Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Whiteout stars Kate Beckinsale as U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko, the only law enforcement officer at an outpost in Antarctica, where the temperatures are minus-120 degrees and the winds blow at 100 miles an hour. When a body is found miles from her outpost, Stetko is plunged into a bizarre mystery and a revelation of secrets long-buried under the endless ice.

With such genre successes as Van Helsing and Underworld behind her, Beckinsale thought she’d handle this role with ease, that is before she faced the freezing cold climate of Manibota, Canada.

What was it like working in Manitoba?

Kate Beckinsale as Carrie Stetko © Warner Bros
Kate Beckinsale as Carrie Stetko © Warner Bros

When we arrived, they put a thick [book] under our hotel room doors, the night before we started shooting, that said, “These are all the different ways it’s 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 have an alcoholic drink, or if you breathe in a westerly direction.” And, we all panicked. The most I remember was putting on and taking off 15 layers of clothes, about 70 times a day. When we first went 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’ll know how to handle the cold,” and it wasn’t anything like that.

This is a woman-in-distress thriller, but you’re in the Antarctica. How does that change things for you? How is it different from fighting supernatural creatures in Underworld?

Kate Beckinsale as Carrie Stetko © Warner Bros

It was a lot colder and a lot more intense, actually. We were all worried we were going to die of hypothermia, every other second. It’s a woman in an extreme situation with extreme weather, being the only girl. I’ve done that a couple times now. But, it was much more intense, just because of the weather.

Are you a comic book fan?

I married a fan, so now I know what a comic book fan is and I can’t say I was one. I used to get comics, but my husband still buys action figures. It’s a whole different world. My daughter is into comic books, but a slightly different kind than my husband. She’s more into Archie comics. But, they go to get comic books together, and I look really confused. I just can’t compete with their level of obsession, but I respect it, I married it and I live with it.

If you were stationed in Antarctica for months, what are two things you could not go without?

I would take my daughter and I would take a bunch of books. I would also want a phone.

This seems like it was an incredibly physical movie for you. Was it harder than anything else you’ve done?

Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), the lone U.S. Marshall assigned to Antarctica, desperately tries to reach for a gun © Warner Bros
Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), the lone U.S. Marshall assigned to Antarctica © Warner Bros

It’s hard to say. It may have been, but nothing was harder for me than going from never having done it before to doing it in Underground. I’d had a background of ballet before I did Underworld, so the whole training and physical thing was a complete shock to me. With this, I’d never been dragged around on a homemade surfboard through snow, but once you’ve entered the realm of action movies, [it gets easier each time]. There’s nothing like the first time. This was definitely manageable. We had a great stunt team. Just having such strong winds, which wasn’t something I had encountered before [was difficult], but it wasn’t too hard.

How much of these physical stunts did you do yourself, since you’re so covered up?

We went to Tahiti! I think the bigger challenge is actually how to make it look cool and exciting, rather than just two people hitting into each other. That was the challenge.

When you work on a film that has special effects and stunts, how do you keep your focus while doing all of that?

I don’t know. This is what I do, and this is what I really love doing. I love acting and being on a set. I don’t find it very difficult to focus. What we were doing didn’t feel CG heavy. I love when you get to do a movie where so much of it is practical, even though we all complain about the fake snow and the sand and the stuff that gets hurled at you. In this, we weren’t doing an awful lot of reacting to stuff that wasn’t there. I haven’t had a huge amount of experience with that. I would imagine that that is quite difficult. But, when we were being dragged through snow, we were having stuff thrown at us.

Will you ever do another Underworld?

I don’t know anything about Underworld 4 at this point. It was always conceived as a trilogy, and I was never going to be in the third one. If they came up with an amazing script than sure, I definitely wouldn’t be adverse to it. But, it’s not necessarily planned.

There were reports that you had already signed to a new Underworld trilogy. Is that just rumor?

Oh God, three more? I don’t think my daughter needs to see my bottom in rubber for another 10 years. I don’t know. I heard they wanted to do a fourth one, but I don’t know if that’s official or if that’s just a rumor. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a rumor.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.