In 2001, Kate Beckinsale co-starred in the World War II epic Pearl Harbor, which was directed by Michael Bay of Transformers fame. During a recent visit to Britain's The Graham Norton Show, Beckinsale recalled some rather insulting remarks Bay made about her at the time.
She explains, "I think he was baffled by me because my boobs weren't bigger than my head and I wasn't blonde." Beckinsale continues to say that she had just lost weight after giving birth to her daughter, but Bay still expected her to "work out," something Beckinsale found unusual for her character — a nurse in the 1940s.
Beckinsale says Bay's criticism of her appearance didn't stop there, however. He also mentioned it during the promotion of the film.
"When we were promoting the film, Michael was asked why he had chosen Ben [Affleck] and Josh [Hartnett], and he said, 'I have worked with Ben before and I love him, and Josh is so manly and a wonderful actor.' Then, when he was asked about me, he'd say, 'Kate wasn't so attractive that she would alienate the female audience.' He kept saying it everywhere we went, and we went to a lot of places."
"I didn't want someone who was too beautiful. Women feel disturbed when they see someone's too pretty. I'm not saying Kate's not pretty. When you look at Titanic, Kate Winslet is pretty, but not overwhelmingly beautiful. That makes it work better for women. Our Kate is very funny, could hang with the guys. She's not so neurotic about everything, like some actresses. She was solid, and I think the three of them had some really nice chemistry."
Bay's remarks reinforce a common double standard that values female actors' looks over their talent, and he seems to generalize female moviegoers as a shallow bunch who must be pandered to.
Sadly, this outlook doesn't seem to have changed much in the 15 years since Pearl Harbor was released, as sexism is still rampant in Hollywood. The more people like Beckinsale are willing to call it out, however, the closer we get to inspiring real change in the industry.
Cover image via Tinseltown / Shutterstock.
(H/T: Refinery 29)