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the women of cult television

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keira's photo fears

28 june • source: teen hollywood

 

• insecure star can't bear to see her own pictures

Keira Knightley has confessed she can't bear to see pictures of herself in magazines - because it makes her feel insecure about her looks.

The beautiful teenage actress admitted: "I don't look at anything to do with me. All those look-at-the-state-of-this photos. I know my own faults and I don't need anybody else telling me.

"Spots? Yes. Bad hair? Yes. Short legs? Fine. Big butt? Whatever." back to the top

Elisabeth rohm to leave "law & order"

28 june

 

• ex-"angel" star to exit next season

Elisabeth Rohm, best known to sci-fi fans as Angel's Kate Lockley, is to leave her current role on Law & Order next season to pursue other opportunities. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Rohm's character, ADA Serena Southerlyn, will be written out after the first 13 episodes of the season. back to the top

military operation for "king arthur"

25 june • the independent

 

• last minute changes to summer blockbuster

According to today's Independent, King Arthur has been subject to a few, frantic last-minute changes, with reshoots ordered in advance of the film's premiere in London on 15 July.

"They've been filming extra footage very recently indeed," says one member of the cast. "What is more, some of the costumes had already been installed in a Disney theme park, and have had to be flown over in a military jet. It's terribly expensive."

A spokesman for Disney confirmed yesterday that there has been recent reshooting, but denied the project is in any trouble.

"We've asked to have some costumes at the premiere", he explains. "Perhaps that explains why they have been flown over." back to the top

kEira moves back with her parents

22 june

 

• £500k flat flooded

Tonight's London Evening Standard reports that Keira Knightley had to move back to her parents' home at Teddington because her £500,000 flat in Sloane Square was flooded. As she told Jay Leno on his chat show: "It's got water pouring through the ceiling, the electricity doesn't work and the toilet broke." back to the top

"king arthur" premiere date

22 june

 

• uk date for keira's new film

The UK and European premiere of King Arthur will be at the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square, London on Thursday 15 July. The film itself opens in the UK on Friday 30 July. back to the top

katherine heigl on sci-fi uk

21 june

 

• three chances to catch her during july

Anyone who's watched the UK version of Sci-Fi recently must have noticed their almost permanent on-screen promotions for the new version of The Twilight Zone.

If you can brave the constant graffiti, then there are three chances to catch former Roswell star Katherine Heigl next month. Katie appears in the episode Cradle of Darkness, playing a young woman who is sent back in time to kill the infant Adolf Hitler in an attempt to prevent the Holocaust from happening.

Transmission details are: Monday 19 July at 9pm, Friday 23 at 9pm and Sunday 25 at 8pm. back to the top

angelina jolie won't carry olympic torch

21 june

 

• relay clashes with film commitment

Tomb Raider star Angelina Jolie will not carry the Olympic torch during one of the final stages of the relay because of a commitment to a movie, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday.

Jolie, 29, had agreed in January to run a stage of the Olympic torch relay in Athens a day before the start of the August 13-29 Olympics.

"Angelina Jolie will not visit Greece on the occasion of the Olympic Games in August due to unexpected contractual obligations," the UNHCR said.

Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the UNHCR since 2001, was to have dedicated her stretch of the relay to the world's refugees. back to the top

knightley in shining armour

18 june • source: premiere, june 2004

 

• keira knightley has played soccer ("bend it like beckham"), walked the plank ("pirates of the caribbean"), and broken hearts ("love actually"). and with her latest role as a courageous guinevere in "king arthur", this English rose gives further proof that she's no shrinking violet.

Keira Knightley, painted blue, stands on a rise in a field in Ireland. Her costume is a study in strategic strapping - one leather band up top, another low down, nothing in between, at the request of producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who personally entreated costumer Penny Rose to display Knightley's impressive abdomen. At a signal from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), Knightley lets out a war whoop and breaks into a run, followed by 200 stampeding extras, also painted blue, many with flaming arrows.

This is the climactic battle scene in the summer blockbuster King Arthur, which sets the British legend in historical context - the late 5th century, at the tipping point between the fall of the Roman Empire and the dawn of the Dark Ages - and soaks it in realistic blood, mud and woad (the blue body paint also seen in Braveheart). Clive Owen (Beyond Borders) plays the titular monarch, supported by a roundtable of respected European thespians: Stephen Dillane (The Hours) as Merlin, Ioan Gruffudd (TV's Horatio Hornblower) as Lancelot, Stellan Skarsgård (Dogville) as Cedric, Ray Winstone (Cold Mountain) as Bors, Hugh Dancy (Ella Enchanted) as Galahad. (Amazingly, no American actor was helicoptered in to goose the box office.) The film also reimagines Guinevere, whom Knightley plays, as a warrior queen of the Picts, a pre-Celtic strain of matriarchal British amazons who evaporated as a race sometime in the 10th century. Filming this one battle will take a full month.

"It was terribly exciting," she says on a Sunday afternoon in March 2004, half a year later and half a world away, at a deserted, subterranean hotel bar in Montreal, where she's finishing a decidedly smaller-scale project, the psychological thriller The Jacket, opposite Oscar winner Adrien Brody (The Pianist). "I haven't seen [King Arthur] yet, but I think I kill eight or nine people. I have an axe, a burning arrow, I garrote people, I stick knives into them. And it's not too prettified, I get battered and bruised." She grins, gleeful. "I felt like a little boy playing a fantastic war game."

Licking the foam off her second cappuccino, picking at the chipped eggplant-coloured polish on her bitten fingernails, and describing playing Guinevere, variously, as "wicked," "chronic," "crazy great," and "fab," Knightley for just a moment looks and sounds like the excitable 19-year-old she is. Her eyes ringed in black kohl, she wears two T-shirts stacked atop one another over a pair of not entirely clean jeans, and black puffy boots that she could have borrowed from Frosty the Snowman. Her hair is pulled back in a scruffy ponytail, exposing a few tiny blemishes on her forehead. As she talks, she twists escaped strands of it around her fingers. A waiflike blond in her previous films, Knightley is now curvier (thanks to the weight training she did to play Guinevere) and brunette. "I go to meet my friends, I'm standing right in front of them and they don't recognise me," she says. Asked what her real hair colour is, she pauses, looking adorably dumbstruck. "I don't know!" she says, laughing. "I've been dyeing it for the last five years, and it's been platinum blonde, vaguely green, and now dark. Judging by my eyebrows, I guess it's this colour. I wish I'd never started dyeing it. You can't go bakc. Maybe I'll shave it all off."

Yet, spectacular as leading ten score of armed extras may have been for a then 18-year-old British lass, King Arthur is not Knightley's first $140 million Jerry Bruckheimer-Disney extravaganza. That would be Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, the vehicle upon which she sailed into Hollywood consciousness. She battled ghost pirates, walked the plank, kissed Orlando Bloom, and helped the film glide away with more than $300 million in grosses, making it the second-most-successful picture last year (after another high-seas story, Finding Nemo). Nor is King Arthur her first love-triangle film; that would be Love Actually, the directorial debut of screenwriter Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral). In the large ensemble cast, Knightley had little to do but wear fuzzy sweaters and beam, yet she convinced you she was worthy of deathless, if unrequited, love. Nor is it her first jock-girl film; that, of course, is Bend It Like Beckham, the little British indie that conquered America last summer, about two soccer-mad friends who defy their families' rigid expectations.

"Keira's a kid, except when the camera rolls. Then she's an adult," Bruckheimer says. "She has strength, poise, and confidence. Pirates was a huge film, Johnny Depp is one of the world's greatest actors, but I never saw her nervous. She walked off that plank 15 feet in the air and never fliched. On King Arthur, the knights were seasoned actors, but they had to be on their toes with her. Plus, she's got a great stomach - why not show it off?"

Keira Knightley, in other words, is no ordinary teenager. First of all, she is so gorgeous that one doesn't know where to gaze first - the creamy skin, the cushy lips, the soaring bone structure, the long limbs waving like reeds. Second, she is both charismatic and believable onscreen. A professional actress since age seven, she has never taken an acting lesson, but has worked steadily in British TV (she played Lara in a TV version of Doctor Zhivago) and film, wrapping Beckham just as she graduated from high school.

"I see so many actors. You can spot the special ones pretty easily," Bruckheimer says. "The hardest thing for young actors is to be honest - to not play themselves, and to not 'act.' Keira is both self-assured and as natural as can be. And though she's so beautiful, women aren't intimidated by her. She doesn't give off the vibe that she'd steal your boyfriend. You'd want your little brother to marry her." He pauses. "Of course, every guy I run into wants to meet her. The 25-year-olds I play hockey with are always saying, 'You have to introduce me to Keira Knightley!'"

And third, she is more wry, thoughtful, and cannily self-deprecating than most adults. She claims to be a terrible dancer, a chronic shoe-shopper and chocolate-eater, and to loathe watching herself onscreen. "Suddenly you've got your own ugly mug staring back at you," she says. "It's a jarring sensation: 'Oh, go away, stop talking.'" Asked if her parents - her father, Will Knightley, is a theatre actor; her mother, Sharman Macdonald, a playwright - told her she was beautiful when she was growing up, she adopts a mock-scolding voice and replies, "No, no. That's not very British!" When she talks about how landing Love Actually and Pirates back-to-back gave her an excuse to quit college, with no desire to return, she says, "Nobody ever has the right to stop learning, and I won't. But I felt claustrophobic there, and guilty because I was wasting everybody's time. If you look around the world, it's such a privilege to have that kind of education, especially for women. So to be there but be pissing about is actually shocking, all in all."

And about LA, Knightley says she loves visiting, "but I wouldn't say that I could live there. You see a lot of a certain type of woman, the type who would say, 'I haven't eaten all day, aren't I good?' Being surrounded by that idea, it's kind of catching. I think you have to be a really, really strong person to be there. I don't think I am strong enough. But you can get a great manicure-pedicure, best in the world." She glances at her nails and affects a horrified expression. "God, I could use one!"

When Knightley heard Disney was making a big-budget film about King Arthur, her first thought was, "Oh God, again? We've had every version, even the cartoon." Then she read the script, and became intrigued by the idea of making a reality out of the myth. "There is a theory that King Arthur was a Roman general called Arturius Rex. They found his tomb somewhere in England," she says. "Also, it's an action film. As opposed to doing the normal damsel-in-distress-type vibe, they've actually made Guinevere a warrior queen. Well, it's not clear whether she is the queen, or just simply somebody high up. But in my head she was the queen."

Knightley trained for seven months, tripling her muscle mass. Last April, three months before filming began, she undertook thrice-weekly, two-hour weight-training sessions with a coach in her native London, followed by an hour of horse riding and another hour of sword fighting and archery. During the June-to-November shoot, which kicked off with a two-week boot camp, the entire cast worked daily with Ed Chow, who prepped Angelina Jolie for the Tomb Raider films. Knightley never needed her stunt double. "Everything you see onscreen," Bruckheimer says, "she earns."

"The real Picts went into battle naked, covered in tattoos," Knightley says. "The first time the Romans came to Britain, they saw these blue people standing on the beach and turned around and left, because they thought they were demons. Obviously I wasn't too keen on going naked, and neither was anybody else. So Penny Rose, who also did the costumes on Pirates, came up with one I could move in. As it was boiling hot, I was so glad. The boys had to wear a lot more. Though half of me was pissed off, too, because they wore armour with pecs and six-packs built into it, so they didn't have to work that hard."

On the plus side, she had lots of energy, even after a long day of battle, to party with the knights. "Much Guinness was consumed," she says. But her new figure did take some getting used to. "I felt healthy; I felt my body was doing what it should," Knightley says. "But none of my clothes fit. I was too thin when I started, and I'm growing anyway, but to enhance that even more is" - she laughs, then adopts a veddy proper voice - "for want of a better expression, a head fuck. As a teenage girl, where you're looking at fashion magazines all the time, it's very difficult to purposely make yourself something completely other than what they think you should be. It did make me extremely self-conscious. Which is stupid."

What really matters to her is whether she's done Guinevere justice. "The King Arthur stories, they're British legends," Knightley says. "If the chance comes up to play them, you absolutely can't say no. But it does come with a certain pressure. This is a character who has been played so well so many times. I get shivers down my spine every time I think of it: 'Oh, God, have I completely ruined her? Have I let her down?'"

The Jacket - the title refers to a straitjacket - is Knightley's most grown-up role to date. A thriller about a veteran from the first Gulf war (Brody) recuperating in a mental institution, directed by John Maybury (1998's Love Is the Devil), it's a cross between One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Jacob's Ladder. Knightley plays the vet's love interest, and may or may not be a figment of his fevered imagination.

She chose the film, she says, because it stood out from all the other scripts she was sent after Pirates - "pretty girl in a corner, screams a lot," she summarises - and because "my aim is to do whatever scares me the most." Doing an American accent, her first, scared her, as did a passionate love scene (though she found it "strangely liberating") and acting opposite Brody and Jennifer Jason Leigh. "I watch them work and just go, 'Pshoo, wow.' 'Wow' is actually the only word I can use to describe it," Knightley says. "In my big scene with Jennifer, I nearly forgot what I had to do because I spent the entire time staring a her, going, 'How do you do that?'"

According to Knightley, she almost didn't get the part. She flew from the King Arthur set in Dublin to meet Maybury for lunch in London. "I had the worst food poisoning ever, and had been up since 3.30am, then had to get on the plane," she says. "I'm sitting in this meeting, and you know when it's so bad that you can't think about anything except, 'Get through this, don't puke'?" Then she heard Maybury says: "I don't want you in this film. The producers want you, but I don't, because I don't know if you can act or not."

"I thought, 'Well, that's fair enough' - still thinking, 'Don't projectile vomit, don't projectile vomit," Knightley says. "I said, 'All right, do you want me to read for you, then?' He said, 'If you think it's going to do any good.'" She read. He listened. When she finished, he offered her the part.

"I would much rather somebody say that to me than be phony," she says. "You don't want to work with somebody who doesn't believe in you."

Knightley's audition for Pirates, on the other hand, could not have been more glamorous. Days before she was to start a summer job in a skateboard shop, she read for a London casting director. At 11 the next night, a Sunday, her agent informed her that Disney wanted to fly Knightley and her mother to LA the morning at 7. They arrived on Monday and checked into the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, where they spent an hour sitting by the pool, giggling and gazing at Geoffrey Rush, who unbeknownst to them would play the pirate captain. "I just remember drinking this milk shake, looking around me going, 'What the hell is this!'" Knightley says. That afternoon she met director Gore Verbinski and a handful of Disney executives. That night, she got another phone call, asking her to fly on Tuesday to New York to meet Bruckheimer. They landed, went straight to the meeting, and flew back to London the next morning. "I thought, 'Okay, if I don't get it, it doesn't matter - that was cool!'" Knightley says. Two weeks later, she got the part.

After The Jacket wrapped at the end of March, Knightley was officially out of work for the first time since she graduated from high school. In April, she was supposed to have started Tulip Fever for director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) opposite Jude Law, but the project fell apart at the eleventh hour on February 10, when the British government outlawed a tax equity fund called Inside Track, which was to provide $15million of the film's financing. About two dozen other movies were affected as well. "It's heart-wrenching that a film like that can't get made, because it's so great, it's why people make films," Knightley says. "As somebody who's British, it's very embarrassing that it's the British bit that fell through. But another part of me is really excited [about taking a hiatus]. It will be nice to spend time with my mates."

She knows what she wants: to buy a flat in London, move into it with a girlfriend, and decorate like mad. She wants to stay in the same neighbourhood where she grew up, and where her parents still live in the same house. (Her older brother, Caleb, a BBC sound technician, lives nearby. "He's the nice one," she joshes.) She calls her childhood an ideal mix of excitement and consistency. "The kind of theatre my parents were involved with, there was a feeling that it could change the world," she says. "I started acting because I wanted to be part of that.

"They've always been open and liberal about everything," Knightley continues. "I'm just starting to realise how courageous it is not to have one stable income in the household. My dad would do a theatre job for six weeks to six months. As soon as he got back, he'd be minicab-driving and everything else to keep money coming in. He taught me that with acting, you get a job, you go to the head of the line. But as soon as the job is finished you're back to the end of the line and you have to work your way up again. You have to enjoy the moment, because it doesn't last forever. That's why I'm so keen to find a flat, because then I'll have a roof over my head and I won't be living under a bridge. I know I'm 19 and it shouldn't matter, but I'll feel really good if I know that I've got that." She laughs. "Jesus, I've been ridiculously lucky. And it will run out. But at the moment, I'm absolutely loving this bit. The next bit, who knows? And that's cool." back to the top

majandra delfino's "le prince bleu"

16 june

 

• support campaign launched for former "roswell" star's single

Roswell fans will probably remember that several episodes (including Viva Las Vegas, Cry Your Name and Behind The Music) featured Majandra Delfino's character Maria singing, although Majandra herself wasn't too happy with some of the songs she had to sing (hardly surprising since one of them was a Phil Collins cover).

While the series was still on-air, Majandra released her own CD, The Sicks, and for those interested in her latest musical project, a campaign has been launched to raise enough interest to secure a release for her single Le Prince Bleu. For more details click on the banner below, which takes you to the English language campaign page (there's also a French language one as well). Thanks to Mel for the info. back to the top

knightley to move in with boyfriend

13 june

 

• bad news for the rest of us...

According to Teenhollywood, Keira Knightley is planning to move in with her Irish model boyfriend Jamie Dornan.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star has been dating 21-year-old Dornan for the past six months, and sources now say the pair are planning to move into her new $1.5 million luxury apartment in Mayfair.

A pal says, "Keira idolises Jamie. She has asked him to stay with her in her new flat for an indefinite amount of time."

On 23 May the pair shopped for furniture - including beds.

The friend adds, "Jamie relocated to London because he wants to spend more time with Keira."

Until recently, Knightley was living with her parents in Teddington, Middlesex. back to the top

women of the year awards

11 june

 

• keria named film actress of the year

Keira Knightley has won the Film Actress of the Year honour at a awards bash held in a marquee in Berkeley Square Gardens, central London.

The actress won the award for the performances in Pirates of the Caribbean, Bend It Like Beckham and Love Actually. Beckham director Gurinder Chadra picked up the Film-maker of the Year award, while the top honour of Woman of the Year went to Christina Aguilera. back to the top

emilie de ravin is "lost"

8 june

 

• former "roswell" star in abc series' pilot

Emilie de Ravin, best known as Tess Harding on Roswell, is to appear in the pilot episode of Alias creator J.J. Abrams' new ABC series, Lost.

The network's blurb for the series runs as follows:

Out of the blackness the first thing Jack senses is pain. Then burning sun. A bamboo forest. Smoke. Screams. With a rush comes the horrible awareness that the plane he was on tore apart in mid-air and crashed on a Pacific Island. From there it's a blur, as his doctor's instinct kicks in: people need his help.

Stripped of everything, the 48 survivors scavenge what they can from the plane for their survival. Some panic. Some pin their hopes on rescue. A few find inner strength they never knew they had - like Kate who, with no medical training, suddenly finds herself suturing the doctor's wounds. The band of friends, family, enemies and strangers must work together against the cruel weather and harsh terrain. But the intense howls of the mysterious creatures stalking the jungle fill them all with fear. Fortunately, thanks to the calm leadership of quick-thinking Jack and level-headed Kate, they have hope. But even heroes have secrets, as the survivors will come to learn.

From J.J. Abrams, the creator of Alias, comes an action-packed adventure that will bring out the very best and the very worst in the people who are lost.

Emilie plays a pregnant woman in the pilot, which you can just about tell from our two publicity pictures.

The actor in the suit in both pictures in Matthew Fox, who is joined by Jorge Garcia in the top picture.

It's not known whether Emilie's role is just a one-off, but she's certainly not listed among the regular cast: Evangeline Lilly, Ian Somerhalder, Dominic Monaghan, Jorge Garcia, Malcolm David Kelley, Naveen Andrews, Harold Perrineau, Josh Holloyway, Matthew Fox, Terry O'Quinn, Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim. However, with 48 survivors, they could well be a number of recurring characters on the show.

As you'd expect from a J.J. Abrams series, Greg Grunbery (Weiss on Alias) puts in an appearance in the pilot, but that appears to be his only involvement in the series.

One final thing to look out for - judging from some of the publicity shorts, Maggie Grace appears to be making a bid for the coveted 'shortest skirt on TV' award... back to the top

kate beckinsale in "gq"

1 june

 

• from voluptuous vampire killer in "van helsing" to mad-mad fifties siren in "the aviator", kate beckinsale is taking the world's multiplexes by storm. and the best thing about hollywood's sexiest actress? she's made in england.

Now that July's edition has hit the newsstands, and the photos are all over the net, I thought I might as well add Kate Beckinsale's interview in the June edition of GQ:

She strides into the lobby of Shutters, the swishest beach-front hotel in Los Angeles, all honey-tanned and gorgeous with her hair bunched into a bouquet. "You'll never guess what's on the internet today," she says, breaking into a wicked grin. "Supposedly I eat cotton wool to stay in shape and I fucked Colin Farrell. And I'm supposed to have had a boob job this week. They had before-and-after pictures and everything. My brother called me. He said I should have got a size bigger!"

She looks down at her breasts, tucked tidily into a jogging blouse, and instinctively grabs them, hoists them up together and pulls one of those Les Dawson faces. "If I'd bothered with all that," she says, "I'd have dressed a little less modest!" Her pert little nose scrunches up, her eyes soften and sparkle, and she laughs. She has a lovely laugh, Kate - light and trilling like a bird.

If nothing else, the whirring rumour mill confirms her arrival among the Hollywood elite - you're no one in this town until you've been accused of eating wool, fucking Farell or buying boobs. Yet for years Kate lived happily below the radar, sidling onto the A-list with nary a whiff of gossip, not even after Pearl Harbor in 2001, which almost did for Beckinsale what Titanic did for Winslet, England's other great Kate.

Then, last summer, she roused the yapping dogs of the splasherazzi press by leaving Michael Sheen, her co-star on vapmire movie Underworld, for the director Len Wiseman, to whom she's now blissfully engaged. The fact that Sheen is both of stout Welsh stock and the father of her five year old, Lily, was only red meat to the gossip-hounds who sensed a vixen ready to sacrifice a ten-year relationship on the altar of her Hollywood ambition. It didn't matter that Kate had spent her twenties faithfully monogamous and untarnished by scandal, nor that she's far more accomplished than Wiseman in industry terms, so the career move would be his if anyone's. None of this matters, once the yapping begins.

Nevertheless, her tabloid baptism only heralded what this year Beckinsale has put beyond doubt - that she is indeed a bona fide star, right up there with Gywneth and the rest. This month she stars opposite Aussie X Man Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing, a rip-roaring action blockbuster. "They said, 'Kate, go and waft a sword about and kill things.' So I did. I don't half get about in that film." And come the end of the year, all the ships come sailing in: she plays Hollywood legend Ava Gardner opposite Leonardo DiCaprio's Howard Hughes in The Aviator, directed by none other than Martin Scorsese.

"Oh Marty, yes," she says, grinning. "What do you mean? Everyone calls him Marty! It is a bit scary though, especially when he says, 'OK great, so shall we try a take now?' And you think, 'No! I'm from Chiswick. I've no business being here. Actually, is there any cleaning you'd like me to do or should I just go straight home?'"

Kate's passage from Chiswick to Hollywood began aged five at her father's funeral. This much we all know. so tragic was the early death of Richard Beckinsale - the star of Porridge and Rising Damp - that young Kate was long presumed to be a maudlin girl to be handled with emotional kid gloves. There were indeed years of teenage tailspin at the Godolphin and Latymer girls' school, with a brief battle with anorexia thrown in, but the clouds had passed by the time she went to Oxford to study French and Russian, and to do a spot of acting on the side - just a few movies, Much Ado About Nothing with Kenneth Branagh, that sort of thing.

Acting was always on the cards, what with her family being a virtual troupe. Her mother Judy and sister Samantha are both actors and her stepdad Roy is a writer and director. You may remember Kate's fresh-faced Flora in Cold Comfort Farm, or the barbed Charlotte in The Last Days of Disco. But the gates only properly swung open when Jerry Bruckheimer threw her into Ben Affleck's arms in Pearl Harbor. Then she moved to Venice Beach with baby Lily, and the leads came rolling in, one by one - Serendipity with John Cusack, Laurel Canyon with Christian Bale and, last year, Underworld with, well, the director in the end.

"I still can't believe I'm marrying a septic!" she laughs. "Do you know what I mean?" And she laughs again, as sunny as the Californian skies.

Two hours fly by at our little table in Shutters where we drink only water, skipping lunch entirely. She's a wonderful talker, Kate, a born nitter-natterer. The words tumble out terribly quickly, but never rushed. Though her sentences come skidding around corners, they never screech.

And it's obvious that no matter how starry Hollywood would like her to be, she remains resolutely one of us - self-effacing and cheeky, without the slightest trace of West Coast twang polluting her melodious west London posh. She punctuates everything with her delightful laugh, and she butterflies prettily from subject to subject. One minute she's talking about how she misses the "black cabs and the slightly grumpy English" or how "I get a bit claustrophobic wearing knickers", and the next she's about to reveal her secret talent.

"I can sneeze on request," she says, giggling. She demonstrates and beams though she just won an Oscar. Now there are some actresses who might follow that with an anecdote about how they sneezed for so-and-so legendary director in that Hayfever epic. Not Kate. "I can do that 200 times in biology until I get sent home." Which just goes to show that you can take the girl out of Chiswick...

Sneezing apart, what are you up to these days?

I'm kind of tootling around ready to do some whoring, you know.

And why not? A girl's got to eat.

No, silly. Publicity whoring for Van Helsing.

Yes, more vampires. You're the go-to girl for vampire stuff these days.

I know. And now I'm doing Underworld 2 as well, so I'm literally becoming Goth queen. But I'm not interested in vampires at all. When I hear about a vampire movie, I think of biting necks and garlic and long white nighties.

Underworld was more of an action movie.

Yeah, and I love action movies. I love Rambo, Lethal Weapon, Terminator, Die Hard - all that stuff. Van Helsing's more like Romancing The Stone - sort of old-fashioned, a girl and a guy on this adventure thing. And I'm not a vampire this time. I'm a gypsy princess who has swords and kills vampires and kicks ass. Not really kung fu-style, more sort of rushing about with a stick. Bit of flipping over, you know.

So you had months of ass-kicking lessons?

Well, on Underworld I had three months of it. First I learned how not to run like a girl. Then I had all the boxing and gun lessons. To my amazement, I quite enjoyed the guns.

Did you rush out and buy one?

No, I've got a five-year-old. But I've got a spud gun.

It must be good for your CV, all that shooting and fighting. And sneezing.

And falling off stuff and flying around on wires. It's not bad for someone who bunked off PE for years. My friends and I used to say that we had our periods and then go and sit in a café.

I thought you were a good girl at school who went to Oxford and everything.

No, I was naughty. Well, not naughty so much as I just didn't go. I stayed at home.

Were the other girls means?

They were nasty girls. I was also a bit of a nut then. I didn't like being a teenager. It was better for me to contain it at home. Inside a wardrobe.

I tried skiving, but my parents wouldn't have it.

Mine were fine because I was a poor little bastard. And because I wasn't smoking crack in my room, I was reading Solzhenitsyn and writing essays. When I got into Oxford it did raise eyebrows becasue I was the naughty truant.

When do you use your French and Russian?

It's been so useful in my career. Not. I sometimes speak French because we do a lot of films in Canada. But I only speak Russian with taxi drivers and bikini waxers. That's all you get in LA.

Surely you A-listers don't get cabs like us lot?

I have to because I don't drive. Occasionally I fling myself out of them because I think the guy's going to kill me; I throw some money at him and run. I've done that three times.

You could kick his ass now, with all your action movie training.

Of course I could! I remember Ben Affleck saying to me, "I can't fly on commercial airplanes any more because now I've done so many action movies, if anything terrorist goes down, everyone's going to look at me and go, 'Kick his ass!'" It works for my kid, though, she's five. There was a mean boy who said he was going to kill her rabbit, Bob, but then she showed him a picture of me in a magazine, holding a gun.

A spud gun?

Yes! So now I'm going to have to beat up somebody's dad with a spud gun. Excellent.

It's not worth it for a rabbit.

Bob's vicious, too. Terribly sexually frustrated. Rabbits are supposed to be at it all the time but he's just a poor guy on his own. Fucks his food bowl a bit. It's like boarding school, isn't it?

How did you get the part for The Aviator?

Oh, amazing. I was in the middle of Van Helsing and then I get this message that Martin Scorses is going to be here tomorrow and I have to learn Ava Gardner's accent in a day and audition with Leonardo DiCaprio. That was about the worst news I'd ever heard! But I couldn't say no.

A bit boyish isn't he, DiCaprio?

Yeah, he is. But he's so fucking good. And he's good in a grown-up way. He's not someone who by some autistic act of God is really talented. He's very in control of it. I thought he'd be this arrogant, LA skate kid, but he's just like the nicest person. The best actor. I also thought he'd be incredibly short, but he's six foot tall.

Wasn't Ava Gardner like Mae West, always quick with the one-liners?

I know, it's quite intimidating. Cate Blanchett plays Katharine Hepburn in the movie and we're both like, "What the fuck are we doing?" It's like lining yourself up to be shot.

At least you get a roll in the hay with DiCaprio.

Ha! It was more flirty, we didn't do anything dirty.

Laurel Canyon - I didn't really get the ending.

I know, neither did I. It sort of petered out.

Was it hard to snog Frances McDormand?

No, I'm not squeamish about kissing a woman. I've never had a full-on dyke experience in my life and I'm not dying for one at all, but I'm sure I snogged a girl at school or something. I do find that if you say to men, "Could you snog your best friend for a best?" they think it's disgusting. But I could - my best friend's very attractive. I wouldn't particularly want to rip her clothes off but, you know, I could for £50.

You give her a call while I go to the cashpoint.

She's in New York. Any anway, she might not want to snog me.

What about having Christian Bale go down on you at the start of the film?

Now that was more embarrassing. I'd never done any sex scenes before, and also I know Christian. I worked with him when I was 17 - we made the worst film in the whole world, Prince of Jutland. If it was a complete stranger, it would be easier; but when it's someone you've gone to lunch with and there's his head in between your legs...I wore five pairs of knickers.

Only Frances McDormand flashed her breasts, yet you were supposed to be the one having the sexual awakening. Nudity clause, was it?

No, they didn't ask me to get my baps out. They let me keep the bra on, which obviously I was guite glad about.

I've got to ask - what's this about you peeing into a Thermos flask?

Oh God! I haven't fucked anybody, I haven't done any drugs, and I'm still talking about peeing in someone's tea literally 15 years ago!

That was about some horrid nude scene wasn't it?

Well, it was this horrid director who made me do a nude scene, but that wasn't it. He was just really horrible and abusive about it, and I'm 17 years old, standing there naked and sobbing. Peeing in his tea did make me feel a tiny bit better.

Did he drink it?

Oh yes. But you can only do that once. You can also only run off with the director once. Otherwise you become someone who pees into tea and fucks directors. And that's your life story.

What was the director's name?

I'm not telling you! But pee's actually supposed to be quite good for you. It's quite a tonic, I've heard. He's going to live to 200 now, you watch.

Are you and Kate Winslet best friends or bitter rivals? Your names always appear together: the two English Kates who made it "over there".

You know, I've never even met her. People think that just because we're English and we're both called Kate that we live on the same street. Mind you, we both have daughters and have sex with directors. There's a whole new angle for you.

When's the next exclusive party you're going to?

I avoid all that stuff, but not as any kind of statement. I just could not be less interested.

What's wrong with a party?

I don't really drink, I've never taken drugs and I've already got a boyfriend, so what's the point of going to a party? What are you going to do?

You're not teetotal are you?

No, drinking just doesn't make me feel well. I find wine very depressing. I get into a kind of Chekhovian despair the next day, like, "Oh I must sit in my house and cry". And I'm not a fan of vomit, either. If you were bleeding I'd help you, but if you were vomiting, I'd be long gone.

Surely as a mum you've been wading through baby vomit for years?

True, Lily's the only one I'll deal with it for. Although you'd have to put me in a flotation tank and give me a cigarette afterwards.

Can you smoke in a flotation tank?

I've no idea. I'd have a funny turn if I went in one of those. I could end up thinking that life has lost all its meaning and just give up. I don't want to listen to the inner voices. It takes all my wherewithal to get them to shut up if you want the truth. Now, I want to ask you a question.

Go on.

Do you find interviewing US actors and English actors different? Do US actors talk more earnestly about themselves, take themselves more seriously?

Sometimes. Quite often they'll come to interviews with a suit of armour, it's like they send of representative of themselves. You, on the other hand, are just a normal girl from Chiswick.

I am! But just wait till I get outside, I'll peel my skin off and turn into a bastard. back to the top