Kate Bosworth is universally regarded as a fashion darling, but in her new sci-fi show, “The I-Land,” she wakes up on a deserted island wearing something horrifically basic: a white shirt and khaki pants — which also happens to be the same thing every other character is wearing. Everyone’s memories are completely wiped — blank slates with no idea how they’ve gotten there or who they are. As the show progresses, snippets of the characters’ pasts — and how they’re all interlinked — are revealed. So what’s with the uniforms? Only time will tell.
Co-produced by Bosworth and Neil LaBute, the show (which debuts this week on Netflix) is one of the most anticipated of the fall season. “It’s the idea of nature versus nurture,” Bosworth explains, tucked into a back table at a restaurant on New York’s Lower East Side. “If you and I were to wake up on a deserted island, and something drastic were to happen, would we have souls? Is our instinct ingrained, or is it something we’ve learned through experience? All those themes are explored in a very extreme way throughout the series. Each episode gets more and more intense, and drastically so. The stakes get raised higher and higher. It’s binge-able.”
Bosworth’s character, KC, is what she describes as a “question mark” who remains silent, observing as the other characters run around like they’re in “Lord of the Flies.”
“They get very involved with each other, and irritated with each other, and my character has this restraint that allows her to stand out,” the actress, 36, explains. “She’s the most mysterious. And there’s a reason for that — it’ll be explained.”
As theater and moviegoers know, LaBute is a magnet for both mystery and controversy. Last year, the prominent playwright and screenwriter, known for his portraits of misogynistic men, was abruptly let go by the prestigious Off-Broadway MCC Theater. “We’re committed to creating and maintaining a respectful and professional work environment for everyone we work with,” the theater’s executive editor said at the time.
But Bosworth — who first rose to fame nearly two decades ago in the surfer flick “Blue Crush” — insists that “The I-Land” was nothing but a fun experience. “It’s funny, because [Neil] is so not controversial in person. He is interested in really making people uncomfortable with his work. It’s deliberate — he likes to have audiences react. And he doesn’t mind that it’s polarizing at times. I think that’s probably his favorite type of cinema, and same for me. [Sergio Leone’s] ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ is one of my favorite movies, and yet, when there’s that rape scene, it’s such a tough thing to take, and it makes you so angry and almost turned-off with the movie as a whole. But, sometimes, that’s part of the best cinematic experiences, when you feel totally conflicted. It’s not force-fed to you. Neil doesn’t shy away from that. I thought, probably like many people, that he was just gonna be very dark, but he’s not. He’s so sweet and so nice. He’s one of the most collaborative people I’ve ever worked with.”
Anyone who stalks Bosworth’s Instagram (followers: 810,000) can attest that her most heartfelt collaborations, however, are with her husband, writer and director Michael Polish. The two met in 2011 on the set of “Big Sur” (an adaptation of the Jack Kerouac novel) and married in Montana in 2013. (Bosworth wore a custom Oscar de la Renta gown.) “I really like my director,” she captioned a giddy photo of herself with Michael this July, snapped on the set of their latest film, “Force of Nature” — which wrapped shooting in Puerto Rico just days after she finished chatting with Alexa.
When asked about working with her husband and their production company, Make Pictures, Bosworth becomes happily animated, much like her aforementioned Instagram pic. “At dinner the other night, we were talking to a friend, and Mike said, ‘We don’t have a normal marriage, obviously — in the best way.’ Meaning that all we do is talk about creating and what can we do and, ‘What if we did this?’ and ‘You should play this!’ — all the time.”
Five years ago, the pair tried to make a rule for themselves that the moment the clock struck 6 p.m., they wouldn’t talk about work until the following day. Recalling night one of their new agreement, Bosworth erupts into laughter. “After six, we were gonna be a quote-unquote normal husband and wife. But 6 o’clock comes, and we were literally like, ‘Oh, and — ’… ‘You should — ’… ‘Umm … so how about the weather?’ [Creative work] is just who we are. It’s in our DNA.”
“We don’t have a normal marriage, obviously — in the best way.”
– Director Michael Polish on working with his wife, actress Kate Bosworth
In December 2018, Make Pictures released the film “NONA” (short for “No Name”), about human trafficking, an issue that is very close to Bosworth’s heart. (She produced and completely financed the film; Polish wrote and directed.) “Human traffickers prey on the most vulnerable — if you’re from a broken home, or looking for a better life, or in an abused relationship, or a drug addict. If they can find a vulnerability, they’ll latch on,” says Bosworth, who works closely with CAST, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. “It’s a strange thing to say, but it’s a beautiful movie, and ultimately, I hope it empowers people to get more involved with the issue.”
Next up is another labor of love: “Tate,” a biopic that Bosworth describes as “a love letter to Sharon”— with filming set to begin this October. (Bosworth will star as Sharon Tate and co-produce the film with Polish, who is also directing.) By design, the film will focus on Tate’s life instead of her shocking death at the hands of the Charles Manson Family. “We’ve been involved in it for three years,” Bosworth explains, “researching truly everything there is to know about her and her life, and the people who knew her and loved her, including her sister, Debra, and her close friends. If we’re successful in telling the story — and I bet my life on it we will be with Michael — people will really feel like they know her, not what happened to her. To know her is to love her, and I really mean that. She had a purity. She was life personified and love personified. It’s such a tragedy that she was defined by tragedy.”
On the home front, the couple recently finished another collab: an extensive renovation on their midcentury Los Angeles home, originally built in 1955. One of Kate’s favorite new rooms is her “dressing room,” where she gets her hair and makeup done, and which houses shoes and “stalls” of clothes. “I try so hard to keep it coordinated, because I’m a Capricorn and I need order. I’m so not a hoarder. I purge all the time, and I get so much joy from that. I archive the pieces that are really special — the Met dresses and, obviously, my wedding dress.”
As for her off-duty style, Kate says she’s still the same tomboy who grew up loving horseback riding (remember her very first film, 1998’s “The Horse Whisperer”?); her favorite quality in a person remains grit.
“Sometimes I struggle when I’m asked, ‘What’s your style?’ Because it evolves from day to day. I suppose it sways between very minimalist and experimental. I have a real passion for new designers and people looking to do different things. I love fashion for the same reason I love my job as an actor: You’re playing a role.”
Editor: Serena French; Stylist: Anahita Moussavian; Hair: Peter Gray at Home Agency
using Shu Uemura Art of Hair; Makeup: Hung Vanngo at The Wall Group; Manicure: Deborah Lippmann at SWA Agency using Deborah Lippmann; Location: Joyface cocktail lounge, 104 Ave. C.