told me you had nausea yesterday, I might start throwing up myself.” As a result, she consumes virtually no stimulants—definitely no caffeine—and no alcohol. “If I ate too much dark chocolate, it would be like someone else taking cocaine.”
“I’m very connected to my body, so if I’m going to experience stress, I’m probably going to experience it physically,” she says. “So it’s usually a good idea for me to go do something physical to get rid of it. I kind of have to think of myself as a horse or something—time for a run around the paddock.”
Kate grew up on books and ballet. She didn’t start working out until her 20s, when director Michael Bay asked her to lose weight for 2001’s Pearl Harbor. It’s a story she’d recounted numerous times before it resurfaced three years ago, against the backdrop of a larger industry reckoning. “It wasn’t great, it didn’t make me feel good, and in general, I think women are body-shamed 100 million percent more than men. But on this particular project, I wasn’t,” Kate says. “Ben [Affleck], who’d already done a movie with the director, was like, ‘This happened to me. They made me get new teeth.’ And I was like, ‘Cool, at least I get to hang on to my actual teeth.’”
“Now exercise is almost more important to me moodwise,” says Kate, reflecting on how far her relationship to fitness has come since her rocky introduction. “The other aspects feel like a great side effect.” Kate works out six mornings a week with Siskind. Beforehand, she eats protein, usually chicken or eggs with grass-fed butter. The rest of the day she likes salads with radishes, brussels sprouts, and safflower oil; salmon; and the occasional handful of potato chips.
At the gym, she starts with a full-body workout composed of eight compound exercises that each work two muscle groups simultaneously: a biceps curl as she squats, or situps with combination punches. After the set, she’ll do 90 to 120 seconds of a cardio interval, like rowing or the VersaClimber, then do the eight exercises again—this time with heavier weights, added bands, or faster reps. After the 45 minutes it takes to complete both circuits, she’ll finish with a cardio interval using a rubber Inertia Wave, or one-leg pushes on a curved SkillMill treadmill. Finally, she and Siskind stretch (Google “Kate Beckinsale flexible” for a terrifying visual aid).
Then there are the periods when Kate is out of town filming. “You’ll find yourself in Bulgaria, and you don’t know anyone, and they’ll say, ‘Well, we have a trainer who’s available, and he’s literally called The Punisher,’” Kate says, making a concerned face. She’s learned to bring along yoga workouts recorded by Jessica James and Mandy Ingber. “I haven’t been injured while doing an action movie, and I think it’s partially from practicing yoga.”
“But as well as that,” Kate says, adding to what already sounds like a thorough exercise regimen, “I just got into trampolining, and it’s the greatest thing. There’s this woman, Lauren Kleban, who does LEKFit, and I think she’s a genius because she streams classes online.” (Yep, that’s the workout on page 61.) With LEKFit’s app, Kate can put a laptop on her counter and bounce on a trampoline in her kitchen—her ceilings are just high enough. “It makes you feel kind of jolly!” she exclaims.
Pulling no punches.
Kate can bounce at will; she has her house to herself now. Twenty-year-old Lily, her daughter with actor Michael Sheen, is living in Manhattan. The two are close, and Kate misses Lily immensely. “You do get some freedom,” she says of having an adult child walking around in the world. Kate has always craved alone time—both when growing up with four stepsiblings and while married for 11 years to director Len Wiseman. “I think more people would do well married if they didn’t have to live in the same house,” she says. “Being married is kind of easy, but the living-with-the-person thing is a lot. I also think that for women especially—and this is generalizing—but I think it’s common for us to mentally subjugate our needs to whoever else is in the room. So if you’ve got a husband, a boyfriend, kids, or parents, it’s so easy to come in with an idea of what you’d like to do, and then end up going, ‘Oh no, no, no, it’s fine.’ And it’s quite nice to not always have to negotiate that.”
This isn’t to say being single hasn’t come with its own challenges—especially during the four months she dated SNL star Pete Davidson, and the entire Internet felt they had permission to weigh in. “If everyone’s shitting on you, it can make you kind of ugh for a minute—especially if there’s really nothing wrong,” she says, without acknowledging any relationship in particular. “If you’re strangling a squirrel or hurting someone, I get it, but living one’s life in a reasonably respectful manner shouldn’t invite anyone to get too excited.” Kate has found the attention to how she moves through the world surprising.
“It can feel like a little bit of a political act to be a woman over 32 who is having any fun at all. And by that, I don’t mean doing drugs and drinking and partying—because I never am—but being goofy, and going out, and not going, ‘Omigod, I’m going to sit home and anticipate menopause while crocheting.’ Unless you’re doing that, it somehow seems to be risqué, which is just ridiculous to me. And I witness men constantly doing whatever they like—whether that’s in relationships, or deciding to buy a motorbike, or getting a tattoo. It has not been interpreted as ‘Why hasn’t he had more children?’ or ‘Is he ever going to decide to become a parent?’ or ‘Why has he had so many girlfriends?’”
She’s sensed that other people are frustrated with this double standard, especially when she tells women about her next role, in the dark comedy Jolt, a film about a woman who has an impulse-control disorder and becomes violent when angry. “I explain, ‘It’s this woman who’s got this rage disorder,’” Kate says. “And every single woman has said, ‘Oh. Me.’ Women are really fucking angry right now,” she says. “It was quite a nice thing to get to do that with a female director, Tanya Wexler. It was a good energy.”
So maybe this is what Kate is really like. She’s a woman with the mental fortitude it takes to sift through life’s challenges—big and small—and channel them into something positive: a movie role suited for a world in which women deal with prowlers; a late-night escape that culminates in a welcome return home; an intense workout that makes her feel calm yet powerful. It reminds me of something Siskind said about Kate’s diligence at the gym: “She’s a strong person. I see her six days a week, and she rarely misses a workout. If she does, there’s a good reason. Because otherwise, she’s crushing it.”