'No Strings' Interview
Natalie Portman

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Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
August 28, 2009

Based on the acclaimed comic book series written by Greg Rucka, Whiteout stars Kate Beckinsale as U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko, a capable enforcer burdened with emotional baggage from a past betrayal. Hoping to bury those wounds, she has accepted an isolated post in the remote and barren wilderness of Antarctica. But old ghosts are drudged up when she is pulled into a homicide investigation, and in the icy, unforgiving expanse at the bottom of the world, she must bounce back and solve the mystery behind a sudden string of murders.

Whiteout co-stars Tom Skerritt, Columbus Short, Alex O'Loughlin, and Gabriel Macht as a U.N. operative assisting Stetko in her investigation. But it is Kate who clearly carries the story, once more delivering the strength and resolve fans have come to expect from her based on action-heavy fare like the Underworld franchise. And even in sub-zero temperatures, she rocks a parka like no other.

In this first half of our two-part interview, stars Kate Beckinsale and Gabriel Macht talk about shooting the film in some of Manitoba's most chilling locations.

MEDIA: How was your experience of shooting in Manitoba?

KATE: When we arrived, [producer Joel Silver] said, "It's amazing, it looks like outer space and no one's done this before!" And we all got really hyped up. And then when we arrived, they put a sort of telephone directory this thick under our hotel room doors the night before we started shooting, saying, "These are all the different ways it is 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, you're going to die..." Like we all panicked. [jokes] Especially Gabriel. The [thing I] most remember was taking on and pulling off fifteen layers of clothes about 70 times a day. [laughs] There's a game in England that you play where you put on loads and loads of clothes, and then you get to eat hot chocolate the night before. But the chocolate never showed up. When we first came out, all the men had beards full of ice that I thought was 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 know how to handle the cold." And I've never done anything like that in my life. [laughs]

GABRIEL: It's interesting. My experience of Manitoba was...It was definitely freezing, and the environment was as close to the environment as I would think is Antarctica. But we were in this extreme weather gear, and I wasn't that cold, because the stuff they got was very warm. I was fine. And I expected it to be a lot worse. The challenges that we came up against were when we shot in the studio, we were in 80 degree weather. And it was in sort of late spring/early summer, and we're having to wear this extreme weather gear. And it was probably the hottest set I've ever been on. So I was sweating bullets, and I probably lost like 35 pounds making the movie.

KATE: [jokes, to Gabriel] So you crying every day, that was just because the sunset was so pretty? [laughs]

GABRIEL: Yes. I cried every day.

What specific challenges did the extreme cold present?

KATE: I have to say, Joel was right. I try and make out like we shot in the cold for longer than we did, just because it makes us sound a bit more tough. But we were so lucky to have such a brilliant crew and a fantastic cast. I've never had such nice boys, ever. And I think there's something about it being so extreme--you know, 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 are sweating...There was something kind of bonding about it. We all had a really good giggle all the time with each other. And the crew were great--the Canadian crew were excellent. And I have to say, if anything, the cold just turned out to be a sort of mutual point of contact where everybody kind of complained about it--because actors love complaining--so we didn't have to complain about, really, hardly anything else, because the cold was a big deal. And it was great. In terms of challenging, that very first day coming out of the trailer, I really was worried I wasn't going to be able to speak at all--say a line, ever--because my whole throat closed on that first breath.

GABRIEL: You've got to keep your passages open.

KATE: But luckily, Gabriel was going to keep my passages open...Which is a really weird quote. [laughs] But yeah, in terms of that, the cold was really great. It was probably worse in the studio with the heat, and trying to stop Columbus from sweating was the biggest challenge. [laughs]

Given your characters' bulky gear, it seems like you both could have been doubled for most of the action scenes. How much of the stuntwork did you do?

KATE: [jokes] We went to Tahiti. [laughs]

GABRIEL: I feel like I did a lot of my own stunts. I think I did all of them, actually. There may have been some second unit stuff that I wasn't aware of, but I think I was pretty much around for all of it. I had worked with [stunt coordinator] Steve Lucescu on another film, and we got along great both times. So we had a good time.

Was it difficult to maneuver in those costumes?

GABRIEL: You know, it has its challenges, but there's also a lot of padding. So when you're thrown down, [it's not that bad].

KATE: I think more of the challenge is actually how to make it look cool and exciting, rather than just two great, big inflatable people hitting into each other. That was the challenge, I thought.

GABRIEL: And also, you can't see anything behind you--your peripheral is really [limited]. It's tough with the goggles...

Kate, was the physicality of this movie as tough as anything you had to do in the Underworld films?

KATE: It's hard to say. It may have been, in terms of practically. But I think nothing was harder for me than going from "never having done it before" to "doing it"--you know, I had had a background of ballet and reading before I did, say, Underworld. And so the whole training physical thing was a complete shock--totally new to me. So [this time] was much less like that, you know? I mean, I had never been dragged around on a homemade surfboard through snow and had all that stuff. But I think once you've entered the realm of action movies, it's [subsequently easier]. There's nothing like the first time. So it was definitely manageable. We had a great stunt team. You know, just having such strong winds and all that was something I hadn't encountered before, but it wasn't too hard.

You've worked on an eclectic assortment of films over the years. What kind of association and pull do you think your name has with movie-goers?

KATE: I don't know. I think probably 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, whether three people see them or lots of people see them. So I don't know. Perception-wise, I would imagine the larger, more action-based movies probably have the edge, just because they're the ones that are on buses and big posters. But I think you're right, I think it probably has been quite eclectic. I don't really know what it means. To me, it means I've been allowed to do lots of different things, and I hope I still do. But I think I'd go mad if I tried to think too hard about how that's perceived.

How long do you take to decide whether or not to do a given movie?

KATE: It really depends. Sometimes you're lucky enough to get a script where you go, "Oh my goodness, whatever the circumstances, however small of a movie [this is], I definitely want to do it. I'd do it if it was being staged in my backyard." And then there are other kinds of movies. There are different reasons to do movies, and sometimes to be able to do the smaller movies, you have to actually have some sort of a presence with the larger movies as well. It's just an odd thing when you're doing your hobby as a career. It's hard to be not emotional about each thing. But I think you know if you really don't want to, quite frankly--if you read a script and hate it. [laughs]

When reading a script with mystery elements and plot twists, how good are you at predicting the ending?

KATE: I'm quite good. I'm really usually quite good at finding that out. I'm a big reader, so I'm always kind of thinking ahead to the end. I usually get it. [laughs]

Did you figure out Whiteout's ending?

KATE: This one changed a couple of times, so I don't remember at what point I did, actually... [laughs]

Continue to Part 2 of this interview

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