It’s hard to imagine Kate Beckinsale as ugly, but the British actress is messing with her classic beauty in Whiteout, playing a federal marshal who’s horribly disfigured after being attacked by the killer she’s tracking. Kate told me she had no problem with the startling change in her image. “Looking bad in a movie is as much an illusion as looking really great,” she says. “I wish I could say that the movies in which I look really fantastic are truly me, but they aren’t. They’re the best version of me. So in Whiteout you get the worst version.”

Then Beckinsale reveals with a grin that she got a kick out of the whole process of becoming hard to look at. “The makeup people were painting on scars and bruises and giving me really sallow skin, and I enjoyed it,” she says. “If I wanted to just feel pretty all the time I would have been a model, but that’s not my goal. I’m much more tense when I’m supposed to be attractive in a movie. I keep thinking, Oh, God. I hope it’s coming out okay. Do I look all right? So it was nice not to have to worry about it.”

What Kate did worry about was the weather. To re-create Antarctica, where Whiteout takes place, the filmmakers chose a northern Canada location in the dead of winter. “It was minus 58 degrees,” she says. “Before I got there, I was going, I grew up in London, I’ve made a movie in snow and ice in Budapest, so I’ll be fine. But I could not believe how shockingly cold it was.

 “Every time you take a breath, it makes you cough because you get a blast of subfreezing air in your throat,” she continues. “My hair would get frozen into points of ice because I was breathing on it. I did get frightened the first day of filming, because the night before they gave us this pamphlet warning of different ways you can die from being in the cold. Of course most people sensibly didn’t read it. But I, of course, sat there like Woody Allen, going, Oh, my God.”

Like what you're reading? Get it delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up now for our newsletters >>