In Love & Friendship, an adaptation of author Jane Austen’s lesser-known epistolary novel “Lady Susan,” British actress Kate Beckinsale (The Aviator) stars as Lady Susan Vernon, a cunning widow and mother who takes refuge at her in-laws estate where she makes it her mission to secure a husband for both her and her reluctant young daughter.
During a satellite interview with the Current, Beckinsale, 42, talked about bringing this very unusual Austen character to the big screen and whether or not she feels the 18th century English novelist’s work still resonate with today’s contemporary, independent woman.
Love & Friendship opens at the Santikos Palladium, Bijou and Embassy theaters Friday, May 27.
Talk to us about Lady Susan as a literary character. Why is she different than other Jane Austen’s protagonists?
She’s a very unusual character in that period of literature. She is somebody who is very self-interested, very charming, rather ruthless and very funny. In my experience of that period of literature, if you have a woman who is rather sexually liberated and a bit naughty, she usually meets a gruesome end. There’s a bit of a morality tale at the end of [“Lady Susan”], but she doesn’t [meet that end]. She gets away with everything she does.
Most of Austen’s female characters are dependent on a man his fortune to find happiness. Do you see this as a theme that still resonates with today’s modern woman?
[Lady Susan] is different in a sense that she is very pragmatic about it. Yes, in the time period it was essential for a woman to find a man who was financially stable. That’s absolutely true for Lady Susan. It’s just that I don’t think that she thinks that’s the only man she can have. She’s very clear-eyed about what each man is for in her life. I think we’ve come a pretty long way since then. I think as a woman [today], we have expectations to further our education and career and be able to marry for other reasons than not ending up in the poor house. I’m not saying we’re finished, but I think we’re definitely in a better spot with that stuff.
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